The most important Auto news of the day did not occur in Tokyo, Detroit, Frankfurt or Milan. But instead at a parking lot in the heart of Chicago.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Sept. 7, 2010
A teen behind the wheel of a BMW 3-Series during an accident avoidance maneuver.
Chicago, IL -- In the shadows of the Chicago White Sox US Cellular Field, a unique educational experience took place. One that not only helped win over the hearts and minds of the participants involved but one that will live with all of us for hopefully a very long time. The message and “Lesson for a Lifetime” was brought to life thanks to the BMW sponsored Teen Driving School program called “DRIVE IT HOME – DON’T TXT & DRIVE”.
Jim O’Donnell, President of BMW of North America was on hand to kick off the Teen Driving School for both Evans scholars and teens from the local community. Evans Scholars are golf caddies of modest means that have or are going to receive full, four-year tuition and housing college scholarships through the charitable trust of the Evans Scholars Foundation. The Foundation, in existence for almost 80-years, has provided full ride scholarships to over 10,000 deserving young caddies since 1930.
“Car accidents are the leading cause of deaths for people under the age of 25,” said Jim. “And while 87 percent of teens admit to texting while driving, “Don’t Text and Drive” is not nearly as prominent as “Don’t Drink and Drive” even though it should be today.”
Hard and Fast FAQ on Texting and Driving
- A person’s brain capacity is diminished 18 percent when you are on the phone or trying to text.
- Texting while driving reduces one’s reaction time at a level equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of .08.
- It takes approximately five seconds to read or send a text message. At 55 miles per hour, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes off the road.
Jim commented later that he and his teenage son had taken the “Don’t Text and Drive” course together. He added that “Being a good corporate citizen is a BMW core value and we are particularly committed to promoting safe driving through eliminating driver distractions.”
While BMW spoke of the hazards, they also offered solutions and surprisingly they begin in the home. BMW encourages us as parents to not take the next Cell phone call or look at the next incoming text message on our Smartphones but instead promote a safer driving experience for all by putting down the phone and leading by example. The best life lessons are taught by “Doing as I do, not just as I say.”
On the hardware front, we have reported on the many upgrades BMW’s ConnectedDrive has received over the past two years. Research In Motion, the Blackberry Parent, and BMW are currently working on yet another upgrade incorporating a text to speech software solution that will only display a name and the type of message on the screen. If the driver wants to hear it, they will press a button and the message will be spoken aloud.
Finally, BMW’s corporate culture mirrors the safety culture it is trying to promote. The company has an employee policy on the books that states when behind the wheel of a company vehicle, the employee shall not send or receive text messages. Doing so has consequences up to and including termination. An automobile corporation that puts into practice the same message that it broadcasts is not only refreshing but provides a safer driving environment for the rest of us.
The BMW Teen Driving School (TDS) - Details
The BMW TDS is an initiative under the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility program combining teens, road safety and local community outreach. It is a recent extension of the teen curriculum offered at the BMW Performance Center located in Spartanburg, SC.
During the TDS, teenagers improve their driving skills and increase their road knowledge through classroom instruction, driver awareness activities and hands-on driving exercises. As a result, they become safer and far more informed drivers.
The goals of the road safety program include:
- Raising awareness about the risks and dangers of driving.
- Helping young, impressionable drivers develop lifelong safety habits.
- Preparing teens to handle unexpected driving hazards in the safest way possible.
As seen firsthand, the driving modules or exercises as BMW likes to call them are aggressive but carefully orchestrated and conducted in a very controlled manner. Teens are expected to get behind the wheel of a new BMW 3 Series and experience a wide range of driving conditions in far more aggressive manner then they should ever encounter on the mean streets. BMW driving instructors are in the vehicle with the teens giving immediate feedback on safety precautions and vehicle handling corrections as students respond to the real-world scenarios.
Skid Control Module
With US Cellular Field as the backdrop, a teen loses control and just as quickly regains it on the skid pad.
Using 30-foot square pads soaked in soapy water, students are forced to lose control of the vehicle at a low speed in order to practice techniques to recover from an oversteer slide.
Car Control Module
Learning vehicle dynamics helps drivers safely maintain control of their car at all times and experience the importance of patience in the process of managing the load transfer of the vehicle.
Accident Avoidance Module
Maneuvering vehicles through a series of courses that simulate a real-world road condition. Students learn what best to do in the event of an unexpected hazard.
Teens learn effective ways to handle unexpected braking and panic stops during a higher speed, full on ABS braking maneuver before an accident occurs.
Target Fixation Module
BMW driving instructors teach students to focus on where the vehicle needs to be rather than on the object they are trying to avoid.
Driver Awareness Activities
Driver awareness activities are important because most teens will not have the opportunity to experience these on the road until its usually to late – visually learning valuable lessons on proper seat positioning, airbag safety tips and how to avoid the risk of driving next to a semi-truck.
Airbag Deployment Demonstration
A BMW airbag is released outside so students can see the impact behind it. Teens learn proper seat positioning and airbag safety tips.
Trucker Blind Spot Demonstration
Vehicles are positioned on the sides of a semi-truck. Students climb into the cab and using both side mirrors, observe blind spots from a trucker’s perspective and learn how to avoid them.
The importance of the TDS and “DRIVE IT HOME – DON’T TXT & DRIVE” message is there are now approximately 70 teens that are both better and more aware drivers today than they were yesterday. In addition, they also now have a deeper understanding of the consequences of something so many of their peers do on a daily basis. Namely, the ill-fated act of texting while driving.
Now if I could only get my peers to stop doing the same