Teens learn hands-on driving at Northgate event
by Celia Shortt
Local teenage drivers – and their parents – can breathe easier after receiving valuable driver training from Fear This, Inc.
Fear This, Inc. is a nonprofit organization which provides hands-on training on how not to panic behind the wheel and how to handle situations which are the leading causes for teen accidents and fatalities. Courses like the one offered recently at Northgate High School in Coweta County are taught by experienced police academy instructors.
“It’s hands-on defensive driving, the same training as police cadets receive,” said Woodrow Gaines, founder of the Snellville-based organization.
Gaines founded the organization about 14 years ago. The course was brought to Coweta County through the efforts of the local Abby’s Angels Foundation, the Lindsey Riggs Foundation, Coweta County Fire Department, Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, and Newnan Police Department.
Local State Farm and Allstate insurance representatives also helped.
Sixty-five teenagers were able to participate in the training held at Northgate High School. The program included classroom sessions as well as hands-on driver training.
The driver training involved three different exercises. One was skid training and evasive maneuvering, taught by Derik Sill.
Sill drove the training car through the course first with the students and then let each one have a turn. The back tires of the vehicle were plastic, like a child’s Big Wheel toy, and would cause the car to skid when turning.
As he drove them through the course, he told the drivers if they went slow and made wide turns, they wouldn’t skid, but if they went fast and turned hard, they would slide.
Sill also encouraged them to not mash the brake “when something weird happens.” He said most people do that because it is comfortable, but if the car is sliding, some steering work needs to be done, too.
“It was cool,” said Becca Grady, a rising sophomore at Landmark Christian School after completing the skid training exercise. “It was good to learn. I wouldn’t know how to handle that situation if I hadn’t done it.”
Grady said when she was driving and skidding it felt like she didn’t have any control.
“It that had happened, and I wasn’t prepared for it, I’d be freaked out,” she said.
“The whole idea is to drive smart enough to not be in the situation, but if you are in the situation, you’ll know what to do” said Sill.
The other exercises included precision driving through a cone course, and a straight line braking exercise, as well as a classroom session.
“I’m glad they asked us to be a part of this,” said Coweta resident Mark Riggs of the Lindsey Riggs Foundation. “I think it’s something we could bring to Coweta County more often.”
Riggs and his wife Kim lost their daughter Lindsay in 2002 when she was hit head-on by a 17-year-old driver. She had just turned 21.
Since Gaines founded Fear This, Inc., 3,600 drivers have completed it.
“We lose more kids in car crashes than we do soldiers at war,” said Gaines. “These are all good kids, but they make fatal mistakes because they have never been trained.”
Natalie Bacho launched the Abby’s Angels Foundation after she lost daughter in a December 2012 accident involving the family van and a young driver. She and Gaines hope to bring the driver’s course to Coweta County twice a year.