Instructors Emphasizing Defensive Driving To Teens Getting Behind The Wheel

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They can be the most dangerous places in our communities - and our families travel on them every day - the roadways of central Ohio.

It could be a neighborhood street or a major highway, where crashes can happen in an instant.

With thousands of new, inexperienced drivers hitting the roads every day, there is one main goal for instructors who teach kids the rules of the road, to be safe and defensive drivers.

10TV went on a driving lesson to find out how the message is translating to student drivers.

"Slow down, slow down, slow down, you should not be on that gas,” says Anthony Thomas, an instructor with The Columbus Driving Academy, one of numerous driving schools around central Ohio.

“Now look at you, you're blocking the entire street," Thomas says to his student, Pickerington Central Senior Christian Beneze who is taking his second driving lesson. "You're getting very close to that pole over there."

Christian is getting blunt, real-time advice from Thomas, who's been doing this for 14 years.

"What's the speed limit?” Thomas asks, constantly quizzing Christian, and trying to keep him aware of everything around him as they head down a rural, 2-lane road.

The tips keep coming.

"You should be checking your mirrors every three to five seconds," Thomas adds from the passenger seat. "When you drive, all these things are important."

The lesson then moves into a neighborhood as Thomas ‘drives’ in the basic fundamentals. And one theme keeps repeating itself.

"You want to take it slower, especially when you're backing up,” Thomas tells Christian.  “You're 17 times more likely to hit someone or something when you back up."

"We try to stress that there are all types of other drivers, and their responsibility is to be a safe driver,” Thomas says.  “And I think that's what it all comes down to, being safe."

He means not only safe, but defensive, on the roads and in parking lots too.

Thomas continues to give Christian instructions as the lesson moves forward.

“Pull in that space and park, do not go across the white line in the middle," Thomas advises. Then, he is quick to add:  “Slow down, Christian, you're going too fast."

Thomas says parents have to get involved, but they must be careful of the advice they give.

"When parents are with the kids, they're teaching them to drive as they know best, which often times is not good enough to pass the test," Thomas says. "Kids are going to make mistakes."

When his student makes an error, Thomas is quick to correct and explain the consequences:  "So this would be five points off on your test.”

"You need to recognize what your kid is deficient in, and don't think they're going to get better at it on their own," Thomas adds.

He says young drivers can never get enough practice, and he says they should continue to do so, even after they get their driver’s license.

With the 90-minute lesson winding down, Thomas tries to keep Christian on track, as they practice parking:  "Get over to your right, you got to think of it as a two-way,” Thomas says.  “Slow down, stop here, stop here."

Thomas says a big part of the process is trying to communicate to kids on their level.

"It's kind of like a video game or a game of keep away, you need to make sure you're recognizing the dangers and hazards out on the roads,” Thomas says.  “And try to stay as far away from danger as you can, so you're not included."

"This exercise is one I want you to practice, that's good right there, back it up," as Thomas continues to encourage Christian, going over the same drill – again.

It is advice this student is taking to heart.

"If I didn't take these lessons, I probably would get into a couple of car accidents," Christian says.

Something Christian wants to avoid - to keep himself - and everyone else out on the road - safe.