One battered and beaten cone didn't fare so well as students honed their reverse driving skills.
Over 20 Carbon High School students got the chance to skid, slide and evade traffic cones and other obstacles during a Teen Driving Challenge near Camp Williams on Saturday.
The driving challenge, put on by the Utah Highway Patrol, offered students the opportunity to experience real life accident avoidance scenarios including skid control, evasive maneuvers, lane changing, braking techniques and more. The challenge was taught by Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVO) instructors at the track provided by the Department of Public Safety.
Students did their best to avoid the cones during an obstacle course challenge. Students had to conquer the course as they drove the same vehicles and participated in the same exercises that cadets for the Utah Highway Patrol must complete on a yearly basis.
At certain points in the obstacle course, battered and beaten cones sat at important junctions. While that may mean failure in one aspect, it also provided a learning experience for the students as they were told it can take time to utilize all of the skills necessary to succeed on the course and practicing is the key to accomplishing the goals.
As they backed up through the cones on the course, students were encouraged by UHP Trooper Bradley Shaw to use their instincts by only looking over their shoulder instead of using the rear-view mirror.
"Look. Look. Trust your instincts," Shaw told students repeatedly.
While the course and its exercises may have provided a challenge on an individual basis, students were challenging each other over their radios.
"I bet you will hit at least five cones," one student said to another.
"I've hit about 30 cones so far," said another.
Cadets with UHP must complete the entire obstacle course with a time of 2:30 or less. They must complete all of the obstacles within the course and they are not allowed to knock over any cones in the process. Doing so would mean disqualification. Students had their opportunity to be timed on the course to see how they would match up to what the cadets must go through. While many of them touched or backed over cones along the way, Shaw said that some of the students did very well considering it was their first time attempting the course.
Students were also able to do figure-8s on a water slicked portion of the course as they spun and slid the vehicles, trying their best to keep control of the vehicle at all times. The vehicles slid across the wet black pavement and the tires screeched as the vehicle spun round and round. Each student got the chance to skid around and by the looks on their faces, their expressions told how much fun they were having.
Students were then put in another exercise where they had to change lanes while going anywhere between 35-45 miles per hour. Shaun Thomas, a UHP trooper and course instructor, told the students that no braking was allowed and they cannot wait to make a decision. Once they reached a certain point Thomas would tell the students to go left or right, leaving them with little time to make a decision.
"It's definitely a challenge for me," said Brock Pruitt, a Carbon High senior. "You can't think out there because there is no time."
Just to make sure they were following directions, Shaw parked his vehicle at a particular point and used his radar detector to follow the speed of each student during the exercise. Some accelerated and maintained the correct speed, but others took their foot off the gas pedal and slowed down.
After the exercise was complete, Thomas gathered all of the students and talked about what they did right and what they needed to improve on. Throughout the entire challenge, Thomas said he saw improvement among many students.
"I could see the students drastically improving their skills during the day," said Thomas. "It's very intimidating to run through the course for the first time but it just takes practice to become better."
Katie Curry, a Carbon High senior, took her turn on the lane change exercise. As she accelerated towards the cones, Thomas shouted out for her to go left. At 45 mph, it's not as easy as it sounds. Curry maneuvered the vehicle into the left lane but went barreling into a number of cones along the way. As she made it through the exercise, Curry's tires screeched along the ground as she nearly did a complete 360 degree turn. As the vehicle came to a complete stop, the sounds of joy, jubilation and laughter filled the air.
"It was awesome and exhilarating," said Curry. "I would definitely do this (challenge) again."
While the students were having fun learning driving techniques they never had a chance to do before, the opportunity to provide a learning environment outside of a classroom was a big factor in helping make the challenge appeal to students, Shaw said. "An exercise like this helps students learn more because it's hands-on work instead of sitting in a classroom," Shaw said.
While much of the day was spent out on the course, students also had time to listen to UHP instructors and watch a movie on the dangers of distracted driving. Text messaging while driving and not paying attention to the road were two main areas focused on. The movie also focused on the fact that distracted driving can happen to anyone, including those with no prior criminal background.
The challenge is intended to be a fun experience for students as they get to try new driving techniques, but for a UHP Trooper like Thomas he hopes students come away with the intention of learning and applying those methods in their lives everyday.
"I like to see students who actually take the time to listen and learn while they are here," said Thomas. "The challenge is all about having fun and focusing on safety that the students can use in their lives."