Students test their skills in safe driving competition (VIDEO)

Chris Wend of Central Bucks East looks for problems with a vehicle as one of the scenarios during the student safe driving competition held at Technical College High School, Pickering Campus, Phoenixville, Pa. At right grading his answers is Coatesville Police Sgt. Rodger Ollis. (Photo by John Strickler/21st Century Media)

PHOENIXVILLE — The parking lot at the Technical College High School - Pickering Campus was turned into an obstacle course Wednesday morning as students from around the region tested their safe driving skills.

The first Teen Safe Driving Competition was divided into three parts — a driving test, a written test and a perceptual driving test.

About 30 students from high schools in Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Philadelphia counties had the chance to win prize money and AAA memberships.

A $2,000 prize was waiting for the overall winner, according to the brochure about the event. The second place finisher won $1,000 and third place was given $500.


Students navigated dark grey Chevrolet Cruze sedans through the course in front of supporters and school administrators.

David Dyer, a Sun Valley High School senior in Delaware County, didn’t seem phased by the driving part of the competition. Dyer was one of the only participants in the first group who did not knock down any tennis balls with the car tires — a skill that tested the drivers ability to keep the car straight.

“The course seemed pretty easy,” 18-year-old Dyer said. “Parallel parking; I was pretty confident going into it. I’m comfortable behind the wheel, so I didn’t prepare.”

He did say the prize money was a motivator to participate in the competition.

Katie Kucz, a community health facilitator with the Montgomery County Health Department, said events like this are a way to reach out to teenagers and new drivers.

“This is a good opportunity for (students) to network with other teens and talk about opportunities and activities they can do in their own schools,” Kucz said.

Before the students started driving and testing Wednesday, there was a presentation about distracted driving.

“It is a learning opportunity and it and an opportunity for them to be champions of safe driving within their school,” she said.

In a press release about the event, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said driving fatalities are the leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds.

“To help reduce the number of unnecessary injuries and deaths to our children, this region-wide event will highlight the importance of safe driving habits to participating students,” Hogan said.

Natalie Krumenacker, a Spring-Ford High School student, was the first driver on the course.

“I thought it was a great way to raise awareness,” she said. “You always hear about bad things that happen but they never (shed) light on good drivers.”

Unlike Dyer, driving a car Krumenacker wasn’t accustomed to made parking between orange construction cones difficult.

“I don’t really have to do parallel parking a lot where I live,” she said.

Krumenacker said despite of the difficulty, the challenge of the test was worth it.

“I like to think that every time I drive, I’m practicing,” she said.

The event was hosted by the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Chester County.

Joseph Vespaziani, from Spring-Ford High School, was the overall winner of a $2,000 scholarship and will compete in the Pennsylvania Safe Driving Competition for Youth, held every May in Camp Hill.

The high schools that participated are: Central Bucks High School East, Sun Valley High School, Chichester High School, Marple Newtown High School, Technical College High School-Pickering Campus, Phoenixville High School, North Penn High School, Spring-Ford Area High School, Upper Merion High School, and Wissahickon High School.