Tenterfield High School’s Peter Woodrow sees huge benefits for the community in the year 11 driver training program he has been overseeing for the past 13 years, and is very grateful to the Rotary Club of Tenterfield for the ongoing financial support for the program from its annual Trivia Night.
Each year the Year 11s have a mandatory excursion to the Youth Driver Expo in Tamworth which kicks off with a crash recreation attended by fire, police and ambulance officers.
In the demonstration one passenger is killed, one is gravely injured and another trapped. Emergency personnel go through the process of what happens during what is an all-too-familiar scenario. The repercussions unfold through the course of the day, culminating in a court session where the teenage driver is sentenced to a mandatory three-year jail term for negligent driving.
Students are rotated through topics including tyres and basic car maintenance, drug and alcohol awareness, and vehicle insurance costs. Mr Woodford said the address by the police Crash Investigation Unit is ‘pretty sobering’, and students get to see how many of the eight cars parked around a B-double truck can be seen from the driver’s seat in order to appreciate blind spots. (The answer is two.)
An address by the hospital’s Brain Injury Unit involving not only a doctor or counsellor but also a victim – describing the consequences not only for themselves but also their family – is deeply powerful, Mr Woodford said.
Police officers provide a practical demonstration of braking distances and cornering at different speeds, in both wet and dry conditions.
The students emerge from the expo much sobered by the experience and often emotionally upset, but with a better appreciation of the consequences of their actions.
Mr Woodford aims to schedule the excursion to Willowbank Raceway within a week or two of the expo, in order to cement what the students have learned.
“Willowbank tests practical skills,” he said.
“It synergises perfectly with the expo, and it’s more meaningful for the kids.”
Years 11s do a defensive driving course incorporating threshold braking, steering under braking, and anticipating problems while driving by using their peripheral vision.
The year 12s undertake the advanced driver course which adds on speed trials, and car control including dirt driving and ‘crashing’ under controlled conditions.
“They feel that moment of loss of control, and the kids don’t know when to pull back,” Mr Woodford said.
They learn to avoid overcompensating when steering into corners and practise skid pan driving (using slick rear tyres without traction) to pick up braking and steering strategies.
Mr Woodford said learning to brake instead of gearing down and even just driving with the headlights on are habits which increase safety on the roads.
Most of the students are very appreciative of the opportunity being given to them.
“Generally speaking our kids are amazing,” Mr Woodford said.
He is very mindful of the fact that no Tenterfield student who has attended the course has been fatally injured in a crash, and it’s a statistic he hopes is upheld.
The school has been attending the expo now for 13 years, thanks to Rotary’s Trivia Night which is on again this year at the Tenterfield Golf Club on May 26.