The announcement was made at the annual California State PTA Convention, where approximately 2,500 California PTA members are attending through May 1, in Long Beach, CA.
Carolyn Duchene has been appointed Director for the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy and will be responsible for the launch as well as managing daily operations. An employee since 1994, Duchene has held positions in marketing, digital media, training, education and customer service.
"In addition to a unique educational approach, our highly qualified staff will be a key differentiator for the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy. We are recruiting and hiring the best talent for all areas of operation," said Duchene. "The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy will connect with students and parents using a personalized, customer-centric approach that truly creates a unique offering among driver's education services for new teen drivers."
The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is actively recruiting qualified driving instructors to deliver the research-based program in a highly effective manner. The Driving Academy instructors will be Mercedes-Benz employees eligible for the manufacturers USA benefit packages.
Other auto manufacturers currently offer teen driving programs that focus on crash avoidance and defensive driving exercises.
Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy plans to distinguish itself by being the only car manufacturer to offer a California DMV-approved program, fully integrated with the Graduated Driver Licensing framework. The goal of the Academy is to prepare students for today's driving environment by going beyond basic car control skills and rote learning of traffic rules.
Mercedes-Benz utilizes multiple teaching techniques ranging from online learning to interactive classroom sessions with behind-the-wheel training. The program will incorporate digital animation to visualize road hazards, problem-solving exercises, and hands-on experience of risky situations and in-car coaching techniques based on questioning rather than commands. Combined with consistent feedback from coaches to parents, the program aims to assist planning of supervised driving practice. The overall curriculum aims to appeal to the vast spectrum of learning-styles ensuring enhanced engagement and the adoption of skill sets and knowledge.
"Vehicles, highways, and the driving environment have changed dramatically over the past 60 years, however driver education remains relatively unchanged in the U.S.," said Alexander Hobbach, Senior Manager of Business Innovation at Daimler AG. "Mercedes-Benz feels there is opportunity to better prepare teens for today's driving conditions, and while our offering will have premium pricing over existing schools, we are dedicated to delivering significant value based on unique coaching methods and curriculum that is aimed at teaching new teens how to drive safely."
Advisors involved in the finalization of the curriculum include Daniel R. Mayhew, senior vice president of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF); Allan Williams , Ph.D., former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); and Bill Combs, executive director of the Driver Education and Training Administrators and former director of communications at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
"A teenager's ability to drive safely should be one of the most important priorities for parents and it is extremely imperative that parents take a very active part in this process from researching driving schools to following through on supervised driving," said Mayhew.
In conjunction with Impact Teen Drivers, Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy will deliver an outreach program through 2-hour parent/teen workshops, delivered in local high schools. These workshops will emphasize the importance of teaching teens to drive safely. Through interactive work groups, parents and their children will discuss the responsibility involving driver education while accepting driving as an important part of teen life leading to more freedom and independence. Twenty schools will host the workshops beginning late summer with the help of the California PTA.
"The opportunity to have Mercedes-Benz step-up to work with Impact Teen Drivers and law enforcement and education partners to offer driver safety seminars at no cost to Los Angeles-area schools is commendable," said Kelly Browning, PhD, executive director of Impact Teen Drivers. "It is crucial that we educate teens and empower them to promote the safe driving message in order to have a fundamental and sustained behavior shift. This isn't about bad kids doing bad things, but good kids making poor choices. One poor choice can alter or end their lives and the lives of those they care about."