The National Driving Safety Institute and Cricket Communications have teamed up for the inaugural XCD (Exceed) Driver Improvement Program, which teaches young drivers the importance of safe driving and the dangers of texting and driving.

Nearly 100 young Valley drivers will be invited to take part in various driving challenges this Saturday, Sept. 25 at Tempe Diablo Stadium, 2200 W. Alameda Drive.

Instructed by professional race car drivers, participants will complete activities in four different sections, including small-group instruction, hands-on demos and in-car training. Specific events include accidental avoidance, low-speed vehicle awareness, distraction prevention and peer-on-peer training.

Among the day's instructors are three Ahwatukee Foothills residents who were involved in starting the NDSI; Belinda Enders, Steve Carbajal and Ross Thompson.

Belinda Enders, operations manager for the NDSI, said the program is "really wonderful." She talked about the dangers of texting and driving, and said that it is more dangerous to text and drive than it is to drive drunk. Enders noted that a person generally looks down five-plus seconds each time while texting, while the latter is usually less.

Steve Carbajal, executive director of the NDSI, said driving education isn't like it used to be.

"Our teen drivers are not getting a quality education," he said.

Carbajal added that high school drivers-ed programs aren't always an option for new drivers, and that many of them are instead being taught by parents who might not necessarily have the best driving habits.

"We're trying to get them before they develop bad habits," Carbajal said.

According to the NDSI, the program's overall focus is to teach young drivers road confidence and better safety and prevention skill, with the ultimate goal being to positively affect the statistic of the 5,000 young drivers, ages 16 to 20, killed in passenger vehicle crashes every year.

Carbajal said that by having young drivers taught side-by-side with their fellow peers, the word and tips for safe driving will be more easily conveyed, as teens tend to watch each other, and do what others do.

"It's a better way to get the word across," he said.

Carbajal noted that during one of the hands-on driving activities, drivers will be faced with an obstacle course that will show them the dangers of distractions, and also the danger of texting while driving.

During the challenge, drivers will also have the chance to sign the Practice Safe Text banner and take part in the Safe Text Driving Challenge with the World's Fastest Tester, Ben Cook.

Carbajal said that the NDSI is very excited about this challenge day, and hopes young drivers will take the opportunity to be involved.

The challenge will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with one session in the morning, and the other in early afternoon. Complimentary food, free giveaways and entertainment will also be provided at the event. Families of participants are also encouraged to attend.

To sign up your teen, or yourself, for XCD (Exceed) Driving Challenge go to If all 100 spots are filled, you can still enroll because the NDSI will send out a notification when the next driving challenge in your area is coming up.

Chelsea Brown is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.


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