The Florida Sheriffs Association’s Teen Driver Challenge was launched in Leon County as a pilot program. The TDC was so successful that in 2007, the FSA board adopted the idea and developed an expert team of law-enforcement officials and teen-driving experts to introduce the program statewide. Today, there are more than 35 counties with an active Teen Driver Challenge Program.
The Florida Sheriffs Association Teen Driver Challenge (TDC) program was developed at the request of the Florida Sheriffs to combat the high crash and fatality rate of Teen Drivers on Florida highways. After a pilot program was successfully conducted in 2006 by the Leon County Sheriff's Office at the request of the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA), the FSA Board of Directors adopted the concept in 2007. FSA then organized a team of Law Enforcement driving subject matter experts who were certified as Instructors by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in emergency vehicle operation. This team, made up of instructors in Citrus, Hernando, Leon, Osceola and Volusia County Sheriffs' Offices, developed the initial curriculum. Individual Sheriffs' Offices then started offering the program to their local teens.
THE PROGRAM IS AT NO COST TO THE STUDENTS
The FSA Teen Driver program is a 12-hour course, including 4 hours of classroom (including a pre- and post-test) and 8 hours of hands-on instruction on a driving course. The program is presented to 15-19 year old students over a two-day period, ideally with a 5-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio.
All students must be licensed, have a vehicle that they normally drive available for the range portion, and must be accompanied to the range with an Operator-licensed driver, if they have a learner's permit. Proof of Insurance is required, along with the signing of release of liability forms.
The Instructors inspect all student vehicles for safety and instructional purposes, with the students present. Any unsafe vehicles (bad tires, etc.) will not be allowed on the course. This inspection is a maintenance learning process for most students.
The classroom portion of the TDC covers the workbook and deals with crash-related issues, such as vehicle dynamics, braking, steering and traffic laws. Specific chapters of the workbook deal with aggressive driving, distracted driving (texting, cell phone use, etc.), DUI and seatbelt issues. Student participation and discussion are highly encouraged.
The hands-on driving portion of the program is usually held at a Law Enforcement Academy or other training facility, where exercises such as Figure "8," threshold braking, forward serpentine cornering, backing, evasive, Off Road Recovery and optional skid pad are taught. The program has been designed so that a Sheriff’s Office can present the TDC in any vacant large parking lot area (some use airport runways). The students must follow strict range rules and no horseplay is tolerated. Only appropriate clothing and shoes are allowed (no flip flops).
Insurance Rates/Graduated Driver's License Program
Students completing the program can present a certificate of completion to their insurance company for consideration for reduction in rate, which is entirely up to the insurance company. In addition, the hours spent participating in the Teen Driver Challenge can be used toward fulfilling the requirements set forth in Florida's Graduated Driver's License program. The eight hours of behind-the-wheel driving can count toward the 50 hours of required driving for the GDL.
The objectives of the Teen Driver Challenge are:
1. To reduce the number of crashes for drivers who take this class (age group of 15 to 19 years old).
2. To reduce the number of fatal crashes for drivers who take this class (age group of 15 to 19 years old).
3. To reduce the number of DUI arrest and aggressive driving citations for drivers who take this class (age group of 15 to 19 years old).
Each student who completes the TDC will receive a "pre-Challenge" survey and a "post Challenge" survey and their driving record will be tracked for as long as this program is funded. The pre challenge survey will identify what driving related knowledge and skills the student had prior to participation. The post-challenge survey will identify what knowledge the student gained during the class. The tracking of the students driving record will provide data as to the effectiveness of the program; i.e. do drivers who take the driver challenge have less at fault accidents and traffic violations than the state average.
INSTRUCTORS. All Teen Driver Challenge instructors are professionals who are licensed under the Florida Sheriffs Associaiton's Commercial Driving School.
The Florida Sheriffs Association Teen Driver Challenge was initially funded by the Florida Sheriffs Association and then with a Florida Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Office Grant, with funding reduced by 25% each year of renewal. Today, the major corporate sponsor for the Teen Driver Challenge is State Farm.
Funding has been used to buy three vehicles, including two skid pad vehicles - one stationed in Citrus County to be used by any Sheriff’s Office in that part of the state, and one in Leon County to be used by any Sheriff’s Office in that part of the state. The third vehicle is an SUV used by the Program Coordinator to support the Sheriffs' Office programs and to help promote the program at public gatherings.
For more information on the Teen Driver Challenge, contact Tanesha Williams, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and toll free: 1-800-877-2168, ext. 236.