Keeping Teens from Killing Themselves on the Road

David Axberg
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Horst Reinhardt

The skid pads were first. Smooth control input was emphasized over speed, and we were challenged to keep the wheel in one position and steadily increase speed until the tires slipped. As expected, Sarah witnessed pronounced understeer from the Honda around the wet pad. Later, to practice catching a slide, the handbrake was applied by her instructors to produce a slide. She felt a bit timid about losing control of the car and drove very cautiously. Some instructors pushed her to drive faster, and others were more nurturing and encouraged her to proceed at her own pace. I, however, needed no encouragement to drive fast. No, smooth control inputs were to be my lesson for the day as I ham-fistedly whipped the M45 around the course. The Infiniti loves to get sideways under throttle and I learned that lifting completely off the throttle while oversteering is a bad idea. I spun out twice.

After the skid pads, we moved onto one of the most entertaining events of the day: emergency braking. All the cars queued up at a starting line. We were told to blast down the line, and at a predetermined point, apply full braking to generate the hardest stop possible. Again, Sarah, being the cautious driver she is, was a bit timid. She tended to anticipate braking before she got to the end of the acceleration zone and eased off the gas before she got there. Her stops were short, but she was persuaded to accelerate harder and brake later to get a feeling for exactly how hard the car was capable of stopping. The Infiniti, on the other hand, ripped down the line like a linebacker, probably achieving a solid 60 mph before I stood on the brakes. Dangling by my seatbelt under what felt like 5 Gs of deceleration, I was absolutely amazed how such a heavy car could stop so quickly.

After lunch, we returned to the lot for some more advanced maneuvers. Building upon what we had learned in the braking and cornering drills, we tackled some greater challenges on a dry oval, a wet figure eight, and an emergency lane-change zone. Sarah was more confident through these exercises, and ended up pushing the car harder and feeling more in control. She actually started having fun! But the lane-change exercise was a particularly difficult drill. Based on the braking drill from the morning session, students were to "accelerate smartly" down the line as before. At the end of the line, however, was a decision. An instructor holding a flag signaled (just before the end of the run, with the car's speed ever increasing) a lane change to the left or the right. An alternate signal meant that the vehicle must come to an emergency stop, like before. This meant that as you barrel down the line, not only do you have to make one of three possible choices in a split second; you have to do so smoothly and quickly.

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