The ‘Challenge’ of teen driving accepted

Photo submitted to Times Observer From left are A.J. Foriska, City of Warren Community Service Officer; Joe English, SADD Advisor, Math Teacher, Warren Area High School; Laura Lucks from Warren Area High School; Christy Passinger, Calvert/Pearson Insurance, presenting award check; Chief Todd Mineweaser, Youngsville police. Lucks finished first in Friday’s Warren County Teen Driver Challenge.

Three local students had a lucky Friday the 13th.

Laura Lucks, from Warren, Cole Foust, from Sheffield, and Cody Geiger, from Youngsville, took home first-, second-, and third-place trophies, respectively, from this year’s Warren County Teen Driver Challenge.

The event, coordinated by Youngsville Chief of Police Todd Mineweaser and WCSD SADD advisors, is an opportunity for students to test their driving skills, win cash prizes, and advance to the state championship event where they could win a college scholarship for displaying safety behind the wheel.

Created by the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the event was open for the second year to students in the district as well as Tidioute Charter School and the Warren County Christian School. Interested students had to take a written skills test to enter the competition. The students with the two highest test scores from each high school in the district earned the opportunity to compete in Friday’s Challenge. The challenge day consisted of another written test, a perception test, a safety evaluation of a vehicle, and the road course, where they displayed all of their skills in an obstacle course set up in the Youngsville Fire Department’s parking lot.

Prizes for first-, second-, and third-place students in Friday’s challenge were $1,000, $500 for second, and $300 for third. Some of the things students had to find in their safety inspection were a valve stem cap being removed from the tire, cracks in the windshield and headlights, and something stuck in the tailpipe of the vehicle. On the road course they were asked to display skills like driving through staggered cones, and hitting a rear, side, and front stop line. The perception test included looking at simulated driving scenarios and then being asked to recall details that would be relevant to drivers in those scenarios.

All participating students also got the chance to hop into a commercial truck to get a better understanding of what drivers are actually able to see on the road. It isn’t much, explained event coordinator Dale Knox from the PMTA. “We want them to understand the concept of share the road,” said Knox. “They get to see what drivers see in the truck every day.”

Mineweaser said that the event was one that he learned about during safety conferences a few years ago. Since then, he said, he’s been working to get the event to the county so that local students can take advantage of the experience, skills, and prizes awarded.

“I think it makes an excellent impact on them,” said Youngsville’s SADD advisor Martha Brackemeyre. “I think it really helps them, especially the opportunity to climb in the truck.”

Lucks and Foust will proceed to the state championships, which will be held in Camp Hill, Pa., in May. They’ll be competing against the top two winners from each of the 11 regional events held this year, from Armstrong, Indiana, Erie, Crawford, Clarion, Jefferson, Venango, Mercer, Allegheny, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Franklin, Dauphin, Perry, Butler, Lawrence, Lackawanna, Monroe, and Wayne Counties.