Thursday, July 31, 2014
It wasn’t until she visited a mechanic shop with her Girl Scout troop that Grace Rieflin realized something. She didn’t expect her fellow scout mates, including herself, to know much about car mechanics. They didn’t even have permits at the time. However, she was shocked to realize that many of the scouts’ mothers, considered by Grace to be experienced, independent drivers, didn’t know much about basic car maintenance.
“If you’re to be an independent driver, you should be independent in case something happens,” Rieflin said.
Today, at age 15, Rieflin is preparing new drivers as early as possible. She has hosted two “tire and oil” workshops that teach young drivers basic roadside safety and car mechanic skills, including how to change a tire, check tire pressure, replace an air filter, check the oil and jumpstart a vehicle.
“You’re never going to be prepared for everything, but all you can do is be prepared as much as you possibly can. There are so many things that can happen while driving,” Rieflin said.
With the help of volunteers from the 911 Driving School in Mount Pleasant, also the location for Grace’s workshops, attendees were able to get hands-on experience using skills that many had heard of while taking driving classes at the school. It’s the “hands-on stuff,” she said, that makes all the difference ... well, some of the difference.
According to Rieflin, driver safety stems not only from car maintenance skills, but discipline – especially regarding a ban that has recently been signed into law: texting while driving. “It’s making you unaware of what’s going on around you,” Rieflin said.
Even in cases when the car is at a stoplight or stop sign, she said it’s “still not safe” to text while behind the wheel. She advises drivers to turn their phones facedown, and in the case of emergency, pull over before using your phone.
Rieflin said she aims to continue educating drivers of all ages on car safety and mechanical skills, adding, “It’s never too late to learn.”
She hopes to join with other driving agencies and conduct more workshops, informing drivers everwhere of necessary skills and safety instructions.
Debi Rieflin, Grace’s mother, expressed pride in her daughter’s pursuit. “I’m proud that she was able to identify an issue in the community and take action to see a good solution,” Debi said. Both Debi and Grace welcome any agency willing to partner with Grace in her mission.