Something new every day

Something new every day
Date:20 September 2009 Author: Anthony Doman Tags:,

You learn some really useful things on a defensive driving course. (1) Wear a peaked cap when you take a driving test. (2) Be worried if you’re approached by a gum-chewing person while you’re waiting for the traffic lights to change.

Members of the Guild of Motoring Journalists are obliged to take refresher courses to keep their driving skills up to scratch. So I spent last Wednesday morning having the principles of defensive driving rammed – fortunately not too painfully – down my throat by the always entertaining Basil Mann.

Motor racing fans will remember Basil as a racer of not inconsiderable success. He has, as they say, been there and done that on the track. He speaks from experience. One such involved a single-seater bought from ace driver Desirée Wilson (“We had to have the champion’s car”) that, unknown to him at the time, had a cracked brake disc. This became apparent to Basil when he braked for a corner at 220 km/h, and the component disintegrated. Somehow he survived, and while making his way back from the wreck, he came across a shocked spectator convinced he’d seen the driver being catapulted over the grandstand. Basil later worked out that what the man had seen was the car’s floorpan, obeying Newton’s First Law of motion.

Today, Basil investigates crashes. Other people’s crashes. And instructs drivers in advanced techniques, through his company Shayela.

Duly instructed, our class then took to the road, was observed and rated, and returned for a debriefing. After that we once again headed out for an extended drive to ensure that we hadn’t dozed off during lectures. Back seat drivers of my acquaintance will be glad to know that my driving got resounding approval.

And, as I said, we learnt some really useful things. For instance, when you take that K53 driving test, be sure to wear a peaked cap. That way, the tester can see your head bob and waggle, indicating that you’re being as observant as the test requires.

Along the way, while you’re stopped at a traffic light, be wary of the person who sidles up, chewing gum. (For one thing, if he should be former US president Gerald Ford, it’s possible he may stumble into your car, being unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.) The reason: while you’re standing still, hijackers have an opportunity to spot the laptop or handbag on the back seat. A blob of chewing gum is stuck by the appropriate window. At the next intersection, your car having been pre-identified, it’s a simple matter of straight to the target, smash, grab, and disappear.

Frankly, this kind of information is far more useful than a blind insistence on turning a steering wheel by using the laborious “feed through”, or shuffle, method. And you can tell them Basil said so.

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