Every day, automakers pour in the hours of developing a better car. A safer car. But as the old saying goes, the tool is only as good as the user. And it comes to a point that no matter how many safety features an automobile features, its operation relies on the skills of the driver. Notably, most car crashes are a result of driver error. This statistic is amplified in the 15-20 year-old age demographic, as car crashes are the number one cause of death for this group. And because of the lowered experience on average compared to more seasoned drivers, teens are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. However, Mercedes-Benz has not been apathetic when it comes to these statistics, and along with creating cutting edge safety technology, the company has created the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy.
“We could build the safest cars in the world, but if we turn the keys over to someone who hasn’t been properly trained, all bets are off,” said Carolyn Duchene, the academy’s director. And it is perhaps no small reason that teens see a high rate of vehicle accidents because of the current structuring of driver’s education.
In some states, teens as young as 15 years old are eligible to test for a learner’s permit. After that, a six-month wait is required before they’re allowed to take the driver’s license test. During that time, teens must complete a minimum of six hours of behind-the-wheel training with a professional and 50 hours of adult-supervised driving. But when an individual turns 18, driver’s education is no longer required before taking a driver’s license test. Interestingly, the U.S. is the only country that allows this. Being part of the solution, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy looks to fortify the driving skills of young drivers.
The academy is a state-certified teen driver education and training center in Los Angeles, and is the first of its kind in the United States.
There are several courses drivers can take. The first is the Integrated Program, ideal for students starting driver’s education from scratch. This program costs $1390 per student, and includes 30 hours of interactive online courses, workshops, and classroom sessions, plus 16 hours of actual driving time, more than double the requirements of some states. And when it comes to being behind the wheel, Mercedes-Benz instructors look to coach the students, rather than command them. This process allows for free-range decision making by the students in terms of where to drive, while the supervision of the teachers provide input based on their observations of the students’ driving habits, both good and bad.
Seeing as most teens rely on their parents, parental involvement is also emphasized. Parents can communicate with coaches and can easily observe their teen’s progress with a student logbook. Additionally, coaches can even pick up the teens from school for their lesson and have them drive home after their lesson to save the parents time.
Is the $1,390 investment for better driver’s education too costly? Considering it could mean the difference between life and death in dire driving scenarios, it could be the best education a young person could ever receive.