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Motoring
 

Geared for a safer drive

Even experienced drivers will benefit from tips on driving habits and safety skills in BMW-run course

Published on Aug 3, 2012 4:48 PM
 

As a first-timer on a defensive driving course, I did not quite know what to expect of the BMW Driving Experience.


How much would I pick up and what would this advanced driving class teach that I did not already know?


As it turned out - quite a fair bit.


The BMW Driving Experience advanced stage is a one-day course geared towards equipping drivers with the skills to react to and handle any potential hazard on the roads.


To date, more than 3,200 drivers in Singapore have gone through this driver training offered by German carmaker BMW.


At the invitation of BMW agent Performance Motors, I took part in a session on July 15 with more than 20 other drivers at the Johor Circuit in Pasir Gudang, a short drive from the Causeway.


After a quick breakfast and a theory lesson on driving posture, steering technique and driver physics, we made our way to a fleet of the latest generation BMW 328i sedans.


The instructors grouped us into teams of three drivers to a car, and a portable radio in each car allowed them to relay advice.


The first task of the day: slalom driving at 20kmh to reinforce the proper steering technique of having one's hands at the three and nine o'clock positions all the time.


An easy enough task, only that I almost never adopt the 'three and nine' in my day-to-day driving. It is usually a mixture of one-handed steering or various permutations of the 'three and nine' for me.


Casting away those bad steering habits and correcting my grip took substantial effort.


Next up, an emergency braking exercise where we had to jam on the brakes to bring a car travelling at 70kmh to a screeching halt.


This exercise taught drivers the relation between speed and distance, and how you really have to step hard to apply 100 per cent brake pressure.


Seat position is important as you have to be seated close enough to floor the brakes with maximum force. Your knees also should be slightly bent after depressing the brake pedals fully.


We moved on to emergency lane- change lessons after that, and this segment saw no shortage of cones that met their demise.


Thereafter, we proceeded to the skidpan for the understeer and oversteer stations.


These exercises illustrated what happens when the car loses grip on its front wheels (understeer) or rear wheels (oversteer).


Better equipped for hazards


With instructions to turn off the car's dynamic stability control, we were taught how to induce those situations and recover from them.


The oversteer, in particular, was a lot of fun, with the car swerving all over the wet tarmac while I frantically tried to counter-steer and stabilise it.


The instructors then gave all students a preview of the intensive-level training stage, as they executed reverse flicks and full-circle drifts while we were strapped into the passenger seats.


A timed slalom challenge among participants was the final event for the day.


At the end of it, I felt I had emerged a better driver, having picked up techniques that could very well save my life should an emergency situation arise on the roads.


Though the training was in a controlled track environment, I wager the skills taught will stand drivers in good stead whether they are on familiar roads in Singapore or foreign ground overseas.


Lead instructor Khairil Anwar said that is the whole point of the BMW Driving Experience - to equip drivers with safety tips and help them become better drivers.


Among the most common mistakes he spots in drivers is their sitting posture.


'It's something people take for granted,' he said.


'In an emergency, you won't be able to react quickly without the right posture. It's all about defensive driving.'


Line of sight is also key. Drivers will naturally steer towards the direction they are looking at, so it is crucial to look at the 'exit route' when steering away from an obstacle, he added.


An added bonus of the course - the 328i, which was a treat to drive with its superb steering.


The BMW Driving Experience advanced level is open to anyone aged 21 and above with a valid driver's licence for more than three years. The $1,350 package includes a welcome pack, all meals, transportation and insurance. BMW owners are eligible for preferential rates.


roysim@sph.com.sg


For more information on the BMW Driving Experience, call 6223-1090 or e-mail info@pmldrivingexperience.com.sg