October 2, 2011

Phrases I never imagined I would utter for $1,000, Alex...

This morning I watched with pride, as my 17-year old daughter took the wheel of a BMW 328i, floored it for about 500 feet and then slammed on the brakes as she entered a turn. 

If you haven't guessed, this was part of a driving course, the purpose of the above exercise being to let the driver feel how anti-lock braking systems work, and how to steer through them correctly. 

Next, Boom floored it again, heading for a line of green traffic cones a few hundred feet ahead of her.  At the instructors signal, she let off the gas and executed an evasive lane change maneuver to simulate what one might have to do, should an obstacle suddenly appear in front of you on the highway.

The last in-car exercise was, by far, the most entertaining to watch.  This batch of Beemers had the traction control turned off, so the students could learn how to steer through a skid.  They took off at 'stomp on it' speed again, racing down a watered course of pavement into a sharp turn.  As the back end starts to fishtail, the kids are instructed to let off the gas and steer into the skid.  More accurately, they were told to steer and look where they wanted to go.  Of course, every kid did at least a 180, some an impressive 360, and some did the 180 each direction variation.  None of the cars had any special right seat equipment.  The instructors did have control of the gear selector, which is how they averted disaster on the skid course.  Time after time, we watched the cars spinning out and heard the engines whining away, as the driver, in a panic, had their foot all the way in the gas - but the instructor had kicked the car into neutral.  Often, when they stopped spinning, the front tires were perfectly straight, indicating that the kid never bothered to turn the wheel, either.

Most of them eventually got through it successfully, even if it was partially due to their natural inclination to not go quite as fast on subsequent runs.

One of the key points made by the founder in his opening remarks, was that traditional driver's ed teaches a kid to pass a test, not to drive.  That is so true.  They also point out that a great assumption to make while driving is that everyone else is an idiot.  That has worked for me all of my driving years.  They didn't mention whether yelling at other drivers to emphasize their idiocy was a good thing, but I do that as well!

All of this was part of an awesome (free) program dedicated to teaching teen drivers the things they would never learn in a traditional driver's ed program.  If the Driver's Edge tour ever comes anywhere near you, and you have a kid with a permit or license under the age of 21, SIGN THEM UP.  Better yet, click on over to their site and sign up to be notified when they will be in your area. 

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