NASA Northeast ran its first Teen Car Control Clinic Sunday, Sept. 23, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The event was coordinated with Motorsports Northeast Autocross Clubs event in the same parking lot. The lots at the MetLife Stadium are big enough to handle two functions without either group interfering with the other, but the night before our event, there was a Bruce Springsteen concert that didn’t end till 2 am. Stadium management informed us that the lot may not be cleaned by 7 a.m. when we were scheduled to arrive. As we pulled into the lot, the sweepers were just finishing and the rain had ended a few hours earlier.
A number of the Motorsports Northeast staff jumped in to help set up our course and supplied all the cones we needed. It took about an hour to design and lay out a braking-zone course, an eight-gate slalom course, a 75-foot-diameter skid pad and a watered-down accident-avoidance section. Students started arriving at 8:30 with the start time scheduled for 9 a.m. Once they were all signed in, we did a PowerPoint presentation to introduce them to the concepts of the program. We tried to discourage them from using cell phones or texting while driving. The slides that showed the teen traffic fatality statistics really got their attention. Students ranged in age from 16 to 21, a good mix of boys and girls, with an even more diverse group of cars. Among them: a Ford Windstar minivan, Mazda 3, Nissan GTR and an Audi sedan.
The students were a little overwhelmed as we started the driving exercises, but caught on very quickly. We repeated the different exercises four to six times until they got comfortable and learned when the cars were reaching their limits. One of the students had been in an accident shortly after getting her driver’s license. She came away with new skills that may have helped her avoid the accident. The program took about 3.5 hours, including the classroom time, which seemed to be about as long as we could keep them focused.
After we were done, we had some time to speak with the parents and they all liked what they saw. They all said that they would be telling their friends and relatives with teens to sign up at our next clinic in November. An email from one of the moms says it all.
“Thanks so much for having us. She loved it and was so glad she did it. She was a little unsure of what to expect, and got much more than she ever anticipated.”
Now, if we can only get Bruce Springsteen to knock off early next time.