Letter from the ER…and a grateful father

Our Tire Rack Street Survival sponsors, donors and volunteers know…in their core…that the program saves lives. And it all feels even more vital when we receive letters like the one below, from an Emergency Room physician… who also happens to be the father of five teenage drivers.

To all the great folks at Street Survival,

I want to thank you so much for the excellent instruction you have provided to my five teenagers. All have attended your Street Survival driver’s education course and I must tell you that I am so impressed and very happy that such a wonderful group of volunteer driver instructors are dedicated to making our wonderful world even better. And safer.

As a board certified Emergency Physician, when I first heard about your Street Survival course, I thought to myself “Wow, this sounds like an ideal class for everyone to take, especially new drivers.” My wife and I wanted to help our teenagers acquire good driving skills that would help them have a lifetime of safety and avoid automobile accidents. As you know, from the age of 5 to 24 the leading cause of death is car crashes and injuries from them. And 50 percent of teenage car accidents involve a single vehicle, which means the teenager driver made serious mistakes and crashed.

When I go to work in the ER, which I’ve done since 1988, I take care of people who have suffered accidents and injuries from many causes. Way too many of them are from car wrecks. Over 30 years, I’ve seen a lot. The sad thing is, the death, injuries, paralysis, disfigured faces, and horrifying burns…most were entirely preventable. Too many kids age 16 to 20 years old are brought into the ER by ambulance.

The average high school driver’s ed course is good, but not good enough. If I could snap my fingers, and make it so… I would wish for all teenagers to go through just one day of enhanced car driving instruction which you and your wonderful volunteer instructors provide through your Street Survival course. Perhaps one day, this course will be mandatory for all drivers.

Here’s a story you should know about. It started when my daughter M, age 17 and her siblings were blessed by completing the Street Survival course. She enjoyed it, learned a lot, and had a fun day. She also took the lessons seriously, and she left with enhanced and safer driving skills.

Later that summer, about 3 months after the class, she was driving a large 12-person van, with 8 people inside, on I-39 near Madison, Wisconsin. Traffic became more congested, with stop and go traffic, but then it eased up and she was driving 55 miles per hour. I think she became a bit sleepy, and then failed to notice that the traffic had come to a complete stop ahead. I was riding in the front seat, reading a book and I happened to glance up and look ahead. I was HORRIFIED to see how fast we were rapidly driving towards a long line of stopped cars in both interstate lanes ahead of us. Hundreds of cars, stopped, and we were still driving at 55 miles per hour with less than 60 yards to go. “Stop, Maria, Stop, Stop, Stop…” I yelled and I was soon joined by 6 other panicked kids / wife where in the back riding along. She hit the brakes, and it was very soon evident that she was not going to stop. We were going to crash, badly, and I braced for impact and the airbag that would soon hit me within seconds.

At Street Survival, M had learned how to brake and steer out of trouble. That one skill allowed M to not panic, and although she should have been paying better attention to the road ahead of her…she was able to suddenly apply the brakes properly and when she realized it wasn’t going to stop in time, she steered onto the side of the road where no cars were at and as she zoomed past the car in front of us, our front bumper just barely collided with the rear 5 inches of their bumper, causing minor damage and no airbag deployment. She kept control of the vehicle, and came to a stop about 5 car lengths further. So close. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.

Please know that what you do saves lives. And for those parents / young adults who read this, please do EVERYTHING you can to make sure that you share the good news that the Street Survival Course exists and is a wonderful program. Get your young family and friends to attend. It does make a huge difference. I wish that I could press “rewind” and have all of the young men and women who I have seen in the ER who have been killed or injured in car crashes go back before their collisions or roll-overs and take this course. I can guarantee you that most of the “accidents” would not have happened, if only they had known what to do, and what to not do.

With highest respect and a huge thank you,

Dr. JW

Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine
Attending Emergency Physician, OSF Healthcare Saint Francis Medical Center
Peoria, Illinois

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