"The first time I ever drove, I almost got into an accident," said Gabrielle Bice, a teen participant at the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge. Unfortunately, this is all too common and it can lead to tragic consequences, because car accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths in the country. And Florida ranks third in the country for teen car crash fatalities1.
This year's event also included seniors for the first time – Florida leads the nation in car crash fatalities involving drivers ages 65 and older.2 "I felt it was going to be a good experience for her [Miss Bice] and me," said Harold Bice. "I’m getting firsthand training and it’s really going to do me wonders."
These scary statistics are why Mercury Insurance and the Tampa Bay Lightning teamed up on November 4 to host their second Florida-based Drive Safe Challenge, a one-day immersive driving school event designed to help equip drivers of all ages with the necessary skills and knowledge to stay safe on the road. "Virtually all auto collisions are preventable," said Erik Thompson, vice president of advertising and public relations at Mercury Insurance. "We created the Drive Safe Challenge initiative to educate drivers on the importance of being alert while behind the wheel and give them the skills to avoid potentially dangerous situations. We want Floridians to challenge themselves to be safer drivers, because safer drivers lead to fewer accidents and that’s good for everyone."
Parents, teens ages 15 to 19 and drivers over the age of 55 joined professional driving instructors at the University of South Florida campus to participate in collision avoidance techniques, emergency braking procedures, car-handling maneuvers on slippery surfaces and a course simulating the dangers of distracted driving.
"I only hit one cone," said Miss Bice after going through the accident avoidance course. She added that the instructors were great about teaching her how to handle dangerous driving situations as well as simple things like where to put your hands on the steering wheel. This event helped with rebuilding her confidence, "which is what I needed," she said.
Sometimes it takes a different voice outside of the home to be more impactful, which is why Tampa Bay Lightning Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk joined the Drive Safe Challenge this year.
"Driving a vehicle is a huge responsibility and it starts with parents setting a good example for teens," said Mr. Andreychuk. "With my kids, I knew how important it was to coach them while they’re behind the wheel."
"The teens who participated in the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge today gained valuable knowledge and tools that will help them be safer drivers, and we’re grateful to be a part of it."
Launched in 2016, the Drive Safe Challenge is a free defensive driving program that offers an interactive classroom session along with hands-on driving skills training. The program was started in California in collaboration with the Anaheim Ducks and California Highway Patrol before expanding to Florida. Originally developed for teen drivers, the November 4, 2018 event extended the course to also include mature drivers. Mercury has created a wealth of free information and tools to help drivers prepare for life on the road. Visit: http://drivesafe.mercuryinsurance.com for tips, videos, quizzes and more.
1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, http://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/Publication/812363
2 TRIP, a National Transportation Research Group, http://www.tripnet.org/docs/Older_Driver_FL_TRIP_Release_03-13-2018.php