When I got my drivers license mmfmmmty-some years ago, it was after completing 4 weeks of Driver’s Ed with Coach Flinchum at Western

teen driversGuilford HS. I’ll never forget how calm he was as each of us climbed behind the wheel decked out in our Valley Girl attire and the really important things he taught us that were NOT in the manual. Things like “if you smoke – which I don’t recommend – if you light a cigarette at night, you need to remember that your eyes will dilate and you could have an accident.” That’s pretty important information when you’re a teen in the 80’s. He also taught us how to steer into the turn if your car started spinning. A lesson I was able to tap into that very year when we had a record year of snowfall.

My dad did not let me get my license when I turned 16 and instead waited until I was 16 1/2 and I clearly remember almost having an accident less than a month after getting it. Today, states vary greatly on when they’ll let a teen get their license – NJ is 18 but in NC you can get your permit at 15. Some county school systems offer driver’s ed and others do not and you have to pay a private company to train your child.

But mark my word, no matter how they learn – it is not good enough. As CEO of Teen Driving Solutions School (TDSS) Chuck Hawks says “they teach our teens to pass the test and become tax paying drivers.”

I was contacted last year by the team at TDSS and asked if I’d be interested in attending one of their weekend driving schools but couldn’t at that time because Mackenzie didn’t have her permit at that point (teens must have their drivers permit and at least 10 hours of driving time in order to attend) but asked that they keep me on their list. When they reached out again, I jumped at the chance to attend their first session of the year.

I can’t tell you enough how much I. Loved. This. Course. Mackenzie and I both did and we both learned so much. I have SO much content to share with you guys that it will take a few posts. No way can I adequately share this experience in one post and do it justice. From the moment we drove onto the property, we knew we were in for a great day. The main team is made up of President and Founder Dan Wagner, CEO Chuck Hawks and the awesome Chief Relationship Officer, Dr. Dar whose daunting task is to re-train the parents on how to coach their teens (as opposed to barking at them).

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teen driving solutionsAfter our initial briefing, teens and their parents were quickly separated for their individual lessons and wouldn’t meet again until lunch. The parent’s were shuttled to the maintenance shed where we were given an overview of what our teens would learn. I was thrilled to find out that they would learn basic maintenance skills such as changing a tire, what fluids went where and at some point, there would even be a “beer goggle” lesson and they would get to see what walking was like while intoxicated.

When Mackenzie’s team made it to the maintenance shed, Ken (who was an awesome, former police, fatherly figure) took them thru basic maintenance and then the 2 teams competed to see who could change a tire the fastest. While there was no NASCAR speed changing, they all did a great job and I was HEN! proud that Mackenzie was the one teen who knew where to find all the necessary equipment to change a tire.

I (kind of) chuckled when I heard a couple of parents and teens make the comment that they would ‘just call AAA’ if they ever had problems. I am thinking ol’ Murphy has never shown up on these folks doorsteps because anytime these things have happened to me, I’ve had a cell battery was dying or there was no coverage. The whole no cell coverage thing came into play when Mackenzie and I made the wrong turn out of the racetrack. 2 hours later, we finally made it back to something that could be described as civilization.

How is TDSS different from other teen driving schools?

Unlike other advanced driving schools that hold 1/2 day sessions, each TDSS session is a full, 2-day course held over a weekend at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, VA. Another way they’re different is that parents are REQUIRED to attend – not just stay on site due to insurance regulations. Here are some of the many other ways that TDSS is unique:

Other Programs TDSS New Drivers Advanced Training
Half (1/2) day program for teen Two (2) full day program for teens and their parents
Student’s own car may be required TDSS supplies vehicles and fuel
3 students per instructor 2 students per instructor
No formal instructor training program TDSS trained and certified Instructors
Maximum class size of 40 – 60 students Maximum class size of 24 students (the lowest instructor-to-driver ratio in the industry with focus on
quality, not quantity)
Actual total drive time per student is limited to 1 hour Actual total drive time per student is a minimum of 5 hours
Parents watch their teen Parents have their own separate curriculum centered on supporting their teen(s) PLUS Parents participate in driving classes, drive the same exercises as the teens and ride with teens before graduation
Program focus is solely on vehicle control training Teens focus: mental skills first, vehicle control skills second Parents Focus: communication skills first, lead by example second
Permit or license required At least 15 years old with a Learner Permit and a minimum of 10 hours behind the wheel experience
No grading system – all students pass Students are graded: Pass/Fail
Technical skills focus on Avoidance before recovery
Teens and Parents are taught GRIP Principles©
Exercises structured to simulate real-world scenarios including two wheels off exercise
Cutting edge technology used throughout program
Distraction exercises
Students are graded: Pass/Fail
Lunch Provided
Each driving exercise has an achievement standard
Track set up and safety crew
Emergency vehicles and staff on site at every event
Graduation Certificates Issues with passing grade
Follow up support available long after the program
Hands on Vehicle Maintenance Clinic
Impairment Exercise included (simulates intoxication)
Parking, Reverse Driving, Distracted Driving and “Rules of the Road” Review
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The actual driving time that the teens got was so impressive. I loved hearing Dan tell them that “at some point of this weekend, you WILL lose control of your car. Whether you do it or your instructor does it, it will happen.” And believe me – it did but it was in a controlled environment where they were able to learn what to do if the scenario happened in the real world. Even I learned a few things!

But that’s where I leave you – hanging on for dear life… waiting for the next exciting piece of this 🙂

Of note – the next class for TDSS is NEXT weekend and they happen to have a couple of spaces left. So, if your teen is ready for this next phase of BIG learning, register now for the April class!

Disclaimer – I was a guest of TDSS but all opinions are my own.