Crash Course On Safety -- Inside a Police Car

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCNewYork
    Teen driver on Suffolk County Police course.

    The ink is barely dry on Shaquille Wigutow's learner's permit -- he received it back in May -- yet, the high school sophomore believes he's ready to face all the challenges of the road

    "To be honest, I am a confident driver," said 16-year-old Wigutow, of Huntington.

    His mom, however, has another view.

    "What he'll do when driving on his own is obviously a concern," said Jane Wigutow.

    That typical difference of opinion between a parent and teen led the Wigutows to a unique driver training course -- one that put Shaquille behind the wheel of a police car.

    Suffolk Police are administering the free program for a fourth year. It takes the young drivers onto the very same obstacle course in Westhampton the police department uses to train its personnel on driving safety.

    "Kids just don't have enough driving experience," said Police Captain Thomas Blomberg. "What they see on TV and in the movies, they might think it's not a big deal to be doing seventy miles an hour and make a quick turn."

    So, police instructors look to dispel any misconceptions. On a mile-long course, marked by orange cones, the teen drivers were called on to make those quick turns and abrupt stops at a moment's notice, just like on a real highway. 

    Some realized, rather quickly, that driving isn't as easy as they might have thought.

    "I knocked down a lot of cones," sighed Natalie Trenzi of Patchogue, who admitted she probably needs a lot more time behind the wheel.

    A lesson learned.

    "We just want them to develop a respect for the road," said Capt. Blomberg, who will help oversee the program for the rest of this week.

    "You're driving in two tons of steel that can do a lot of damage," added Natalie Trenzi. "You've got to be careful."

    The Wigutows --  both mom and teen-aged son -- could definitely agree on that.