Central Coast students got a taste Friday of chaos behind the wheel during a driving simulation at Allan Hancock College in Lompoc.
“I felt like I was going to crash and die,” said 16-year-old Morro Bay High School student Max Morosin.
Morosin has only had his license for about four months and Friday was, fortunately, the first time he’s spun a complete 360 degrees in a vehicle. It was exactly what he was supposed to do.
“They’re being put into controlled circumstances where we have the car going out of control,” said Scott Newell, a School Resource Officer for San Luis Obispo Schools.
This is not a typical driver’s education course. The program teaches students how to respond to worst case scenarios: slick roads, interference on the road and tight alleyways. The goal is to help them build experience.
“Vehicle accidents are the number one killer of children 14 to 24 years old,” Newell said. “So I feel a course like this will save lives and help kids know how to drive safe.”
The deaths of two young children are the reason Newell, a retired police officer, started the program.
“That collision didn’t have to be fatal if the young driver knew how to get back on the road after he veered right,” Newell said.
National traffic data shows one in five 16-year-old drivers has an accident in the first year of driving.
“It’s not a competency issue, it’s a confidence issue,” said Mark Purcell, an instructor and retired police officer.
To build confidence, young drivers get behind the wheel and learn to maneuver through a scary driving experience.
“If I was to be put in a situation where I needed one of these skills, it would definitely help me know what to do,” said 17-year-old Morro Bay High School student Clay Culpepper.
“This was awesome. It was super fun and I got to improve my skills as a driver, which is pretty cool,” Morosin said.
Students also learned to parallel park, a skill most of them said they’d never tried before Friday.