Sunday, September 12, 2010

Losing control on the P

With the new South Australian L and P plate laws coming into affect there has been many announcements in the media. Even the likes of Hamish and Andy have done their part to make the Government look hip and cool in ways the Lycra of Lance Armstrong’s twitter could never do, but it did conjure mental images of Mike Rann in a sideways baseball cap and shiny baggy jeans busting rhymes...

I’m so hip hop that I’ll make you pop and roll
Kicking some ass in power and polls
Twistin’ the acts without a tax hike
On yer bike with Mike on the mic
Tour down under splitting libs asunder
How did we win is what the people wonder
When the farce of a new footy park
The bill decided with a game of darts
Comes into action, a new grand erection
Not to be found in a waitress's affection
The bill to rise higher and higher
From the State’s most renowned liar
Rolley polley slowly Kevin Foley
Will show the tax payers how much they will owe me
The greed overtaking need to feed
All the crows supporters too good for free
Buses provided they need not to drive
But rather just come out they whinge and jive
I tell you the hardest thing to do
Is to tell two thirds of voters to get screwed
But what do they know

Adelaide does not need a new stadium.

Sorry I digress. You will never be hip and cool Mister Rann. Trust me – it takes one to know one.

Speaking of not being hip or cool and on P plates, I got my P’s at 16.5 years old, and the day I passed the test I went mountain bike riding. I was never really that into cars, and I was never that good of a driver. The year was 2001, the state was South Australia, there was one driving test, and there was no such thing as P plate levels. After your stint on P plates it was easy sailing to get your full licence. All you had to do is not lose three demerit points.

I am not going to advocate that the new system is better or the system of yesteryear keeps more kids alive, because both systems are shit. One test does not prove anything; five million will not do much better. The only thing it will test is the Government wanting more money from you every time you have to upgrade your licence if you are persistent and keen enough.

I got a good score from my driving test. I got 96% and some of my friends got 100%. Did this make me a good driver? No it did not, because of the simple fact that the goal of this process, from an instructor point of view, is to produce results for the client. The easy way to show results is to teach how to pass the test and not to teach skills that will keep you alive. Yes learning how to parallel park is important, but I would have thought emergency evasion techniques to be more so.

Do L plate drivers know how a car feels when the back end starts sliding out? Have they physically tested the minimum stopping distance for their car? How about in the wet as well? You can show pictures, animations and actual video until your blue in the face but 50m behind the steering wheel looks different than in the class room.

My father had the wisdom to show me this. He took me out into the scrub in the family car and he let me run wild. He told me to lose control to learn what it felt like and how to get out of it without panicking. Panicking happens and that is the killer. When you panic you amplify your problems and cars are not merciful.

On my first long haul drive on my P plates I had an accident that could have been much worse than it was without this experience. I was driving through the country; Mum and I pulled out of a service station after our two hour break and got back onto the highway. I was eating an ice cream at the time (correction, I was licking an ice cream very slowly because it was bloody expensive) and as I was driving along the ice cream slipped in my fingers a little forcing me to fumble and not pay attention to the road.

Mum yelled at me. I looked up and only half of the car was on the bitumen. I turned to get back on to the road; the back end slipped away. I over corrected and the back went the other way. I corrected again with no luck. I stopped fighting and hit the skids. We skidded off the road, down the embankment, and into a fence. Mum was pissed, as you can imagine, but we and the car were okay.

I felt the car go and I did not panic. I could not gain control, I was scared, but I did not panic. If I kept fighting the car I could have saved it, or we could have flipped and it could have been worse.

Take your kids out and let them lose control under controlled conditions. An advanced driving course teaches skills that can save your life and money on your insurance. Petition for these skills to be mandatory to your State MP, and make sure your kids do not drive anything too much older than 10 years.

Yes your first car should be a bomb, as it is the car you are more than likely ding. But your kids should survive that ding.

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