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A DRIVER’S EDGE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 2, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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Held captive for 4 hours and making it out alive with sharpened survival skills By Roy Nakano “The car came from nowhere and hit my fender while I was turning on a red light.” “The garage lunged out without warning and creased my doors.” These, I suspect, played a part in prompting the Managing Editor of LA Car to insist I take my 17-year old daughter to the Driver’s Edge program held at the Santa Anita Racetrack parking lot. “Santa Anita? Isn’t this where my grandparents were taken during the incarceration of Japanese Americans?,” quips my daughter, Katie. I remind her that—unlike her grandparents—she’ll be able to leave Santa Anita after a few hours.

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Jeff Payne meets with the enforcement Driver’s Edge There’s a large gathering of teens here, along with some of their parents. We listen to Driver’s Edge founder Jeff Payne as he talks about the program. It turns out that Jeff began racing cars as a profession at the age of 17. By the age of 21, he was driving competitively in Europe and Japan, hob-knobbing with some of the top drivers in the world. If that weren’t enough, Jeff was operating his own driving school, which attracted a number of celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, Walter Payton, Jon Bon Jovi and Emilio Estevez, as well as some big time operations like the PGA Tour, the Walt Disney Company, and the United States Air Force. In 2002, Jeff started Driver’s Edge, a Las Vegas-based non-profit organization that offers a free educational program for young drivers, teaching emergency avoidance and response techniques beyond the typical driving school curricula. The program is taught on an ongoing basis in Las Vegas, but there’s an annual national tour that takes place. Hence, the program here in the Santa Anita racetracks of Arcadia, California. A dozen seasoned Driver’s Edge professional race car drivers are here, ready to school the participants on the art of driving.

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She gets the drift After the requisite orientation and introductions, Katie’s group is sent to what can best be described as the “Tokyo Drift” course. The Tokyo Drift course calls for wetting down the pavement so that three 3-Series BMWs can be induced into extreme oversteer. The rear end of the car swings out wildly in a manner not unlike “The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift.” The teens are taught how to keep the car under control. Not all of them are successful. Some end up doing 360 degree turns. After a few tries, they do better, although never well enough to be confused with professional drifters.

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Steering your way out of trouble “Did you know that you can steer a car even if you have your foot slammed on the brake pedal?,” says Katie. “Yes, this is why God gave us ABS (anti-lock brake systems),” I explain. Of course, not all cars have it, but most new ones do. So the second Driver’s Edge course consists of accelerating another sedan with the spinning blue propeller logo on the hood to high speeds, slamming on the brakes, and steering around a few cones. A high-speed obstacle avoidance exercise is thrown in for good measure.

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Checking under the hood “I am not proud to say that I’ve never really looked carefully in the engine compartment of a car before this day,” says Katie. The third phase of the Driver’s Edge program involves the art and science of driver positioning, mirror positioning, and general car care tips. Toward that end, the participants learn how to identify where the fluids go in the engine compartment. The most indelible point coming out of this session is the acronym WASHBOATS—the six fluids essential to maintain in a vehicle: WASH(er) fluid, Brake fluid, Oil, Anti-freeze (coolant for us Californians), Transmission fluid, and Steering fluid.

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To serve and to protect For the final phase of this four-parter, the group meets with local law enforcement personnel. In this Santa Anita Racetrack parking lot program, my friends from the Arcadia Police Department and the California Highway Patrol are here to give a law enforcement perspective on what they see on the streets and highways of our neighborhood. First-hand war stories are told, and it’s good to hear that the Arcadia police are keeping my neighboring Arcadians in check. Four hours later It’s now been four hours of Driver’s Edge schooling, and Katie says, “They never taught me that in Driver’s Ed!” Is she a better driver? I think so. Can she be a stunt driver for the next “Fast and Furious” movie? I think not—but maybe she can go see the movie (emphasis on “maybe”), and have a higher probability that she’ll get there and back in one piece.

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By year end 2010, it is estimated that 85,000 young drivers and their parents will have attended Driver’s Edge. Driver’s Edge events are offered at no charge in cities across the nation. The event is only for drivers 15 through 21 years of age, possessing a valid learner’s permit or license. Parents are encouraged to attend, but participation in the driving courses are limited to the young drivers. Participants must register in advance for the program either by phone at 1-877-633-EDGE (3343), or online at www.driversedge.org. Driver’s Edge is a Nevada 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and public charity. The Driver’s Edge national tour is sponsored by Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC and Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, subsidiaries of Bridgestone Americas, Inc.

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