Melaina Riley was tired. Weekend mornings are meant for sleeping in.
But at 8:30 a.m. on a recent Saturday, the 16-year-old Deer Creek High School student wasn't tucked in her bed. She was at Remington Park, taking the keys and the driver's seat in a turbocharged BMW 300i sports car.
Talk about a wakeup call.
“I was nervous,” Riley said. “I didn't know what to expect.”
Riley and about 70 other area high school students gathered in the large parking lot outside the casino for Bridgestone's Teen's Drive Smart campaign — a free clinic that takes an advanced approach to driver's education.
Its aim is to reduce the No. 1 killer of American teenagers today: automobile accidents.
“In typical driver's education, people are never taught car control, they're taught rules of the road,” said Brian Cole, a professional driver at the clinic. “We obviously need to know those rules, but it's car control that saves you when things go wrong.”
Along with the opportunity to drive with professionals through an obstacle course, students endured hands-on training and instruction on perfecting their driving abilities.
After the students were divided into teams, they ventured out to five stations. Three were instructional discussions about vehicle safety, maintenance and tire information. Another tested students' abilities to text message while driving golf carts through a cone raceway.
Some students had just received their learner's permits. Others, like Riley, were newcomers to the road as licensed drivers.
“She's been driving for not quite a year yet, since she got her license,” said Patrick Riley, Melaina's dad. “I think continuing education is important and we kind of forget that. I think they're teaching things here that they don't teach in a standard driver's education class.”