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For most people, driving is their most hazardous daily activity, and seldom recognized, car crashes are the leading cause of violence in most communities. Novice drivers are our most vulnerable drivers.
It only takes a second to make a fatal mistake when you are behind the wheel of a 3600 pound vehicle.
By Andrew Torres
On Monday, February 15th, my daughter, a HVRHS newly licensed driver, and I, along with eighteen other students of all ages braved the weather to attend the Survive the Drive, ‘Winter Driving Clinic’ at Lime Rock Park.
Like all parents, my concern is for my child’s safety; another step beyond driver training. This is the second Survive the Drive course this year. The summer course was on dry pavement in our own car.
This course safely provided real behind-the-wheel experiences in tricky snow and ice conditions. Lime Rock Park and Audi provided several new cars featuring advanced emergency-protective technologies.
I had worked with Bob Green about 15 years ago at the Skip Barber Racing School. My kids were young then. I knew then, that this was the guy I wanted to assist with their driver development.
During Bob Green’s presentations it is hard not to pay attention. He mimics tires squealing, a loud “Wham!” He presents facts, no threats, … all has a purpose, not to be a victim.
It’s freezing and snowing a bit. An accomplished team of instructors is eager to help. His presentation touches on protective steering position, vision and awareness, vehicle dynamics; why cars behave the way they do . . . traction and the frightening loss thereof. Students are then divided into three groups to start driving activities; right seat instructors coaching.
At the Brake-and-Slalom station, a kidney bean shaped quarter-mile course marked with reference cones, instructors describe the drill and what can be learned about the limits of crash-avoidance maneuvers on packed snow and ice; how the electronics work. Obstacle-free, run-off areas allow for mistakes. On the circular, snow and ice skid pad, students maintain a constant speed to illustrate what traction there is and the effect of electronic controls when they intervene. Students ‘see’ why focused attention is critically important. When the instructor disables the electronic stability controls the car skids more uncontrollably.
Back in the classroom, another motivational presentation. Facts, car crashes cost; U.S. $300B annually (AAA, 2011), 30,000+ U.S. people killed each year since the 1950’s. 1.2 million Fatalities yearly and the greatest cause of violence on the planet (World Health Organization). Put a small toy mouse in a tin can and slam it to the floor, accurately simulates you in a car collision. Green spirits these science-and-behavior, forensic ‘cause-and effect’ points into meaningful discussion. The ‘Iceberg didn’t hit the Titanic’ analogy describes crash causes and prevention. Eliminate distractions. Whether unexpected, inadvertent or unintentional . . . crashes are caused by mistakes. The teens and their parents nod and agree.
One final activity; Test-driver students start supervised lapping on two courses, as fast as they might normally drive given the conditions they might experience on any winter day. One course is maneuvered on snow and ice, the other shows pavement, changing road surfaces. It’s a lot to process, everybody learned from it, nobody minded.