Land Rover, Michelin Help Kids, Teens Get Excited About Driving

Studies show that teens and Millennials are less enthused about driving and are even delaying getting their license.

But maybe they just need to be offered the keys to a Range Rover Evoque to get them interested. 

Hundreds of “very keen” teen drivers recently got behind the wheel of that luxury SUV or an equally lush Land Rover Discovery Sport over the course of the Kentucky Three-Day Event, an equestrian competition in Lexington, Ky., of which the automaker became the title sponsor this year. Young kids ages 4-10 were able to "drive" an electric Land Rover around a haybale-lined course.

This was Land Rover’s first teen program in the U.S., says Karen Angus, drive experience manager, Jaguar Land Rover North America.

The program in Kentucky was an opportunity for the automaker to assess how it can continue to develop the course challenges to make for the best possible experience when the program is introduced at Land Rover Experience Centers, she says. 

Land Rover offers the Start-Off Road program in a number of countries around the world, and soon the automaker will introduce the program as a regular feature at U.S. Land Rover Experience Centers in North Carolina, Vermont and California.

The course is designed to help teens experience and understand the basics that make good drivers — seating position, reading the terrain ahead, smooth throttle control and braking, precise steering. 

“We even included two reversing exercises,” Angus tells MediaPost. “The low speeds on an off-road course mean that first-time drivers have time to listen to instruction, think about what they are doing and feel how the vehicle responds to their inputs.”

Parents were required to sit in the backseat — but they didn’t need to be stereotypical “backseat drivers” because the Land Rover instructors gave detailed instructions to the teens, who ranged in ages from 14 to 18. 

“For parents, this was a great opportunity to participate in their youngster's first drive — and observe our expert Land Rover instructors coach driving techniques,” Angus says. “Parents — who are usually a teen's main source of driving instruction —  took away tips on key skills, what and how to communicate in those early, habit-forming, first times behind the wheel.”

Land Rover wanted to ensure that all of the family would have the opportunity to experience Land Rover first hand at the event. Adults also were invited to experience the vehicles in an off-road course where they also received guidance as to how to best navigate the treacherous terrain. 

Michelin North America is sponsoring another teen driving program. This one is geared toward safety and is available for a fee to licensed drivers.

Car crashes are the leading killer of American teens, with more than 5,000 teens involved in fatal crashes each year and an additional 196,000 injured. Simple driving errors, avoidable but common among inexperienced teens, cause the majority of fatal accidents, according to Tire Rack Street Survival. The organization is the largest active non-profit national driver education program that teaches teens the skills they need to stay alive behind the wheel. 

Unlike traditional driver’s education programs based on classroom theory and simple maneuvers, the Tire Rack Street Survival program improves driver competence through hands-on experiences in real-world driving situations. Students will receive a valuable classroom session and then will learn, hands-on, how to manage everyday driving hazards, obstacles and challenges in a controlled environment on an advanced driving course to ultimately “arrive alive.”

The program is in its 16th year, having trained over 25,000 new drivers in over 1,000 schools.

Students learn emergency braking and skid control, how to control proper braking, and how to avoid accidents entirely. In select schools, in addition to spending time in the driver’s seat of parked 18-wheeler to fully comprehend its massive blind spots, teenagers witness the violent detonation of an air bag, which reinforces proper hand placement on the steering wheel. Students are taught in their own cars, not specially prepared program vehicles, so the skills they learn can be directly translated to their daily driving experiences. Tire Rack Street Survival challenges teenagers to understand how to control a vehicle, rather than just operate one.

Ultimately, no matter how they get behind the wheel, it’s never too early to learn good driving habits.

“Off-roading is a fantastic way to learn about car control —and great fun,” Land Rover’s Angus says. 

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