Fort Rucker, community course teaches teens safe driving skills
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson, right, and George McCleary, Ozark Kiwanis Club board member, discuss the new Collision Avoidance Training course during a press conference in Ozark Friday. CAT is designed to help mitigate teenage deaths caused by car crashes.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A new joint-effort between Fort Rucker and Wiregrass leaders aims to save youngsters' lives by mitigating many vehicle collisions and wrecks.

Car crashes result in too many untimely teenage deaths annually, according to local and installation officials.

The National Traffic Safety Academy's Collision Avoidance Training program began in Dale County in early March to teach teens advanced defensive driving techniques.

During the two-day CAT course, Dale County sheriff's deputies instructed teens on proper steering, acceleration, deceleration, skid control and recovery methods.

"The target audiences are the teenagers (who) are not that experienced in driving. This program will teach them how handle vehicles in difficult situations and how to react," said Sharon Manning, Aviation Branch Safety Office safety and occupational health specialist. "It also lets you get the feel of how big your car actually is so that you can better judge distances. (Teens) have to maneuver through cones without knocking them down. It helps with their judgment when they're driving and trying to park."

Paul Burris, director of training at the Tallahassee, Fla., NTSA, noted car crashes cause injuries and fatalities in teenagers about four times more often than drug abuse, suicide, guns and gang violence combined.

Ozark Kiwanis Club members were also instrumental in implementing the program, and board member George McCleary noted more teenagers are killed nationwide on highways each year than the number of servicemembers killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Since CAT's inception about 10 years ago, only 11 percent of students have been involved in car crashes, Burris said. None of those crashes resulted in fatalities. Comparing these numbers to the 60 percent of non-CAT teen drivers who find themselves in wrecks proves the program is successful, he added.

Burris said NTSA staff is excited to partner with lower Alabama communities and the post.

"Fort Rucker has taken such an aggressive approach and commitment to reducing teenage deaths," he said. "Nobody in this country knows more about training than the U.S. Army."
Communities working together to save lives is what CAT is all about, according to post officials.
"It's a shining example of how Dale County works with Fort Rucker," said Deputy Garrison Commander Justin Mitchell. "It's very important for Fort Rucker because you can't separate us. We are the community."

Hunt and Goldberg Stagefields, in Newton and Ozark, will serve as training sites, according to Manning. CAT courses are also held in Dothan and Troy as well as around the country, from Delaware to Florida and Arkansas to the Carolinas.

For more information on class times and dates or to register, call 774-2335 or (800) 656-6507.

Page last updated Fri March 19th, 2010 at 12:37