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BMW 330i sedans are used in the advanced driver training courses held in Montreal and Toronto.
BMW driver training benefits young and old
By Bill Roebuck
No matter what your age, you can't beat the benefits of improving your safety on the road by taking an advanced driver training course. Studies and personal experiences have proven it.
I recently had the opportunity to hone my skills and introduce my university-age daughter to new techniques at the Advanced Driver Training program offered by BMW Canada at Downsview Park in Toronto.
The courses are offered from June to October in both Toronto and Montreal. Details on locations and dates can be found at www.bmwdrivertraining.ca.
At the session we attended, BMW instructors provided training in driving skills, safety techniques, and offered and an understanding of a vehicle's capabilities -- BMW 330i models in this case.
You do not need to own a BMW to participate. Class size depends on the program, but never exceeds 20 students.
There are several variations of the course, from the basics up to challenging. The half-day Advanced I and full-day Advanced II courses provide a foundation for improving your driving. The instructors covered elements such as seating position, steering technique and vehicle dynamics.
Exercises we experienced included emergency braking with and without ABS, and front- and rear-wheel skid control. The courses also dealt with typical driving scenarios encountered during inner-city driving and how to respond to them.
Our teachers for our Advanced II course were Pierre Savoy and Jason Carvalho. The energetic and expressive Savoy has been a professional driver since 1983 and chief instructor with BMW Driver Training since the program's Canadian launch in 2001. His most well known students include racers Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier.
The personable Carvalho has raced in Formula 1600, Formula 2000 and Formula Atlantic, and has worked as a stuntman in movies and instructional CD-ROMs. He has been an instructor with BMW since 2003.
The techniques and manoeuvres we learned had an immediate impact on our driving attitude and abilities in the weeks following the course. They can even get you out of trouble on the drive home, as happened to me after completing BMW's program.
If you or your family members drive vehicles that aren't equipped with advanced safety technology, or even ABS brakes, I now see that you can help to overcome those shortcomings by getting every driver in your family trained in an advanced driving course.
After witnessing the improvement in my daughter's skills from the course, I'm planning to sign up my son next. You can read about her personal experience with the program in the sidebar story.
Compared to advanced options on vehicles, these courses are cheap. The half-day Advanced I program, where the minimum age is 16 and a G2 licence is needed, costs $290, not including taxes. The full-day Advanced II course, with a minimum age of 18 and the requirement of a G licence, is $480.
'Skidding out was a little scary'
By Katie Roebuck
Have you ever been driving down the road, minding your own business, wondering what was going through the mind of the person who just cut you off?
Or have you been pulling into an intersection, only to be almost hit by other drivers who wouldn't wait their turn or were yakking on a cell phone?
I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Maybe it has happened to you, or maybe you are one of those people who make the rest of us wonder every day how you keep your driver's license.
Well, here is a saving grace for everyone on the road -- the good, the bad and the clueless. Advanced Driver training or skid school could be the thing you need to prevent an accident and improve your skills on the road.
I had the opportunity to attend a BMW Advanced Driver Training course in Toronto, and did it ever make a difference for me. It was a lot of fun too. How often do you get to abuse a car that costs more than your tuition?
The day began with a theory class, going over what causes skids, and describing different kinds of skids. I didn't even know there were different kinds.
Then we got to the fun part -- the driving. We learned how to induce and correct different skids, and how to avoid objects.
Skidding out was a little scary at first because it's very unnatural to purposely spin out a car, but you get used to it fairly quickly.
The instructors were very supportive and not intimidating, which was good, from the perspective of a young female driver.
The instructors demonstrated each exercise with you in the car first, let you drive the course, and afterwards discussed what you had learned, before moving on the next exercise.
I feel that certain elements of advanced driver training should be included in the normal driver training programs most students take, such as avoidance manoeuvres and skid correction. But since that likely won't be happening any time soon, advanced driver training is an excellent option.
The full-day BMW program came with a $480 price tag, but there are less expensive versions that can be found in your area that are either run by a training company or a car manufacturer. A list of courses can be found at www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/driver/advanced.htm.
The only problem I saw with this course was that some of the exercises were tailored specifically for a car like a BMW with its special electronic systems such as dynamic stability control. At times, it also felt like a sales pitch for the car's features.
But you can't get over the benefits. My skills and reaction time improved immediately (which I found out a few days later when a driver entered an intersection without looking … and he thought it was funny when he finally noticed. It wasn't.).
I highly recommend advanced driver training, no matter where you take it. It won't decrease your insurance costs, unfortunately, but it will improve your skills and can prevent an accident.
For me, it was an experience of a lifetime, and it definitely improved my skills for the better.
Katie Roebuck is the daughter of automotive writer Bill Roebuck.
Advanced driving tips from the pros
By Bill Roebuck
Here are a few tips shared with students by BMW driver training chief instructor Pierre Savoy.
* Check your car out before you start driving.
* Check your state of mind. Your attitude, aptitude and level of awareness will affect how well you drive.
* Set your driving position properly, with your arms and legs slightly bent. Have full contact with the seat. Keep a minimum of 25 cm between you and the steering wheel. Tighten seat belts snugly.
* Adjust exterior mirrors so they don't duplicate the view from the inside rear view mirror. This will eliminate 95% of blind spots.
* Look where you want to go and you will steer in that direction.
* Allow three seconds of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you on the highway.
* Brake in a straight line, before you turn.
* In a front-wheel skid, take your foot off the accelerator, do not brake, and look and steer where you want to go.
* In a rear-wheel skid, try to maintain neutral acceleration (don't accelerate or decelerate), don't brake, and look and steer where you want to go. Press in the clutch with a manual transmission.
* In any skid, don't look where the car is heading. Look where you want to go.
* Skids are handled the same with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles.
* To avoid collisions, look up and well ahead to anticipate potential problems. Always plan an escape route.
* In an emergency situation, always brake first and then steer clear of the problem. But if there is no time for this, steer to avoid a collision, straighten out the vehicle, then brake.
* Look for the solution, not at the problem. The longer you look at the problem, the more likely you are to hit it.
* If a collision is inevitable, look around for the lesser evil -- the softer, the better.
If you think these pointers will be hard to remember, you're right. Repetitive practice in a controlled environment, such as at an advanced driver training course, will help the make the correct actions instinctive. (BR)
Aiming for driving perfection
By Bill Roebuck
In addition to BMW Canada's Advanced I and Advanced II courses, even more advanced skills can be learned in what the company calls Perfection Driver Training. This course simulates a number of different critical emergency situations that you may encounter at speeds on open stretches of road.
It builds on the skills learned in the advanced courses, and includes emergency braking on uneven surfaces, taking part in increasingly difficult read-and-react challenges, and attempting to master holding oversteer around a 180-degree curve.
This is a one-day course that is offered in annually in Toronto and Montreal, and biannually in Vancouver.
BMW also offers Fascination I & II Driver Training courses that are designed for driving enthusiasts. Elements specifically developed for these courses include track exercises, high-speed ideal-line cornering, high-speed lane changes, track lapping, and a range of specialist skills.
These courses are offered exclusively in Mont-Tremblant, Que., and range from one to two days long.
For details, visit www.bmwdrivertraining.ca.
Copyright Bill Roebuck, CarTest.ca 2005