Not Your Typical Sunday Drive

Invaluable lessons behind the wheel at the May 2018 TireRack Street Survival School

I CAN REMEMBER MY EARLY DAYS OF DRIVING and reveling in the prospect of the freedom that a driver’s license brought. It wasn’t always in search of adventure. It was often in pursuit of a far more mundane task, but I could do so on my own schedule and by my own means. I saw my early days of driving as the start of my independence. Ironically, when my daughter started to drive and no doubt revel in those same emotions and experiences that I had, the gravity, the significance, and the responsibility of driving really struck me as a parent. Any parental concerns I had with my daughter’s early driving years were only reinforced with a statistic I was recently told – that the leading cause of death for young adults is motor vehicle accidents within the first 10 years of driving. It is a sobering statistic that was made very real to my daughter in May.

Sunday, May 27th was beautiful and sunny and the roads were bone dry. As my daughter was driving, she turned on the radio, at the urging of her passenger, and set about searching for cool new radio stations. With her eyes and attention firmly drawn inside the car, she came into a corner far too quickly and took the corner far too wide. She stayed on the gas, trying to bring the back end of the family vehicle around, but she was now well off her intended track, still with excessive speed. She tried to shift her focus down the road as she recovered control slightly, only to be presented with a split-second decision. A road sign ahead warned her to take a hard left but it was too late to make that turn. Instead, she plowed over the median and eventually brought the vehicle to a stop, debris strewn behind her. It was just one of the scenarios that, as parents, we all fear for the young drivers in our families. Making it all the more real to me, consider the fact that I watched this entire scene unfold right in front of my eyes. It might come as surprise then when I say that it was nothing short of fantastic!

A road sign ahead warned her to take a hard left but it was too late to make that turn. Instead, she plowed over the median and eventually brought the vehicle to a stop, debris strewn behind her. It was just one of the scenarios that, as parents, we all fear for the young drivers in our families.

The truth and good news is… she wasn’t on a public road. My daughter was in a parking lot participating in the Tire Rack Street Survival School, presented by the BMW Trillium Club and the Upper Canada Region of the Porsche Club of America. The person beside her, coaxing her into distraction, was an accomplished driving instructor and volunteer, Dennis Rak, and the median was thankfully nothing more than small sacrificial orange cones. The goal of this exercise was to give the young drivers one lap of firsthand insight into the destructive realities of distracted driving, even at slow speeds, compared to driving while fully in control. To drive the point home further, the course was driven several times again, at higher speeds, far more successfully – without any distractions. This was just one of eight different driving exercises throughout that day, highlighting and combining different skillsets to give young drivers some enlightening and invaluable driving experience: to help them better navigate and react to some of the dangers of everyday driving; to learn about their limits. For many of the young drivers, it is a day that starts timidly but finishes confidently in a cacophony of hard cornering and repetitive, controlled braking.

This was just one of eight different driving exercises throughout that day, highlighting and combining different skillsets to give young drivers some enlightening and invaluable driving experience…

The Tire Rack Survival School is a full day of in-class and in-car sessions in both the morning and afternoon. Classroom sessions feature comprehensive theoretical content ranging from driver behaviour to vehicle reaction and dynamics. Young drivers get to apply the theory during the in-car portions of the day. The driving sessions have multiple different stations that each targets a specific driving concept. All young drivers rotate through all stations. The day started with an ABS braking exercise and a simple slalom course where distance vision skills were introduced. Subsequent stations included driving in a tight circle (with feed-corn to replicate snow and ice) so students could learn how to control their car with the throttle; a “Figure-8” course (more feed-corn) to further challenge their car handling skills; more slalom runs where students practiced their distance vision skills; a 100m sprint to a last-second left-or-right decision that effectively simulated how to avoid a collision; the above mentioned distracted driving course followed by several laps of controlled driving on a twisty cone-lined course; and a combined-skills course (my daughter’s personal favourite) lined with bigger cones and ending, as appropriate, with a controlled stop on a defined line. Perhaps most insightful in its approach, the driving portion of the day is designed to take place in the vehicle that each young driver most commonly drives. Learning braking techniques in a high-end sports car is of little value if the daily driving experience of the young driver unfolds in the family SUV. To top it all off, every student gets assigned an instructor for the day so they get continuity and the benefits of one-on-one instruction. It is truly a day like no other and one that any parent present would agree should be made mandatory for every newly licensed driver.

This amazing day was punctuated with a final meeting – the reminder that, while the day was fun, it was serious in its intent. It was more than a fun Sunday out. It was more than an opportunity to drive the family car in ways that would otherwise get them grounded (“… Are we understood?”). It was an opportunity to learn and experience an enhanced set of driving tools, under the guidance of one-on-one tutelage, in a controlled environment. Before departing, all of the young drivers were given a diploma but, in reality, they left with so much more. They left with more driving confidence coupled with better driving awareness. They left with the experience and satisfaction of controlling the car they drive in ways that they could not have previously. It is my firm belief that my daughter, along with her peers, also left with some new skills and understanding that one day might literally save her life. 

As a parent, I left with profound satisfaction having witnessed my daughter, owing to this day, become a notably better driver than she had been just 8 hours prior and, when she enjoys the freedom that driving brings, knowing that she will be much safer as well.

Editor’s Note: The next Street Survival School is on Sept 30 in Oakville. See the ad on page 18 for information about how to register as a student or volunteer. </>

By Rob Moore Ede – A Participant’s Parent

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