March 17, 2014
Monday Rant: Learn to Drive in Winter, Dummkopf!. Click image to enlarge
Article by Steven Bochenek
This winter, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience two full days of advanced winter driving training on icy courses and in fabulous German automobiles. I’ve also been unfortunate enough to experience thoroughly distracted GTA drivers sliding obliviously into my lane, usually on all-season radials. The latter could learn so much from the former.
The programs were Porsche’s Camp4 and the BMW Winter Driver Training program.
Both experiences make you a better driver, especially in winter. Both teach in class, briefly, then in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles: Porsche Cayman, 911 Carrera S and 911 Carrera 4S; BMW 435i and 435i xDrive. Lessons are taught in stages, so you build on your theoretical and practical knowledge all day.
Each lesson begins with traction and stability control systems fully engaged – then off! So both programs are also loads of fun, recognizing that people tend to learn better when they’re having enjoying themselves. Which is pretty much the antithesis of a GTA winter commute.
So, what would do you learn?
I hate to cut and paste from BMW’s website and Autos.ca’s Jacob Black, but they both did put it rather well when the latter quoted the former:
“The BMW Winter Driver Training course brings the fundamentals of confident, safe driving in winter conditions together in an exciting one-day course. Winter Driver Training covers key elements vital to improving winter driving, such as steering technique and vehicle dynamics. Exercises include emergency braking and avoiding, and front and rear wheel skid control (under- and oversteer).”
Funnily enough (lazily more so) I could use most of that description to explain what’s taught at Camp4. Instead, I’ll quote Porsche too: “learn the basics of driving dynamics in difficult conditions. Over two days, you will drive three different varieties of Porsche sports cars on two road courses and on a massive skidpad, combining all three sections together into a challenging loop at the end of your second driving day.” (Note: Porsche’s Camp4 Media Day, which I experienced, truncated all of that into a single day.)
Prices? Honestly, they’re worth it.
The full four-day public version of Camp4 costs from $5,195 (including accommodation at a frightfully smart hotel) and BMW’s one-day course is $795. Sound expensive? Neither price even includes taxes but both are cheap, considering how much you learn, and how expensive one poor decision on winter roads can be.
Sadly, the drivers who need these most already know everything. Just observe their waving finger, blaming you for their errors after they’ve cut you off.
So here are some useful safety tips the rest of can apply immediately. You’ll be used to them in a couple of weeks. Really. Older drivers, consider how easily you adjusted to wearing a seatbelt after it became Ontario law in 1976. Speaking of which…
• Seatbelt: In winter, you’re wearing a huge coat. Pulling a seatbelt over that bulk leaves a lot of slack. Hike the coat up (or remove it and turn on the heating) then fit your seatbelt snugly against your waist. Do this if nothing else. Ontarians are 20 percent more likely to collide with something in winter.
• Seating position: 1) First, fit your right foot against the surface behind the brake. Next, put your left foot on the dead pedal and leave it there always (if you drive a standard, get used to putting it back there always after clutching). Now, your knees should still be slightly bent. In a collision, they’ll bend farther, absorbing shock far better than straight legs. If your knees aren’t bent, slide the seat forward until they are. 2) Arms should be bent too. If they aren’t, move the steering wheel (or seat if your steering wheel’s not adjustable) until they are. 3) There should be at least a fist’s space between the car’s roof and the crown of your head. If there isn’t, lower your seat. 4) The centre of your head restraint should be behind the centre of your head, not your neck.