A teen driving program has been selected as a finalist in the “Toyota 100 Cars For Good”. The company will donate new vehicles to 100 non-profit organizations, based on public votes beginning October 1.

The Teen Vehicle Operations Course (TVOC) is one of the programs for both teens and parents that are offered by Fear This, a non-profit organization committed to saving lives by promoting safe teen driving. Based in Snellville, GA, the programs include community displays, car shows, and school PTA presentations.

The organization was born in August of 2002, when President Woodrow Gaines noticed that there were numerous media accounts of traffic fatalities involving inexperienced, teenaged drivers.

“I became tired of seeing so many young lives lost to traffic accidents,” Gaines explained. “Traffic accidents are the number one killer of our teenagers. When a teen is killed in a traffic crash, it usually isn’t front-page news. This is a problem that needed to be addressed. It broke my heart, seeing all the roadside monuments of teens that were killed in traffic accidents. We needed to do something proactive in preventing these fatalities so that they don’t become ‘front-page news’.”

After doing some research, Gaines discovered that Driver’s Education had not changed since the 1970’s.  He found that both lack of training and lack of practice are big factors in crashes involving teen drivers.

“The problem with most programs is that they are generic. Teens are taught the laws and given a test, and BOOM! You’re a licensed driver. We give them a license, and then forget about them. The kids aren’t taught how to handle hazards that they occur on the road. This contributes to fatal mistakes that could result in serious injuries or could cost them their lives.”

During his extensive research, Gaines studied the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course utilized in police training. Gaines conferred with some of his friends who were police officers, and they concluded that a similar course would be perfect for training young, inexperienced drivers. The class has revolutionized the concept of driver training; they provide advanced driver training using the same techniques that are used with police cadets at the law enforcement academy.

During the course, teens are taught general safety tips to avoid common mistakes. This includes slowing down, paying attention, and not tailgating.

Beyond the general safety rules, students are taught thresh hold braking and skid recovery. They are taught vehicle maneuvering by using the serpentine cone setup. The cone course is so similar to the course at the police academy, that sometimes the police cadets will practice at the TVOC site in preparation for their own training classes.Furthermore, the instructors are both police officers and certified, elite police academy instructors, the “best of the best”. The mission of the class is especially personal to one of the instructors, who lost his own teenager in in a vehicle crash.

A huge factor that differentiates the TVOC program from regular driver’s education classes is parent involvement. Parents are required to attend the course with their child, and to ride in the vehicle with them while they practice driving. The purpose of this is twofold: The parent will recognize the teen’s weaknesses, and the parent will be able to see how the teen is trained and be able to reinforce what is being taught when they finish the course.

In the past ten years, 3500 teens have completed the TVOC classes, which are taught throughout the state of Georgia.  The program has been endorsed by the Georgia State Insurance Commissioner, by court programs (including Juvenile Court), by the Jackson County School Superintendent, and by celebrities like Actor/Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, whose own two daughters successfully completed the TVOC program.

“As a parent, all you can do is to prepare your children to the best of your ability, and this is what ‘Fear This’ is all about,” Foxworthy said. “They give these young drivers information and new found skills that could very well save their lives and the lives of others. They are courteous, competent, and want nothing more than to prevent teenage riving tragedies. I would (highly) recommend this program to anyone!”

Perhaps the ultimate testament to the program’s success was a telephone call that Gaines received in December 2011, from a teen who had recently graduated from the TVOC program. The teen was driving in traffic, with her mother as a passenger, when she was cut off by another river. The girl did exactly what she was trained to do. After a “crying and praying” session, the girl asked her mother to call Gaines and tell him how the training saved their lives.

“Had she not attended our program, there could have easily been three fatalities, including the girl, her mother, and the other driver,” Gaines said. “Three lives were save that day. You can’t put a price on that!”

However, Gaines stated that the idea has not caught on quickly enough. Some people object to the $150 fee.  Gaines emphasized that the program is not in the business of making a profit; it is in the business of saving lives. Money from the registration fee is use to cover expenses like paying instructors, and site fees. Funding for the program is derived from the registration fees and from donations from businesses. Their ultimate goal is for the TVOC course to be offered nationwide.

TVOC program will use the new vehicle to transport instructors and equipment to the various training sites, since their 13 year old truck has racked up a lot of miles and “is getting a little tired.” You can vote for TVOC at Facebook.com/Toyota. The program will showcase 5 non-profit organizations each day for 50 days. Visitors to the page will receive 2 votes each day to select 2 separate winning organizations that they feel are most deserving of the new Toyota. Fear this will be one of the 5 organizations highlighted for voting on November 9, 2013.

Learn more here:

http://www.toyotainaction.com/story/100-cars-for-good

TVOC Promo http://youtu.be/DZbQsJSG0dQ (video)

http://www.fearthis4life.org/gdp_news.html