Real Driver's Education
[This is a reprint of a life-saving course in accident avoidance that Jamie and I took 6 years ago and is offered to everyone who is, or has family members, behind the wheel]
Cruising along at over 100 miles per hour in my assigned vehicle I am rapidly approaching an obstacle in the road. I'm closing in really fast now and the obstacle appears to be only a few yards away ... . "Brake!" commands my instructor. I manage to brake the car without skidding or leaving my lane and stop several car lengths before the obstacle! This is real driver's education and it is offered to the public by BSR Inc. of Summit Point Raceway at Summit Point, West Virginia.
Designed to give drivers a lot of experience handling a car under different road conditions, BSR's Accident Avoidance Highway Safety School is the best kind of accident insurance you can buy for you and other drivers in your family. The cost per person is $300 ($25 less for subsequent members of your party) and I found the training and instruction I received to be worth every cent.
The day begins at 9AM sharp with instruction on the dynamics of car physics which we were soon to put to use. By 9:45 Jamie, my newly driving 16 year old, and I were sitting in our respective training vehicles with two other trainees and an experienced teacher in the front. My car went to the Skid Pad; Jamie's party went to work on skid control.
The Skid Pad is a circular road made wet by sprinklers. Here we learn how to control the car by understeering and oversteering. After a few initial spin-outs, every person in my car was able to control the vehicle in wet conditions (and at amazing speeds, too). There are plenty of opportunities to practice and improve.
Next came skid control (called threshold braking). First each driver has an opportunity to get a good feel for the car at highway, and higher, speeds while traveling over the speedway's two mile long, three lane road. We swerve, brake, etc. We continue to learn threshold braking - being able to stop a car just short of an uncontrolled skid - an activity which culminates with being able to stop a car traveling at high speed without loosing control (see first paragraph above).
After lunch there is some more classroom instruction which focuses on controlling a car while taking curves and being able to stop rapidly to avoid an accident. Soon we are once again in our cars learning how to stop while taking curves. After a few tries all the trainees are able to brake the car in a controlled fashion without leaving their lane. Most can do this while traveling at least 75mph! It is amazing how quickly we can stop that car when we have learned how to do it!
There is training in swerving around objects. As we speed along the road we are constantly encountering traffic cones which we either have to swerve around (at speed), control braking and swerve, or suddenly have to come to a stop in front of; it depends upon what the instructor - often at the last possible moment - calls for. It is very demanding, challenging, and fun! The entire day is one continuous opportunity to work on the skills that we learned earlier. A person will get as much experience from this training as he or she commits to getting.
There is also classroom training in how to avoid a collision and where to steer the car if a collision is imminent. Driving off the road (a sure killer for many) is also covered and later practiced.
The day ends with two "tests". The first test involves completing the entire course as though we had an emergency and must travel at 75mph while obeying real road conditions. The objective is to allow the trainee to put together all the skills he or she has learned that day without further prompting. The second "test" involves two laps around a small, tight course. This course includes swerving around cones, tight turns on gravel, and so on. The objective is to practice all we have learned and to do it as fast as possible while not hitting any cones which represent "real" objects (cars, poles, etc.)
It's now 5:30 and the day is done. We gather once more for a debriefing and to get our diplomas (and a surprise). It was a great day. Although I'm a pretty good driver, I have learned more about how to handle a car today than I have in all my years of driving. I forgot to mention that the ages of the participants ranged from Jamie's 16 years to a grandmother in her sixties - and she did the entire course successfully like everybody else.
I cannot stress how important this kind of training is, especially for new drivers. There is just no other way to learn emergency handling except in real situations and then it's too little, too late. The required two week drivers education course which all new drivers must attend is nothing compared to BSR's Accident Avoidance school. The $312 fee is money spent for the best kind of insurance: real experience in being able to avoid danger in the first place.
Box 190, Summit Point, WVA 25446
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