It was cold. Even for March in the mid-Atlantic region, the weather on Saturday was cold with snow mixed with rain forecast well into the evening. Miserable? Yes. But that rotten weather was the absolutely best weather for teaching a young person how to drive.
Now, I do not normally consider freezing rain and snow great teaching conditions. But then again, I wasn’t the teacher. Instead, my son was learning important driving skills from a collection of race car drivers through the Ford Driving Skills for Life program (co-sponsored by Governor’s Highway Safety Association).
Now in its 10th year, the program travels the country, offering young drivers the opportunity to get behind the wheel to learn skills like high speed lane changes, how anti-lock brakes work, distract driving, impaired driving and a quick introduction to basic vehicle maintenance.
Perhaps most fun for the young students was the chance to learn how to drive when the car slides. Modified Ford Mustangs were used and the students were taught to steer into the slide.
My son had a great time. We both were freezing by the end of the afternoon. He had learned a lot, but I had too. As the students headed out to their first activity, their parents were held back for a conversation with “Little Man,” a professional driver who I learned later goes by his given name, Mike Speck.
Speck gave the parents several important nuggets of wisdom, but for me the most important was about my time behind the wheel. Speck said that if I want my son to be a safe driver, who avoids distractions and abides by traffic laws, then I need to model that. I was instantly reminded of several times I had pushed my luck and cut a corner or two. While I don’t text and drive, I use Waze and often find that I’m fiddling with my mapping software on my smart phone while driving. I’m sure it looks like texting to my son and is probably just as distracting.
So, I wasn’t a teacher on that cold, rainy afternoon. I was a student, right along with my son. Hopefully this will be a day that both of us will remember for a long, long time.