A group of 22 teenagers and parents took to Richard B. Russell Regional Airport on Saturday to gain the driving skills that could one day save a life.

The Teen Vehicle Operations Course, put on by Woodrow Gaines’ nonprofit Fear This Inc., is a two-part lesson that aims to go beyond basic driver’s education and teach kids defensive driving maneuvers that can be applied in emergency situations.

Following a morning classroom session, which was held at the Municipal Courtroom in the Joint Law Enforcement Center, teens and their parents hopped in cars and spent close to four hours practicing skills like off-road recovery, emergency braking and parking — all under the guidance of Gaines, two instructors and Rome police officer Trevor Tallman. The training is what police cadets go through before becoming officers.

Romans Meredith Crego, 15, and her father, Mike Crego, both spoke about the importance of the course and the benefits of taking it.

“I think this should be mandatory,” Mike Crego said. “Speed kills, it really does.”

Mike Crego, who rode in the passenger seat with his daughter during the course, said they tested out braking at different speeds, and he noted how just an increase of 5 mph can affect the reaction time of drivers. He said his attendance with his daughter was a refresher for his own driving.

Meredith Crego has her learner’s permit and she said the course was a great opportunity to learn how to properly handle a vehicle by practicing in a controlled environment.

James Hartline III, 16, has his learner’s permit but is preparing to take the driver’s test this week for his first license. He said the biggest takeaway for him was learning the methods of responding to obstacles in the road.

Before handing the students and parents their certificates of completion, Gaines took a moment to remind them exactly why he has been offering the class for the last 14 years, teaching over 5,000 students across the state.

“Cars don’t kill, it’s the people in them,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing little white crosses.”

Gaines said the number of students Saturday wasn’t enough to warrant an additional class today, but the TVOC will return to Rome the weekend before Thanksgiving. For more information call Gaines at 770-823-7823 or email him at wgaines588@aol.com. The course’s website is tvoc.ws.

“Don’t become a roadside memorial,” Gaines told the parents and teens before they left.