Safety’s a Blast!

YOUTHFUL, SLIGHTLY NERVOUS ENERGY FILLED THE AIR AT THE Tire Rack Street Survival School (SSS) on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 6 as 40 young drivers registered and brought their cars through tech check. 

Soon they were lined up for the first two exercises — Wake’n Brake, where they would accelerate at full pace, then quickly bring their cars to a stop using hard braking, triggering the anti-lock systems — and Slalom Vision, where they would use their vision skills in some back-and-forth steering. The kick-off exercises provided the students with their first taste of emergency maneuvering, and helped to shake off the early-morning nerves to prepare for their day of learning. 

Check out the Street Survival School video for event footage and interviews with students and instructors

SSS is driver education designed for people with fewer than 10 years of driving experience. Collaboratively hosted by PCA UCR and the BMW Trillium Club, SSS goes beyond basic driver training, and offers students a full day of instructor-led, hands-on training in the students’ own cars. The aim is to reduce car crashes by providing students with a controlled setting where they can gain invaluable experience in building car-control skills. Instructors are highly skilled volunteers — recruited from the ranks of instructors in the Porsche and BMW high-performance driver education programs.

After the initial exercises, the students were sorted into groups — with one group heading out for more in-car skills, and the other group to the classroom for theory training.

According to Chief Instructor Martin Tekela, one of the most valuable exercises for everyday driving is called Crash Avoidance, where students “drive at speed towards a person holding a flag, who directs them at the last minute to go left or right, and the students have to safely navigate to the directed side.”

Many of the students we spoke to called out the Car Control Skills exercise (AKA the skid pad) as their favourite. Organizers would continually add cornmeal to the donut-shaped pavement, allowing the cars to slip and slide as they navigated the exercise space. As student Natalie said, “It was the best exercise for testing the limits of the car.”

Another interesting exercise involved having the students use their mobile phones while driving one lap through a complex street-style course — in order to show them how incredibly dangerous that is in real life. As Co-Chair Hazel de Burgh emphasized, “During the distracted-driving exercise, out of a group of seven, six went the wrong way in a turn left-right drill. It was pretty scary to see how bad they were when driving distracted.”

During the lunch break, students got to sit in a real container truck to get a first-hand view from the truck driver’s perspective — demonstrating how easy it is for vehicles to disappear into blind spots around the truck.

While many students arrived nervous, throughout the day the course helped build their confidence. When asked if they would recommend SSS to other young drivers, they all agreed it was extremely valuable — and also very fun. Student Sophie was encouraged to attend by her brother, Sam (who happens to be a PCA UCR Driver Education participant). Sophie says she tends to be a very nervous driver and was aiming to improve her situational awareness and car-control capabilities. She recommends young drivers like herself do the course, as it “goes way beyond basic training, and builds confidence in your ability to handle challenging situations.”

Do you know a driver with fewer than 10 years experience, perhaps a child or grandchild, who could benefit from this type of training? If so, get them to mark their calendar for next year’s SSS on Sunday, Nov. 5. </>

Photography by Michael Tan and Christopher Hebert

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