I’m spending this weekend with my teenage son at the BWM Teen Driving School in South Carolina. The course is geared specifically for teen drivers and spends time on driving safety and theory, but mainly lets them do seemingly crazy things in powerful BMWs under the watchful eye of race car driver instructors (all the instructors here this weekend have won at least one championship). But why would I, as a parent, want my son to do crazy things in (someone else’s) German sports car? Let me explain.
We spend a lot of money on cars. We try to make sure they are safe, reliable, easy to drive, and that they have the latest safety technology. What parent would put their child into a car without air bags and antilock brakes at the very least–be they a toddler or a teen? If financially possible, none of us would. But how much do we spend on helping them become a better driver? And even if we do sign them up for a drivers’ safety program, its always safe and controlled and never approaches the limits of car control. In teaching my son to drive I never encouraged him to “punch it,” or to brake as hard as possible at 45 miles per hour and steer around an obstacle, or drive faster and faster on a circle of wet road just to see what it feels like when the tires start to slip and how to regain control.
When bad things happen during the course of normal day-to-day driving we are often thrust into situations where that is exactly where the car and driver find themselves–at the limits of car control. I don’t want that to be the time he discovers that the car will go where his eyes are focussed, so best be looking at where you want to go (escape) rather than where you don’t want to go (tree). Or that the brake pedal will chatter when breaking hard and that’s what’s supposed to happen (so don’t let up). Or that you can still steer the car when braking hard due to vehicle stability control. Or that if you run a wheel off the road, don’t panic and turn the wheel hard left to get back on.
Considering how expensive it is to buy that car, insure it, pay deductibles in accidents, and possibly have to be carried away from one, this is the best investment I’ve made in a long, long time.