Most people that visit historic Watkins Glen International usually come for one reason and one reason only; speed. All of that changed on Saturday, November 8, as the Tire Rack Street Survival driving course took over the main paddock area to help teach teens how to "put on the brakes" and become safer and smarter drivers. This is the second year in a row that The Soul of America Road Racing has hosted this event in an effort to give teen's practical experience beyond that of normal drivers' education.
A total of 30 students from cities as close as Elmira, NY, Trumansburg, NY, and Sayre, PA and as far away as Princeton, NJ attended the day of instruction at the legendary road course. The day started with a half hour classroom session in The Glen's state-of-the-art Media Center. Following the classroom session, each student was paired with an instructor from the Genesee Valley BMW Club. The students then rotated through several drill stations that included a braking test to experience how their cars reacted to sudden stops, a cone course to practice accident avoidance, and a figure-eight course to teach how to deal with oversteer and understeer experiences. The blacktop of the paddock was wet from rain which helped better simulate difficult driving conditions such as snow and ice. Students completed each exercise in their own personal vehicle so as to understand how they would respond in each situation. The day ended with another quick classroom session to sum up all of the lessons.
"This class has showed me what to do in emergency situations and allowed me to practice reaction skills that I would not be able to practice on the road," said Kyle Vandelden, a driving school participant and student at nearby Trumansburg High School. "It's good to know how my car reacts and to learn the car's limits by pushing it past them with an instructor telling me how to handle things."
Watkins Glen International and the Genesee Valley BMW Club teamed up to support the Trumansburg schools' committee for Teen Driver Safety. Many area businesses supported the school including McDonald's, Glen Mountain Market, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts and Wal-Mart, all in Watkins Glen, NY.
Tire Rack Street Survival programs are held nationwide with 56 such schools being held in 2007. The schools are open to any person between the ages of 16 and 21. Parents or students looking for more information about this program should visit www.streetsurvival.org.
Tickets for the entire 2009 season will go on sale November 15. For tickets and information, please contact the Watkins Glen International ticket office at 866-461-RACE or log on to the official Watkins Glen website at www.TheGlen.com.