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Defensive driving course for teens aims to keep Tucson streets safer

Teen drivers with driver's licenses get a more advanced education at TPD's START program.
Posted at 8:52 AM, Oct 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-10 14:28:30-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson Police are working with teen drivers to make the city’s streets safer through an immersive defensive driving class.

TPD’s Safe Teen Accident Reduction Training (START) program is a five-hour class held during two days each month through the school year, from August through May. The Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation sponsors the class.

Drivers in the START program must be 19 or younger with a driver’s license.

“My parents made my sister come and she actually survived a car crash because of the class,” said Aliya Armand, one of the drivers at Saturday’s class.

The program involves a classroom session on how to avoid distracted driving before time behind the wheel on TPD’s driving course.

There the students take on different challenges that simulate real-world driving scenarios, including hydroplaning, skidding, reversing, smoothly recovering after drifting off-road and avoiding objects in the roadway at high speeds.

“Giving them a plan on how to successfully get through some of these problems,” TPD Drivers Training Coordinator Casey Taylor said. “It’s good for all of us. Obviously if they’re a little safer on the road, we’re gonna be safer as well, cause they’re sharing the roads with us.”

“Good experience to know, if you’re in these types of situations, how to get out of ‘em,” said Jacob Dillon, another driver at Saturday’s class. “And how to counter some different things.”

The students drive out-of-service police cars in order to learn these maneuvers without the benefit of more modern car safety technology.

A driving simulator is also used during the class to demonstrate how using a cell phone or having people in the car can be distracting and affect how well someone is driving, even if they don’t cause a crash during the simulation.

“I don’t even drive on the freeway or anything,” Armand said. “Like, I don’t like driving fast at all. So putting myself in this situation and getting a feel for it, I might be more comfortable driving more places.”

To learn more about the START program, you can visit SALEF’s website.