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Hinderman: Class gives lesson to teen drivers, with or without diabetes

State Trooper Elizabeth Nanai demonstrates impaired-goggles course during Juvenile Diabetes No Limits FoundatiCheck B4U Drive Safe Driving Class. | Supplied

State Trooper Elizabeth Nanai demonstrates the impaired-goggles course during the Juvenile Diabetes No Limits Foundation Check B4U Drive Safe Driving Class. | Supplied photo

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:07AM



Any parent knows the fear and anxiety associated with your child’s driving.

Getting behind the wheel is a rite of passage for every child -- and every parent’s nightmare. Driver education classes, behind-the-wheel practice and mandatory hours performed under parental supervision still do not make the adjustment any easier.

Now imagine that scenario with a child who has diabetes. The unknown timing of a low blood sugar occurrence, combined with all that one has to remember while driving, can be overwhelming. But what if there was a way to teach kids with diabetes advanced driving skills while reminding them to test before they get behind the wheel?

I was invited to attend such a class on Aug. 17 as part of the Check B4U Drive initiative. Mark Lippe has been keeping me informed of the event’s progress –- from raising funds to coordinating the diabetes counselors and driving instructors who gathered at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.

Eight teens ages 15 to 17 (and two parents who opted to stay) came from as locally as far southern Illinois. This hands-on training was an important day spent with peers who have the same condition. They started the day with instruction from diabetes coach Dave Adrieansen and then moved outside for lunch before hitting the track.

When I arrived, I was immediately swept into a 2012 Camaro – one of five vehicles supplied by local car dealership Apple Chevrolet. Driving instructor and NASCAR driver Mac DeMere put me through the paces.

He informed me “the ABS braking system works perfectly, and usually a failure of that system is caused by human error.” He demonstrated by bringing the car speed up to 40 miles per hour and hitting the brakes, all while maintaining firm control of the steering. Then he simulated different obstacles – a deer jumping in front of us, someone up ahead who hits the brakes quickly – that might occur in real life.

Next, we went over to another course, where he explained he would challenge the students to change the radio station, turn on the air conditioning, play with the lights or windshield wipers, even attempt to text or answer their phone – all to (safely) demonstrate that driving is a single-focused event. This demonstration would drive home the importance of keeping your eyes on the road -- and your phone in the back seat.

Another drill was a course set up by Illinois State Trooper Elizabeth Nanai that incorporated the use of impaired-driving goggles. Even the instructors attempted the difficult task, and we won’t say we kept count of the cones that were either crushed or knocked down, but no one made the entire course without failing – not even the professional drivers or instructors.

At this point, the students teamed up with DeMere and fellow driving coaches Todd Hansen, Peter Zekert and Sarah Robinson, who let them perform their various routines. While the students were driving, I was able to speak with Denise Hooten, who had already visited with my daughter, Samantha.

Between the two of them, they deduced that Samantha knows her son, Nick, from Sandburg High School. Nick, his brother Tyler, and younger sister Julia all have diabetes, and are part of an elite driving team. Julia, 13, even showed us her junior dragster. The family is featured in a new book “No Sugar Added: Straight Talk from Those Living with Diabetes,” that benefits Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Mark then proudly showed me a framed proclamation signed by Gov. Patrick Quinn and Secretary of State Jesse White that said Aug. 17 and 18 were declared Check B4U Drive Days in Illinois.

While observing, one of the young teens popped over and quickly tested her blood sugar level before heading back out onto the course. A father was seen observing the instruction from far off field, while another parent, Lynette Clendening of Naperville, not only attended with her son, Michael, but also got behind the wheel for the instruction.

She said she learned a lot that day, and it also brought her closer to her son. She said the class “gave her son more confidence for driving, with or without diabetes.”



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