TAMPA - If you spend a lot of time driving up and down Dale Mabry Highway, you are, at the very least, taking your life into your own hands. Sometimes it is a nonmoving parking lot and many times, you find lights that magically turn yellow just when you start to slink close.
Wanna hear something interesting about Dale Mabry and many other busy roads in the Tampa area?
According to former race car driver George Csanadi, about one of every five teen drivers simply don't belong on the road. Driving is a rite of turning 16, getting that license and establishing freedom.
What they don't know how to do is actually drive. Csanadi is a longtime race driver from Hungary who has raced at tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Watkins Glen International. He is very opinionated about the lack of experience of younger drivers who irritate him because they don't know the simple basics, such as lane changes, cutting into traffic and running red lights. Don't even get him started on young drivers who loiter in the left passing lane. He responds with some comments not fit for a family newspaper.
Csanadi blames some of it on the driving schools and driver's ed classes taken in high school.
"If you want to play baseball, you have to practice hundreds of hours," Csanadi said. "If a parent wants their kids to be a swimmer, they spend 10 hours a day. But when they want to turn over a 3,500-pound car to a kid with a few hours' lessons, it's all easy. Something is wrong with that. Driving is more of a challenge than that."
Csanadi travels to his clients' homes so they can learn to drive the car they eventually will be driving. As a former race car driver, Csanadi teaches with no fear. Anyone who can drive at 180 miles per hour is fearless.
Even for beginners, Csanadi will sit in the passenger's seat, which does not have its own steering wheel or brakes. He doesn't spend a lot of time driving in circles in a parking lot. Instead, it's sink or swim on a busy road like Dale Mabry.
"This isn't an easy thing, but they can learn to drive safely by knowing the secrets," Csanadi said. "There are ways to get in and out of traffic, but it is not something to learn overnight."
"You have to teach drivers how to use the front of their eyes looking straight ahead, and they also have to see behind them at the same time," he said. "The only way to teach a kid how to drive is not to stick him in a classroom, then ask him to drive around the block. He or she needs a professional."