Tire Rack Street Survival, Edition #4
Prose by Dave Ortoli,
As I pulled into Rentschler Field about 6:30 am, I expected to have the place to myself. Instead, there were already 2 cars of volunteers at work setting up for CT Valley Chapter’s 4th Tire Rack Street Survival School. This shows the level of commitment from the Chapter members for this very valuable program. What was even more of a surprise was seeing students start showing up by 7:30, even though they didn’t need to be there until 8:00 am.
So began the day of trying to make 32 teenagers become more confident and better drivers. The students came not only from Connecticut, but also Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with some parents and students driving over 125 miles to attend, an indication of their commitment.
After they registered and had their vehicles checked for loose items and correct tire pressure, the students headed into the building for breakfast and a kickoff meeting. The meeting included comments from two former students as to what they had gotten from the class. While half the group stayed to start the classroom learning, the other half tentatively went to their vehicles for the first driving activity. Speaking of vehicles, there was a wide and interesting selection, including a Suburban, a Dodge Dakota pickup truck, and a 2009 Dodge Challenger (yep, it had a Hemi!), besides an assortment of BMW’s, Mercedes, VW’s and everything else. The students alternated between in-car and out-of-car activities during the day, gradually gaining confidence in their new abilities.
The exercises started simple, with panic stops, both in a straight line and while turning; a slalom course to teach them to look ahead; and an emergency avoidance lane change. After lunch from Pizza Hut, the students had a chance to learn skid recovery in both dry and wet conditions and then had a final exercise which tied together all of the fundamentals they had learned during the day. They also received their certificates and photos designating successful completion of the course.
The out-of-car activities spanned a wide range. There were 2 classroom sessions led by Hank Voegeli and Jim Alderman which combined slides, video and hands-on demonstrations to impart the concepts of the vehicle activities. There was a module which combined 2 related subjects – they got to experience a 5 mph “collision” in the CT State Police seat belt “Convincer”, with a running commentary by Sgt. Troy Anderson and followed that up with seeing (and hearing!) an air bag deployment, thanks to Alan Coykendall. Both of these activities certainly got their attention, along with the parents who were present.
The final module involved a tractor trailer generously provided by UPS. Al Spranzo, their safety trainer, talked to the students and parents about the difficulties that truck drivers face in seeing vehicles around them. To emphasize the criticality of being aware of the blind spots around the truck, everyone had the opportunity to climb up into the driver’s seat, to find out that they couldn’t see any of the 4 cars parked around it.
As the day ended, we had a group of teenagers, who learned some valuable driving lessons, a group of parents who were glad they had signed up their children, and an awesome group of instructors and staff, who although tired from the long day, were proud and gratified to be a part of the day’s activities. As always, events like this don’t happen without a lot of peoples’ efforts, and I would like to thank the parents for pushing their kids to attend, and the entire volunteer staff for making it happen. The parent and student evaluation forms were very positive, with requests for more seat time and even a 2 day event!
Due to the high level of interest, we will start planning a fall school soon. The key will be to find a suitable location, as Rentschler Field will not be available. If you know of any potential sites, please let Dave Ortoli or any board member know.
All photos by Fred Ortoli (Dave’s brother)