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UP teens get defensive driving lessons | News, Sports, Jobs


A Michigan State Police Trooper observes a teenage driver entering and exiting designated ‘garage’ spaces during the precision maneuvering portion of MSP’s Teen Defensive Driving Course. This course, which includes a one-hour online quiz and four hours of hands-on driving experience, helps prepare new drivers for unexpected scenarios on the road. (photo Escanaba Daily Press)

By esanaba

Daily press staff

ESCANABA — Michigan State Police recently wrapped up their first UP Teenage Defensive Driving program at the Upper Peninsula State Fairgrounds. MSP soldiers have organized 10 four-hour sessions for teenage drivers, ranging in age from 16 to 19, to attend starting Monday, June 27. In a practical way, the course forced teenage drivers to manage and react to dangerous driving scenarios, testing their reaction times while building their confidence behind the wheel.

“This course acts as a foundation that these teens will build on throughout their years of riding,” said Sergeant Patrick Janisse of MSP Gladstone Post. “If they start with this solid base, they will be better defensive drivers in the future. It would be great if everyone could have this opportunity.

After selecting a training session to attend, students were given quick demonstrations of the driving tasks they needed to complete before the training ended.

In the area of ​​defensive driving, the five topics were: serpentine, controlled braking, evasive maneuvers, precision maneuvers and skid control.

In order to maintain a controlled framework, all students drove MSP squad cars upon completion of the course. Before getting behind the wheel, however, students had to complete an online course with a passing grade of 70%.

“It’s hands-on experience, these teenagers can operate [a squad car] with a soldier said Janise. “You don’t get that kind of experience anywhere else, especially for teenage drivers.”

The teenagers started the course by completing what MSP called “serpentine,” a straight line of five cones between which drivers had to weave while traveling at 25 miles per hour. From serpentine, drivers moved on to controlled braking. This section aimed to develop a student’s ability to achieve maximum braking while being able to control the direction of their vehicle. At high speed, the teenagers were heading towards a row of cones, braking and quickly rounding them.

“The teenagers we welcome here are doing very well. I always let them know, ‘Hey, it’s just cones. I don’t care if you hit a cone'” Steve Strom, soldier at MSP Manistique Post, said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to learn and have fun, and teenagers do both of those things.

After controlled braking, teenage drivers move on to evasive maneuvers. Instead of braking when an object appears in front of their car, the evasive maneuver teaches students how to safely steer around an object without slowing down. On the other hand, precision maneuvers are the only slow-paced section of the defensive driving course, with students learning to back up and out of the designated area. “garage” spaces with ease.

“When [the teens] start, they will drive slowly and they may be shy or nervous,” said Strom. “But in the end they try to drive like me all the way.”

The final section of the defensive driving course was Skid Control, which showed teens how to maintain control of their vehicle as it interacts with water. MSP had access to a fire hydrant, which they used to wet a stretch of asphalt for the students to slide on. Before completing each section of the course, MSP soldiers posed hypothetical driving scenarios to the teenagers. After explaining how they would handle the situation, the teens were briefed on the process and the objective of the task before going through it nearly 20 times to achieve perfection.

“With teenagers, from the start to about halfway through, it’s like a switch going off.” said Strom. “From there, they’re like clockwork going through each exercise from there.”

While getting its start on the Upper Peninsula, MSP has been running the Teen Defensive Driving Course for 20 years at the MSP Training Academy in Lansing. Rider Lisa Kanyuh of MSP Gladstone Post, who has led the program for the past five years, saw an opportunity to host the event at Escanaba due to the availability of resources to run the course. Using the expansive tarmac and concrete parking blocks behind the fairgrounds, which are typically used as driver testing sites, students were able to maneuver through high-speed sets of cones without fear of an accident.

“[Escanaba] is in a central UP location where all teen drivers can come and learn,” said Janise. “Instead of traveling, on average, 6-8 hours to attend Lansing, these teenagers have the opportunity in their own backyard. It has worked phenomenally.

The UP Teenage Defensive Driving course had 40 teens pre-registered, although walk-in visits were accepted as they went. MSP maintained the teen to soldier ratio at 2:1 throughout training, ensuring that the dozen available soldiers could devote their individual attention and expertise to one or two students rather than 20. -an experience with a trooper during the internship.

MSP plans to reinstate the Teenage Defensive Driving program next summer.

“It’s been one of the best experiences ever. Of everything I’ve done in my job, it’s by far the most rewarding thing,” said Strom. “With this program, we are helping kids become better drivers in the future. I think this program is going to be great next year.



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