- Published on Wednesday, May 09 2012
- Written by Sarah Osman
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, a state-certified driving school based in Los Angeles. The Academy, which has been open since November 2011, places a strong emphasis on preparing students for today’s distracting driving environment as well as teaches students how to make their own driving decisions. With schools also open in the U.K., Germany, and the Netherlands, the Academy’s curriculum involves online, classroom, and hands-on workshops in addition to behind-the-wheel training. Eleven instructors make up the coaching staff, including Marc Hemsworth, former chief Driving Instructor for the LAPD, and Jim Hiller, former Operator and Senior Instructor of Auto Club of Southern California Driving School. Mercedes-Benz is currently the only auto manufacturer to operate a state-certified driver’s education program and is the world’s first international teen driving school.
Car crashes are currently ranked as the #1 cause of fatalities among teenagers 15-20, and 60% of all teenagers will experience a car crash within the first year of receiving their license. In addition, nine out of 10 car crashes are caused by driver error, not mechanical error. Many of these crashes are caused by risk taking, lack of skills, rushing to destinations, and tailgating. The Academy feels that this is due to the fact that when first learning how to drive, teen drivers always have a driving instructor/parent telling them what to do rather than make the driving decisions themselves.
“The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is an entirely fresh approach to driver’s education and training,” says Marc Hemsworth. “The traditional training methods tend to not always be the best way to train future drivers, as these tend to only focus on having the student receive their license -- not on having them really retain the information on becoming a responsible driver. How we differ is that we have the students make the decisions themselves, which helps give the students the successful tools they will need to be a solo driver. We are talking to the students, not at them. We are having a conversation with them, not just throwing information at them.”
The teaching method at the Academy is indeed very different from other driving schools. Hemsworth took me on a 30-minute driving assessment, in which I finally learned how to parallel park. Instead of just telling me to "turn left", "turn right", "stop here", Hemsworth asked me what the correct steps were to make a right turn. After I would make the turn, he would then ask me to rate my turn on a scale from 1-10, and why. I found that this method helped me improve my driving, and by the end, parallel parking in Los Angeles was no longer the terror that it once had been for me.
In April, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy partnered with Impact Teen Drivers and the California Highway Patrol to help support National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Teen Safe Driving Week. To kick off the event, the Academy held a closed-course distracted-driving exercise for teens at Calabasas High School last month. Coaches led teens through a closed driving course that introduced teens to some of the distractions they would face while driving, such as cell phones and noisy passengers. For the month of May, the Academy is holding free driving assessments in honor of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month. For more information on the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, please visit us.mbdrivingacademy.com/.
- Sarah Osman, YH Staff