“We aren't always a nation of good drivers … and 'America's Worst Driver' takes an entertaining look at this serious issue.” –Michael Klein, senior vice president, content for Travel Channel.
So AAA and the Travel Channel are teaming up for a new reality television show dubbed America’s Worst Driver. Yes, you heard it – a whole series devoted to finding the WORST driver out there on the road. This makes me shudder just thinking about it.
[Here’s a “sneak peek” at this new program, which premieres Sunday, March 14, at 10 p.m. eastern. Be patient with this clip – there’s a 20 second advertisement posted in front of it.]
In the series, bad drivers from eight major American cities – nominated by friends and family, no less -- compete in various driving challenges to identify the very worst driver of the bunch.
According to AAA, each challenge tests a driver's ability to focus while dealing with distraction and stress, a task that anyone behind the wheel should concentrate on improving. The participant earning the distinction of the worst driver from each city will watch as their car is destroyed before moving onto the finale where, ultimately, America's Worst Driver will be named.
Needless to say, I am not a big fan of this concept – I mean, please; shouldn’t we be looking for the BEST drivers? The ones we want to hold up as examples of what people SHOULD be doing? Because from where I sit, it seems the roads are just RIFE with all sorts of “bad driving” these days. I can’t imagine a show like this lacking for contestants.
But then I guess “good driving” ain’t as much fun to watch. Let’s face this, too – some of the best parts about NASCAR races [and my sister is going to whack me with a two-by-four for saying this] are the high-speed crashes: the sheet metal disintegrating at 160 mph; the scream of tires; the hyperactive narration by the sportscasters in the TV booth.
[Below is a short compilation of such NASCAR chaos and mayhem, put together by one serious racing fan. But note that it's set to some modern alternative rock that might not be to everyone's taste!]
Yet those crashes also pose the greatest hazards to the drivers – and they and their families are horrified by every single one of them (and rightly so). Yet here we are, about to kick off a show dedicated to finding those drivers that exhibit the very kinds of behaviors that LEAD to crashes on our (non-racing) roadways. It just seems to be celebrating the wrong things.
Then again … the way AAA and the Travel Channel are setting this contest up offers a lot of hope, too. In each city, participants are monitored by off-duty police officers, ensuring everyone's safety and penalizing contestants for traffic violations. Poor driving behaviors incur negative points, bringing contestants closer to having their car destroyed and receiving the “infamous crown” of America’s Worst Driver.
"Reality-based television programming represents a fresh and potentially effective way to teach millions of American's how to be better and safer drivers," said Kathleen Marvaso, vice president of AAA Public Affairs.
[An aside about highway about crashes – they require, as we all know, the servicers of tow trucks, which is not the safest job in the world. Here are some safety tips for those that get the thankless duty of cleaning up highway crashes and dealing with other vehicle breakdown issues. Warning: the driver in this video leaves the door open, so the “beeping” may drive you a bit batty.]
She also noted that AAA's driver training expert, Dr. William Van Tassel, is going to be on the program offering quick tips for viewers on AAA's Rules of the Road during special vignettes throughout the series run. AAA will also offer online driver improvement courses to all contestants participating in the show, as safety behind the wheel will be emphasized as a number one priority for all drivers during the series.
Good driving, however, is rewarded with being eliminated from the program – sparing their car from destruction and earning various prizes. (Ah, but they lose the chance at reality-TV fame! Hmmm; then again, maybe that makes them the lucky ones.)
Either way, the hope is that all the viewers come away with information to make them better drivers. Whether they put that into practice, however, is another matter entirely.