“The teen fatalities are so high across the country,” said Gary Goodman, Toyota teen facilitator. “Thousands of teens die each year [because of unsafe driving habits or improper training]. There were about 6,000 teen deaths in 2008, so Toyota does anything they can corporately to make driving safer for everybody.”
Trainers with the program travel across the country to teach better driving habits to both students and their parents. There are no costs associated for anyone involved in the program. Driving Expectations is sponsored through Toyota’s philanthropic department and awarded by way of a grant.
“The important thing really is Toyota is just doing this to save lives,” Goodman said. “We don’t want parents to get the phone call saying their child has been in some sort of tragedy. The focus is to make the highway safer and save lives.”
CHS received the grant this year thanks to Erin Hattabaugh and Cheri Morgan.
According to Kathryn McNally, Corporate Education Partnerships account director, more than 50 schools entered the Toyota Teen Driver Educators’ Challenge in 2012.
“Cleveland High School’s action plan entry was chosen for the first-place prize due to its creativity, its fresh and engaging content, but most importantly, it’s unique way of promoting and encouraging safer teen driving among the school and community,” McNally said.
She gave glowing reviews to CHS.
“It was the only entry to receive perfect scores from our judges – a team made up of curriculum experts here at Discovery Education,” McNally said.
Morgan teaches several criminal justice courses at CHS. This year her classes focused on the destructive effects of distracted driving. She said she was thrilled to receive the grant.
“This is more than what I expected. It has been incredible,” Morgan said. “The kids are really getting into it and seem to be enjoying it. The parents are learning to make commitments to them.”
There are several components to the driving course lessons.
“We do an opening session where the parents and teens are together,” Goodman said. “We do an overview and an explanation of what we are going to be doing and we give them some driving tips. Then they split up.”
Students go directly to a driving course where they learn to use analog brakes. They experience the difference between braking hard and turning through a brake. Michael Huff, a junior at CHS, described the experience.
“You would accelerate until you got to a certain cone and then you would slam down on the brakes,” Huff said. “You would then go around and come around to accelerate again to slam on the brakes and turn the wheel.”
Huff said the car felt like it was going to break when he stomped on the brakes. He also said he enjoyed driving some of the 15 cars used in the program.
“The second exercise we do is a course where they drive through cones, and then an accident-avoidance course,” Goodman said. “What we are doing there is getting them to look as far down the road as they can.
“This allows them to anticipate a problem. Your hands are always going to follow your eyes, so we want them looking to where they are going to go.”
Parents receive lessons in coaching while their children participate in the driving course. Trainers discuss issues parents feel their teens are having with driving and attempt to offer advice. Parents also receive a chance to try out the analog brake system.
“Any new car will have the standard equipment,” Goodman said. “What happens with analog brakes is you have the ability to brake while still steering. A lot of times, people would just brake and be unable to steer without sliding out of control.”
Students also participate in a distracted driving course.
“Professional drivers in the car with the students change the radio stations, mess with the air conditioning, and talk to the driver,” Goodman said. “Students are asked to open a water bottle — things they may do in a car without thinking about it.”
Then students go through the course without distractions.
“They can see they did not hit cones that time and there were some signs out they did not see before,” Goodman said. “It is just making an impact of what can happen when you aren’t paying attention.”
Morgan said she is very impressed and happy with the program.
“The students are learning so much more than just [about the danger of] texting and driving,” Morgan said. “They are learning defensive driving, how to handle a car better, and the ABS braking system — what it will and will not do.”
She also decided to take the course along with her daughters.
“I am just overwhelmed with Toyota and the kindness of people they have here,” Morgan said. “They know what they are talking about. They have this down to a well-tuned machine.”