By Tamas Mondovics
Teen drivers who are willing to measure their driving skills and build confidence behind the wheel can do so this month thanks to Teen Driver Challenge, a safety program of the Florida Sheriffs Association conducted locally by the members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).
Catered to young drivers with a valid drivers license (no restricted licenses) and a vehicle, the two-day program—part classroom, part driving experience—will be held on Wednesday, February 17, from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. at the Sheriff’s Operations Center, located at 2008 E. 8th Ave., in Tampa, as well as on Saturday, February 20, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Walter C. Heinrich Practical Training Site at 14603 C.R. 39 in Lithia.
The Teen Driver Challenge is conducted once every three to four months on a first-come, first-served basis. The program is designed to provide young drivers with the knowledge and understanding of vehicle dynamics and human kinetics, the forces created by an automobile, and the effects of the forces on the human body.
“Safety on the roads is everyone’s responsibility,” said HCSO Deputy and Teen Driver Challenge instructor Ryan Thomas.
Thomas emphasized that with motor vehicle crashes reportedly leading the cause of death for those ages 15 to 20 across the nation, safety on the roadways is a priority of Sheriff David Gee who is committed to helping local youth get off to the best start behind the wheel.
“We want to help young drivers enhance their awareness of the complex task of operating a motor vehicle and to create and practice skills, which will prepare them to anticipate and handle hazards that occur daily in normal driving conditions,” Thomas said.
During the skills and techniques segment, participants will learn eight basic skills, actions and/or techniques of driving that are identified as areas that teens need experience or training to safely operate a motor vehicle. Steering, acceleration, deceleration, backing, and off road recovery are just some of the tasks addressed.
All classes are conducted under the direct supervision of certified high liability driving instructors. Instructors ride with each student and students move to the next exercise only after the instructor feels the student has demonstrated a reasonable degree of skill. For more information, visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us., or contact 247-8115.