Originally published in the Summer 2014 quattro quarterly

AS THE EVENT MASTER for the North Bay Teen Driving Clinic in Fairfield, CA, I had been following the weather reports almost hourly over the last couple days not believing that it was in fact actually going to rain. Well I was wrong.

Upon arriving at the college, I saw instructors huddled under the large entrance overhang of the Student Services building trying to stay dry. While I had concerns about conducting the clinic in the rain, I had confidence our team would pull it off.

As the trailer was unloaded, volunteers set out pastries and coffee provided by Niello Audi just as parents and teens arrived. Paul Jorgensen, Chief Instructor assembled the instructor crew to complete the setup of four exercises which would challenge the teen drivers at the clinic.

Joe Lucchio, eventmaster then called teens to the classroom for instruction. Classroom sessions had been shortened for more behind the wheel training. There is always an emphasis on the importance of seating and hand position and “eyes up” to the students as well as ensuring their everyday cars are in good condition and safe to drive.

Service Advisor John Garcia and Service Technician Jeremy Williams from Niello Audi and Simo Luttenen from Steven Creek Audi brought some Audi demonstration vehicles to review safety related items with students such as checking tire pressures, oil and water levels. The teens split into two groups and braved the light rain to listen to John, Jeremy and Simo. After a short break, the two groups headed to the first two exercises, driving the dots and threshold braking. The “dots” really are an exercise in futility. While it’s easy to run over them on the highway when you are not paying attention, it’s very hard to intentionally drive over them when they are set up as a course.

We asked the teens how many of them knew what ABS was as it relates to their brakes. Only a small number of hands rose. The threshold braking exercise is designed to allow teens to feel the buzz on the brake pedal indicating that the ABS unit is kicking in. Mother Nature provided rain to wet the course for the threshold braking exercise.

The teens wrapped up their exercises and had lunch provided by 2Bennett Audimotive. The next exercise for students was conducted by Solano County CHP officer Chris Parker. Club sponsor Big O Tires had donated a “Beer Goggles” kit to the Club last year and I was wondering how I could work this into the event, as it would be fun as well as an excellent learning experience. During my meeting with Chris prior to the event, we had discussed how having him stand up and lecture the students just wouldn’t cut it. When he found out I was also trying to work the beer goggles into the event, he said that a beer goggles “course” was part of the CHP driver training events. The plan was now in place!

The beer goggles kit includes a number of different goggles which look on the outside like ski goggles, but contain lenses that simulate different levels of intoxication. They start with a set that has the equivalent of an alcohol level of .01 and go all the way to a set that is the equivalent to .35 at night, as well as a set that simulates being under the influence of drugs. A course of small flat orange cones is set up and at the end is a small bucket with some random change in it. The students were asked to walk the course normally and then bring back a requested amount of change from the bucket and were timed. They were then asked to put on a set of the goggles and do the same thing.

Phrases such as “OMG” and “You have got to be kidding me” were barely heard under the raucous laughter of the crowd of students, parents and instructors who had gathered around the exercise as the teens donned the goggles and stumbled about. The point was driven home clearly when it took the teens about 25-30 seconds to complete the course without the goggles on and well over a minute for those who were wearing the stronger ones. Chris did a great job involving the teens in this very important demonstration.

As if on cue, the rain ended and small patches of blue peaked out from around the parting clouds. There was enough sun to dry the pavement just in time for the next round of exercises.

At the beginning of the classroom section, we conducted a raffle of the $25 gas cards that were donated by Shell V-power. Five lucky teens walked off with a gift card in their pocket. Shell V-Power has made safe teen driving a priority and has sponsored our event every year for the past several years. After a second classroom session, the students began the slalom and accident avoidance exercises. Thanks to the weather cooperating, we had the opportunity to run these exercises under both dry and wet conditions. The teens attacked both courses with fervor, run after run. As confidence was building, so were their speeds. This of course kept our parents and instructors busy “shagging” cones at both exercises.

With students finishing the exercises, Officer Parker joined me in the classroom to get ready for the final classroom session of the day. Aptly titled “The Real World”, this final session has taken a much greater role over the past couple years. With the rise in teen deaths due to texting and drunk driving, we wanted to make sure they got the message. After an interactive session with Officer Parker and a review of the sobering (yespun intended) statistics related to distracted and drunk driving we concluded the session with some tips on what they can do in case they are involved in an accident.

The grand finale for the students involved linking the slalom course with the accident avoidance course into one big exercise. The teens go through it once with their instructor and then we put their parent in the right seat and send them through again. Of course, we not only do it with the wet course, we also introduce additional water into the exercise in the form of a half full cup of water which is handed to each parent. I’m happy to report that we still have not seen any water spilled on the parents. No doubt a testament to the skills the teens learned throughout the day.

With all of my concerns about the weather, the morning rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the teens who participated in the Clinic. Each and every one of them wore pretty good sized smiles at the end. All teens were well deserving of their achievement certificate and ACGG logo’d USB drive they received for participating in the event. The rounds of applause for them, their parents, sponsors Niello Audi, 2Bennett Audimotive and Shell V-power, instructors and volunteers were well deserved.