ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – This week, young drivers are learning important skills from Michigan State Troopers to help them stay safe on the road.
The Michigan State Police (MSP) Gladstone Post’s second annual Upper Peninsula Teenage Defensive Driving Program began on Wednesday at Midwest Truck Driving School. More than 60 teens are training with state troopers to master a series of five exercises–serpentine, controlled braking, evasive maneuvering, precision maneuvering, and skid control.
“We take teen drivers and put them in a static environment,” explained MSP Sergeant Patrick Janisse. “That way, if and when in the real world they are faced with a defensive position, they can actually adapt and overcome with confidence.”
The program originally started downstate at the Michigan State Police Training Academy, so Janisse says an MSP patrol vehicle is the best place for teens to learn defensive driving.
“All of our trooper recruits go through the same exercises in the academy, so they are actually getting a lot of specialized driving training which we receive ourselves,” Janisse said.
According to Sergeant Janisse, each skill builds upon the others to create a strong defensive driving foundation. He says the program prepares teens for hazardous conditions they might encounter and gives them the skills they need to keep themselves–and others–safe on the road.
“They do get initially nervous with the skid control,” said Janisse. “However, once they recover from a skid for the first time, a lightbulb goes off and they’re able to keep recovering. The amount of confidence that they have from the beginning to the end is just tremendous to watch.”
Netti Macario of Wisconsin brought her 16-year-old daughter, Ava, to the Defensive Driving Program. Macario says she is glad her child has the chance to learn these techniques at such an early age.
“At 16 years old, they pretty much think they know everything,” she said. “Obviously, not the case. What she can learn now will only make her a better driver for the future.”
Macario is looking forward to having some added peace of mind when her daughter gets behind the wheel from now on.
“I grew up in the U.P.,” said Macario. “The occasional deer is going to jump out, you learn by experience. It’s better to not have to learn that way, the hard way, and to learn in circumstances like this where it’s a controlled environment.”
Sergeant Janisse says the Michigan State Police Gladstone Post plans to host the U.P. Teenage Defensive Driving Program again next year. There is a waitlist, so he encourages anyone interested to visit michigan.gov/upteendriving for more information.