Road Code graduates top 100

The Boys & Girls Club of Elk River has graduated 101 teens through its safe driving program in the past nine months, making it the first club in America to graduate more than 100 teens this year.

Youth like these two individuals enjoy working with the simulators. Submitted photo

Registration for the next year’s round will begin with a free Teen Safety Driving Fair from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Elk River Boys & Girls Club.

Parents and teens will be able to try out the simulators used in the Road Code courses in a fun atmosphere. An Elk River police detective will also be on hand to give a talk on impaired driving.

The Road Code Program is a six-hour class that teaches teens defensive driving techniques and also shows them the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. The class is both discussion and then practice using driving simulators.

UPS employees volunteer to teach this program, which employs multimedia technology derived from UPS’ own driver training courses.

Teens that graduate from the program get a certificate from the Boys & Girls Club/UPS and many prizes from UPS, like signed hats from NASCAR drivers.

Word of mouth and local partnerships have help this program flourish, according to Russ Branjord, the branch director for the Elk River Club.

“We’ve partnered up with Elk River High School, the Elk River Police Department and Sherburne County to make our teens safer on the road,” Branjord said. “Hopefully we can keep from losing teens and others.”

Branjord says the club will also have literature on safe driving and information on pledges related to texting and driving and driving contracts teens and parents can sign. It’s all part of an effort to build off the success of the Road Code program.

The four-session program utilizes the following curriculum:

•Adapted from the five viewing habits UPS drivers use each day, teens will hear from a UPS Circle of Honor driver, who is one of the nearly 4,800 active UPS drivers with 25 or more accident-free years.

•Covers risky driving behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors — such as talking, texting or using cell phones while driving.

•Focuses on the “10-Point Commentary,” which are 10 safe driving tips and tools used by UPS drivers. This course also features a laptop-based hazard-identification test used by UPS to train new drivers.

•Teens practice what they’ve learned behind the wheel of a computerized driving simulator. Three computer screens serve as a “windshield,” and teens use a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals to navigate a virtual roadway. The simulators provide scores based on safe driving, providing a friendly competition aspect to UPS Road Code.