Driver's Seat
Jul/Aug 2008 Issue

Students race to diagnose, repair vehicles in contest

No longer merely nuts and bolts, today’s cars are rolling computer networks that require advanced technical knowledge to repair, and AAA is helping make sure the growing need for qualified technicians is met with its auto repair contest.

The annual contest, called the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition, is held in all 50 states each spring and is designed to encourage students to pursue careers in the automotive field. The best high school automotive technicians go head-to-head in the state-wide finals of the hands-on challenge to be named top technicians in their state and earn a chance to be named best in the nation. At stake is $8 million in scholarships.

In each state in April and May, contests were held as teams consisting of two students each raced to repair deliberately bugged Ford cars. The 10 faults in the vehicle, in addition to not being able to start, included problems that affected the smooth performance of the engine. Students had to find and repair the faults to win, and scores were based on their time and accuracy.

In Louisiana, Jena High School students James Hutzler and Stephen Taylor were named the top technicians in the state by winning the contest in Alexandria. Their instructor is Ray Hodges.

Mississippi’s top team was made up of Clinton High School students James Edwards and Kevin Whitehead. The contest was held in Jackson, and their instructor is Charlie Melton.

In Arkansas, George Villines and Colby Willis of Huntsville High School were named state champs at the contest in Batesville. Their instructor is Michael Jeppsen.

By winning the hands-on contest in their state, each student received his or her choice of scholarships from a number of technical institutes. Also, the winners received an expense-paid trip to Dearborn, Mich., to represent their states in the national championship, which was held in June after press deadline for this issue.

Motorists practice “Do as I say, not as I do” on U.S. roads

American motorists blame other motorists for unsafe driving, despite the fact that many admit to doing the same dangerous practices themselves, according to a new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The study, called the “Traffic Safety Culture Index,” was initiated to investigate the public’s traffic-safety related behaviors, attitudes and experiences. The goal was to generate dialogue about how to improve traffic safety because more than 40,000 people die in crashes every year on U.S. roads.

The study found that three out of four motorists believe they are more careful than others behind the wheel. Yet when asked to rate the seriousness of certain traffic behaviors, a large proportion of drivers rated many of the behaviors as serious but admitted engaging in them anyway.

For instance, 82 percent of drivers rated distracted driving as a serious problem, but more than half of those same drivers later admitted that they had talked on their cell phone while driving in the previous month, and 14 percent acknowledged they had read or sent a text message while driving in that time. Also, 9 percent of drivers admitted to driving in the previous month when they thought their blood alcohol concentration was over the legal limit.

Additionally, the report found that nearly three of every four drivers rated speeding as a serious problem, but two out of every five of those same drivers said they had driven 15 mph over the speed limit on the highway in the previous 30 days.

AAA Foundation CEO Peter Kissinger said motorists must take responsibility to be safe by using common sense: buckle up, pass the keys to a sober driver, put down the cell phone, stay alert and slow down to the speed limit.


VIN Etch can deter theft

As a theft deterrent, AAA will offer window etching of your vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) this spring.

The cost is $30 for AAA members and $40 for non-members, including six etchings per car. AAA offers discounts on insurance for VIN Etching.

Call 1-800-AAA-ROAD ext. 6821 to make appointments at least 24 hours in advance of the below dates. Please have your VIN number handy when making reservations.

View VIN Etch dates and locations

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