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ABout the Owner

ABout the Owner

Bob Montondo, owner and founder of A-1 Driver Training School, is perhaps South Carolina’s most qualified driving instructor. He is certified by both the South Carolina Department of Education and The South Carolina Department of Transportation as a driver training instructor and is also certified by the National Safety Council and the AAA as a defensive driving instructor. Montondo has been actively involved in traffic safety education since 1974 and has logged over 20,000 hours of in car instructional experience.

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Obviously qualified in traffic safety and driver education, Montondo recently found himself in a somewhat different setting when he climbed behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car at the Charlotte Motor Speedway while he was attending the Richard Petty Driving School. Although never a real racing fan, Montondo does admit to a fascination with race car drivers: “My impression of them was that they had a lot of guts, but probably not a lot of brains!” After turning a few laps at 130 mph, Montondo now acknowledges race car drivers as “undoubtedly the greatest drivers in the world! I never really appreciated the intense level of concentration and skill that are required to drive a race car.”

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Exactly what lessons did Montondo learn at the Charlotte Motor Speedway that he now plans to incorporate into his driver training classes? “That’s easy,” he says, “whether you’re driving on the Charlotte track or Two Notch Road, there exists one constant factor affecting your ability to control your car – the Laws of Physics.” While most licensed drivers know the basic traffic rules, few understand the natural laws and physical forces that affect a moving vehicle.<!> Race car drivers fully understand and consider the principles of physics which influence vehicle control, especially during cornering. They realize the higher their speed entering a curve, the stronger the lateral forces pushing the car outward during the curve. Sudden deceleration or braking in a curve can easily result in loss of control by dramatically transferring weight to the front tires of the vehicle. This sudden weight transfer unbalances the car, thus reducing the traction of the back tires and may cause the rear of the car to “break loose,” thereby putting the vehicle into a spin. When the driver loses control of the vehicle, Mother Nature then takes over!

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We should proceed with caution when licensing teen age drivers

Young drivers constitute a major highway-safety problem. The traditional proposal to remedy the situation is to raise the driver’s license age. Upon close examination of crashes involving beginning drivers, the solu­tion to this problem is not that simple.

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Beginning drivers are involved in more traffic accidents than experienced drivers. Furthermore, the characteristics of their crashes differ significantly from those of more seasoned drivers.

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Highway-safety studies demonstrate that young drivers’ problems are related to age, inexperience and immaturity. Raising the licensing age alone does not provide on-the-road experience. The beginning driver tends to be less skilled at predicting potentially dangerous situations. He often has trouble handling unusual driving circumstances and minor emergencies. The basic problem is that the young driver brings both inexperience and immaturity to the complex task of driving.

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Beginning teenage drivers are involved in more fatal crashes than any other age group, and are more likely to include three or more occupants — usually other teen-agers. Their crashes are more likely to occur at night, especially on weekends. Excessive speed tends to be a contributing factor. This age group is involved in a higher percentage of single-vehicle crashes and is less likely to use seat belts.

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A license to drive is a ticket to freedom for most teenagers and, in many cases, for their parents, who no longer have to chauffeur them around. But the price is steep — more than a third of all deaths dur­ing the teens’ next two years will be the result of crashes.

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Driver education programs have not solved this dilemma. Training and education programs can help teens learn driving skills, but unfortunately have not produced significantly safer drivers.

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If we are serious about young drivers in our society, we must consider changing the process and procedures by which they learn to drive. We should consider using a graduated licensing system similar to those currently being used in other countries. A graduated license provides beginning drivers the opportunity to gain driving experience while reducing their exposure to risk. The idea is to help beginning drivers learn to drive but control their progression toward full driving privileges.

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Graduated licensing is unique in that drivers progress through a multi-stage licensing process that’s equivalent to receiving a beginner’s permit, then a provisional or restricted license, and finally a regular license. Before receiving full driving privileges, young drivers must first demonstrate responsible driving behavior in progressively more difficult circumstances. During restricted periods, penalties are usually more severe and may call for automatic suspension of driving privileges, or for extending the provisional period.

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Restricting nighttime driving is an essential component of graduated licensing. Limiting initial driving to daytime hours is part of creating a safer environment for teenage drivers and reducing their crash risk. Not only is nighttime driving more difficult for teenagers, but it tends to be recreational, with more distractions and additional risk factors.

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Another typical restriction of a graduated license is either reduced blood-alcohol levels for underage drivers, or a zero tolerance. Some states presently have lower alcohol levels for young drivers, and re­search shows it reduces nighttime fatal crashes involving teens. Other restrictions may limit the number of passengers or ban driving on high­speed roads.

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Our current licensing procedures are not the best. After the compltion of a vision test, a knowledge test and a spin around the block, we hand young people the keys to an automobile and create a high-risk situation. The results and consequences should not be a major surprise!

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Graduated licensing offers an opportunity to control some of the risks faced by young drivers. The limitations delay unrestricted driving until considerably lower risk experience has been accumulated. By the time an unrestricted license is obtained, the driver is older, more experienced and perhaps more mature.

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Mr. Montondo is a schoolteacher in Richland District 2 and has owned and operated A-1 Driver Training School since 1981.

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CHOOSING A SAFE CAR FOR YOUR TEENAGER

Everyone knows that teenage drivers have more than their fair share of traffic accidents. On a per capita basis, teenagers account for more crashes and highway fatalities than any other age group . The problems posed by young drivers are further complicated by the fact that our teenage driving population is steadily growing, and that more teenagers now own cars. According to a recent survey, 27% of 16 and 17 year olds own their own automobiles. Among 18 and 19 year olds, vehicle ownership rises to 44 %. This increasing trend toward vehicle ownership by teenagers poses a serious parental concern: “What type of vehicle should I buy for my teenager, or what should I encourage or allow them to buy?”

Since insurance studies show that crash risk is greatest during the first 2 years of driving, parents should avoid letting teenagers drive overpowered high performance cars. Performance vehicles present an open invitation for fast driving and cater to teenagers’ worst tendencies . The problem with mixing performance vehicles and teenage drivers is not their physical ability to drive. Beginning teenage drivers typically possess excellent physical skills, but lack of driving experience often effects their judgment. Placing an inexperienced driver in a powerful performance vehicle can only increase the already high crash risks associated with young drivers.

Since teenage drivers face the greatest crash risk during their first years of driving, parents should place safety high on their list of purchase considerations. Most parents understand the value of safety features such as air bags and anti-lock brakes . However , many fail to consider that vehicle design is a critical factor for occupant safety during a crash . Frontal collisions tend to be the most serious type of traffic accident. They account for almost 50 percent of the highway fatalities in the United States every year The laws of physics dictate that big vehicles provide more protection in frontal crashes . Larger vehicles are more energy-absorbing during a crash , and tend to keep the forces of the crash away from the occupant compartment.

Side-impact collisions are the second most serious type of accident and account for approximately 25 percent of traffic deaths. Again , larger vehicles tend to provide more protection in side crashes than smaller vehicles. Four-door cars, by nature of their structural design, are more crash-worthy in side collisions than two-door vehicles.

Roll-over accidents account for almost 15 percent of traffic deaths each year . However , insurance studies show that roll-over accidents occur more frequently among teenage drivers than any other age group. Hard-top vehicles obviously will provide the most protection in a roll-over accident. Studies conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration indicate that “top heavy” vehicles with higher centers of gravity tend to be more susceptible to roll-over accidents. Unfortunately, these type of vehicles are very popular with young drivers .

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