Among Teen Drivers, Survival Course "Saves Lives"

Updated: 07/27/2013 5:17 PM By: Mark Albert

Sixteen year-old Harrison Fitschen of Red Wing was given an ultimatum recently by his father: take a street survival course or "otherwise you're not driving."

So on a windy and rainy Saturday, Fitschen and 27 other teens buckled up in their own cars at Dakota County Technical College for the Tire Rack Street Survival Course, put on by the Northstar BMW club.

Throwing the car into a skid - I've never done that before," Harrison told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS after completing the track portion of the course. "I learned how to control (the car)," he said.

The course's 16 instructors take the teens through a classroom lesson on tire limits, braking strategies and more, but also hit the road on a closed track.

"They learn the laws, the rules," in their driver's education courses, instructor Tyler Arvig explained, but "this is where they learn how to drive."

The course is $75; a cost, instructors believe, that's without a price.

"Tt's absolutely about safety. You know, we know the things that we're teaching these students saves lives," Arvig said.

"As important as this course may be for the teenagers behind the wheel, the Minnesota State Patrol believes it's not just for them."

"It's especially important for parents to be aware of the risks teens take," MSP Lt. Eric Roeske explained in an interview.

After more than 90 teen crash deaths a year a decade ago, and 75 as recently as 2006, Minnesota had 40 last year, although that was one more than the year prior, according to Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety statistics.

Teens are twice as likely, authorities say, to be involved in a crash.

"It's really the job of the parents to monitor and influence the driving behavior of a teen. When we get involved, it's often too late," said Roeske.

It's a lesson the Street Survival course seems to be driving home.

"All sorts of surprises jump out at you," marveled Red Wing's Harrison Fitschen.

"That way you're ready for everything."