A DEFENSIVE driving workshop doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world. You’d probably think it would be all about learning to drive slow and steady, right? Nu-uh.
At the Shell Helix D-Academy: Extreme Edition held in Serdang, Selangor last weekend, 23 lucky participants got the chance to try all sorts of crazy driving techniques like drifting (technically, oversteering and understeering), slamming the brakes on a car moving at full speed, and manoeuvering around an obstacle course at 60kmph.
And the participants got to do all that on a the cars rovided by the organisers, so they needn’t worry about busting the tires on their own vehicles.
Kenneth Chiew, one of the instructors, shared the first thing one need to know about defensive driving.
“Treat everyone on the road like an idiot,” he said. Harsh, but necessary.
“It is important that you are always cautious of your surroundings, and that you assume any car around you could just slip into your lane any time without ‘signalling’,” said Kenneth, who advises drivers to always maintain a four-car distance with other vehicles while driving.
With more and more young people owning or driving compact cars now, Shell decided to run a campaign to encourage safe driving among the youth.
They ran an online competition based on safe driving earlier this year, with the 23 winners getting the chance to attend last weekend’s workshop.
The first thing the participants learnt was the basics – how to sit properly behind the wheel, and how to hold the wheel.
The instructors were pretty serious about the correct sitting position, showing the participants where they should set their car seat in order to maintain optimum control of the wheel and for personal safety.
“You would notice that the height, distance from the pedals and the steering wheel makes a difference when you drive. It is not just about reaching for the brakes but whether you will hurt yourself when you hit the brakes,” said Chiew.
Good technique on the steering wheel could also help avoid accidents, and surprisingly, the instructors said the “push and pull” method everyone learns in driving school is not really the best. The “cross-steer” technique has been proven to be much better (refer to the infographic).
“It took me a while to adapt to this technique but gradually, you will find it improves your driving skills,” said Chiew.
And how exactly does learning to drift help promote safe driving, you ask? Instructor Ching Eu Earn said the objective of the exercise was to teach drivers how to steer themselves out of an understeer or oversteer.
“This situation happens usually when you are going too fast in a corner. Now, if it happens to any of the participants, they’ll know what to do,” said Ching.
As for the obstacle course exercise, instructor Andy Kow said it was meant to show how changing lanes at high speed can be dangerous.
“When you swerve the car at the last minute, it gets unstable, and that’s when many of the participants hit the cones,” he said.
Participant Luke Shastri Gunaseelan, 29, said the workshop wasn’t just exciting, but very educational as well.
“It would be good if more drivers on the road could attend workshops like this.”