ALAMEDA -- I loved learning to drive. I especially loved the part when my mom, whenever I did something that unnerved her, would stomp her foot on the floorboard in search of a brake pedal that wasn't there.
Those memories lost some of their appeal the day my 15-year-old daughter got her learner's permit. I haven't tried to engage an invisible brake pedal yet. But Saturday I took her to one of two Teens Drive Smart sessions held at the former Alameda Naval Air Station.
The 6 a.m. wake-up loomed as a deal-breaker for Dana until I whispered three magic letters: BMW.
The Teens Drive Smart program, sponsored by Bridgestone Americas tire manufacturer, provides hands-on, pedal-to-the-metal guidance (in BMW 328s) from certified instructors, most of who have a background in racing.
At the end of the session, teens get a hat, T-shirt, car care kit and video of their high-speed adventures. Best of all, the sessions are free. Bridgestone will hold two more in Alameda on Sunday.
Loren Fink's son Jack, 17, was in Saturday's morning session. Fink, of Walnut Creek, compared it favorably to one costing several hundred dollars that Jack took at Infineon Raceway.
"Very similar," he said. "Car dynamics, skid pad. It's a wonderful experience."
The day began with a short lecture on car maintenance. Then it was off to a coned course where teens drove one lap in a golf cart, then a second while trying to text.
"You can plainly see
From there the students hopped into BMWs, where they were instructed to accelerate as fast as they can then stop as quickly as possible.
"I tell them to stomp on the brake," said instructor Andre Serra. "I tell them, if you can break the brake, I'll give you $500 cash right now."
After a couple warm-up laps around the course, students were taught to steer at high speeds and while skidding. I looked on proudly as Dana wiped out a row of safety cones.
"That's why we don't use kittens anymore," joked an instructor.
The skid pad, a wet patch of pavement, had the teens spinning out in "Bullitt"-worthy fishtails. But by their second or third attempt, they were "catching" the slides by practicing what they were taught -- steer into the skid and look where you want to go because your hands follow your eyes.
Instructors voted Amanda Sanchez of Pacifica the session's top student. She was awarded two tickets to a 49ers game. Sanchez said she has been involved in two accidents in the past five months, one in which her car skidded on wet pavement. The skid pad, she said, "made me realize how to steer better. I learned stuff that I think will help me driving and being more aware."
Bridgestone has seven Teens Drive Smart events planned for 2012, all of them in conjunction with visits they make to various cities to demonstrate tires for vendors. The company hopes to double the number of dates for its Teens Drive Smart schedule in 2013.
Dana said she would do it again if the tour came back to the Bay Area. It was an eye-opening experience for her in many respects.
"Dad," she said when it was over, "how much does a BMW cost?"
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/garyscribe.
What: Bridgestone Americas' Teens Drive Smart Driving Experience
When: Sunday, Sept. 23 (8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. sessions)
Where: Former Alameda Naval Air Station, Main Street and Navy Way, Alameda
Who: Participants must be licensed teens or those with learner's permits
Online registration: www.teensdrivesmarttour.com/register.aspx