Skidding Kids Learn Safe Driving at BMW's School for Teens
BMW, which bills its brand as "The Ultimate Driving Machine," is trying to improve the skills of teenagers who may be driving its cars.
The German manufacturer is taking its teen driving school on the road this year, offering a free, two-hour classes in Miami, Washington, DC, Seattle, and other major cities. Go to ude.bmwusa.com for reservations and details about the classes — which are offered alongside free and paid BMW-centric programs for adults.
The traveling class is an abbreviated version of a two-day driving school that BMW offers at its U.S. headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., and near Palm Springs, Calif. To get a first-hand look at the two-day class, I accepted an invitation to attend the Teen Driving Program in Spartanburg. I brought along the most recently licensed teen I know, my stepson-to-be, Gavin.
The $1,295 course started off with a classroom session led by chief instructor Derek Leonard. After a quick meet-and-greet, Leonard stated his goals: Safety, fun, excitement, and education — and likely not in that order.
He then jumped right into specifics, such as the importance of keeping your eyes up and looking where you want to go — not at what you want to avoid! Make sure your seating position is upright and closer to the steering wheel than you think you should be. Hands should always be at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. And adjust your side mirrors. Eighty percent of drivers mis-adjust their side mirrors and cause overlapping fields of vision, said Leonard.
By mid-morning, Gavin and the other 13 teens were put into teams and led outside to a flock of awaiting M235i’s. As one group learned the quick way about oversteering and understeering on a wet skid pad, the other group practiced lane changes and ABS braking at increasing speeds. By afternoon, the students were competing for points on a challenge course.
Day Two turned the heat up even more with double lane-change exercises, high-speed braking, more skid pad laps, and, finally, what BMW calls a “performance drive.” Teens took turns doing laps on a small road course in several different BMWs, including a Z4 convertible (very popular), a 5 Series sedan, and an X3. By then, there was a clear air of confidence about all the students.
In the end, 14 new drivers had improved road and car control skills — and presumably a greater attachment to BMWs.
Luckily, BMW runs concurrent adult driving schools, so I didn’t just have to observe. Why should the teens have all the fun?