Learn to be a defensive driver on a race track

Would you want your teen to learn how to drive on a race track? Introducing National Auto Sport Association of Northern California, which offers day-long driving courses aimed at teaching teenage motorists and their parents how to handle their cars when things go wrong on the road. The next course is 8 a.m. July 27 at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, located southwest of Chico off Interstate 5 and Highway 162. The cost is $99. Larry Colen, 50 of Felton, has been associated with the nonprofit off and on, including as a volunteer instructor, for 20 years. While the course teaches participants the proper way to take a curve posted with a yellow speed limit suggestion of 40 mph at a speed of 60 mph or above, that's not all students will cruise away with, he said. Taking this course teaches drivers ways to be better prepared and capable, Colen said. “Most people barely pay any attention past the rear bumper of the car in front of them -- or maybe 100 feet ahead,” said Colen. “Skillful drivers are looking as far ahead as they can see and rather than having half a second to avoid an accident, they have several seconds to slow down gradually, look for emergency routes to drive around the problem, and check their rear view mirror to make sure that the car behind them is stopping." Colen was among the many readers who commented recently about a letter from a reader who suggested the speed limit was too high on a portion of Highway 17 through Scotts Valley and should be lowered. Nearly all the responses, including Colen, suggested the reader learn how to control her vehicle at freeway speeds. However, driver skill, or lack thereof, isn't necessarily the cause of crashes, said Officer Sarah Jackson of the California Highway Patrol's Aptos office. “The problem is not a lack of skill, it is a lack of sound decision making,” she said. “I have seen many more collisions result from breaking the law than a lack of performance driver training. Speed limits are set for a reason -- that is the safest maximum speed for that roadway. No matter how well you are trained, if you exceed that speed limit you are risking your life and the lives of others who share the road with you.” Colen echoed Jackson's concerns about speed. “All of the techniques that you learn on the track can and should be applied and practiced on the streets, but at legal speeds,” he said. Anyone interested in signing up for the association's upcoming special teen driver safety course can contact Dave Ho at dave@drivenasa.com (510) 232-6272. Parents must sign a waiver for their teen to participate and ride in the car with their teen and the instructor. For more information, visit http://nasaproracing.com/event/1265.
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