I've cajoled, coaxed, and ranted about the need for better teaching of our young drivers in the ways and realities of the open road. But let's let graduates of Skid School, which is sponsored by the Massachusetts Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation, apply their persuasion.
''I could have swerved, but I knew what to do," said Michael Bordini, 17, of Chelmsford. He, too, encountered a deer one night after having taken the class. ''It might have saved my life."
Skid School teaches young drivers much more than the average driver's education course. A family pays $150 for a child; the trust picks up the other half. And $150 is peanuts for what the kids get.
After his encounter, a grateful Libin wrote to the sponsors of his training:
''I had my hands in the position which they taught us. . . . I had just entered Medfield. Out of nowhere a deer jumped out right in front of my SUV. Without even thinking, I looked down the left side of the road. No lights coming for as far as I could see. I stepped on the brake pedal as if I wanted to put it through the floor and turned the wheel left onto the wrong side of the road.
''I came to a stop very quickly, the deer was still standing on the road just beyond the right fender of my SUV. Immediately, I thought to myself 'emergency lane change.' I couldn't believe it. I pulled off the road to catch my breath."
The emergency lane change is just one of the techniques he'd been taught at a course sponsored by the foundation and given by the primary instructors, Stevens Advanced Driver Training of Merrimack, N.H., and InControl Advanced Driver Training of Amesbury and South Weymouth.
The main lessons are on how to use brakes, do emergency lane changes, avoid following too closely, and negotiate a slalom course whose orange cones could, in the real world, be children crossing a street.
''Pay attention," Libin said. ''The things that everybody thinks will happen to someone else will probably happen to you."
According to the foundation, 42 percent of 16-year-olds get in an accident during their first year behind the wheel, and inexperience behind that wheel kills more teens than drunk driving or drugs.
The foundation-sponsored courses try to prevent some of those accidents, some of those deaths, by putting kids in emergency situations on a closed, safe course, and letting them practice handling the horrible moments they might encounter in real life, said Martha Bartle, the Skid School's coordinator.
In 2001, 180 young drivers -- you must be licensed and 16½ to take the course -- went through the paces. It is hoped that more than 1,000 will participate this year.
But that is still far too few, and despite the foundation's great efforts, this program needs to grow. If Rotary and Lions clubs can sponsor educational programs -- a great thing -- why not sponsor a few scholarships to teach kids how to save their own lives? Schools should be involved. So should the state, if not with cold cash, at least with a regulation that makes insurance companies give rebates to kids who have passed the course. The state could mandate that pamphlets be handed out with the very first license noting that the course is available, at a subsidized price. And what a great high school graduation present this would be.
It's a simple and important concept: Teach a kid how to drive in real-world situations -- not merely to parallel park or use the blinker -- and you might save a life.
About Skid School:
Skid School offers $150 half-day training sessions. Other dates and sites will be added; for updates, go to www.skidschool.org or call (617) 451-1051.
Ayer, MA - May 28, July 30, Oct. 15, Oct. 16
Bedford, MA June 4, June 5, Sept. 24, Sept. 25
North Andover, MA July 23, July 24, Oct. 22, Oct. 23
West Springfield, MA Oct. 29, Oct. 30