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Course lifeline for young drivers

2013-06-13 18:21

BEYOND THE K53: The eight young drivers who tried the Monroe course - from left Elaine Swanepoel, Avi Barit, Marco di Matteo, Sheldon, Reimers, Maryna Parsons, Justin Malherbe, Kyle Hastings and Rene Vidjat. Image: LES STEPHENSON

kalahari.com

Author: LES STEPHENSON

 
The South African K53 exam and driving test teaches how to pass a driving test – but little about real driving. Now the less well-heeled can to put their newly licensed children through some serious tuition.

The state throws out road-blocks and spends millions on overtime for traffic cops but the South African road-death toll continues to climb. Now a major auto-industry company has thrown a lifeline to young and newly licensed drivers.

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Shock-absorber manufacturer Monroe, in association with the Adrenalin Specialised Driving Academy, is offering an almost 50% subsidy to put less-advantaged youngsters (no, of all races, no bias) through an advanced driving course that will teach them the many facets of safe driving  untaught by any driving school.

TWO TYPES OF SKID-PAN

Wheels24 went along to Gerotek, west of Pretoria, with its own young driver as one of a number of under-25’s attending as guinea-pigs for an introductory course. (Read Justin’s impressions of his several hours of tuition, below.)

The Gerotek venue offers dry or wet skid-pans, wide straight sections of concrete for slalom (swerving) and harsh-braking instruction, and a one-kilometre paved circle that includes a 25-metre long water splash to demonstrate the effects - and how to control them - of aquaplaning but in a safe environment.

Vic Rich of the Adrenalin Specialised Driving Academy explained at a presentation before the youngsters hit the tar: "We’re trying to help with driver upliftment to counter the curse that this government seems to have blanked out of its mind.”

He was referring, mercilessly, to the nearly 15 000 people – adults and children – who died in 2012 on SA’s roads and to the ANC’s and traffic authorities’ apparent inability (or political reluctance?) to rein in bad drivers – particularly cowboy taxis - overloaded trucks, unlicensed and therefore not even partially qualified drivers.

GOING NATIONAL

"This is the first time an organisation has decided to take the situation by the horns and do something about it,” Rich said. “The course is designed for youngsters whose parents cannot afford the full price of an advanced-driving course.

"Monroe and the Adrenalin will help with the cost and plan to go national after starting in Gauteng at Gerotek and at Zwartkops. Ladies-only groups will follow."

He was scathing in his dismissal of the K53 formula and driving examination. He said at the presentation at Gerotek: "Youngsters are taught how to pass a test, not to how to drive a vehicle... the K53 - that's what's killing us."

For the next year - perhaps longer - Adrenalin, with financial support from Monroe, intends to run courses to take young drivers up to the age of about 25 way beyond the joke that is the K53. Rich said: "We are aiming for youngsters with a newly acquired driving licence."

The comments above are serious condemnations of the state's system of validating people to take a lethal weapon capable of 200km/h and of possibly killing more people than a fully loaded 9mm pistol out on to a crumbling road system with inadequate road-markings and among thousands of drivers who have not even bothered to pass the basic K53 to get a legal licence and, through that, access to adequate vehicle and personal insurance.

FREE SHOCKS-TESTING

Andrew Antonis, manager of Monroe SA, said: "Although there are a number of factors contributing to the high accident rate we have chosen to address driving skills but not just over the high-accident periods such as Easter and Christmas but 365 days a year.

“Monroe’s focus has always been on safety and we already offer free shock-absorber tests and support road-safety campaigns such as The Road Safety Foundation and Pick n Pay's 'Stay Alert Stay Alive'.

"Obviously we also focus on the dangers of worn shock-absorbers which are an integral part of a vehicle’s safety triangle: Steering, Stopping and Stability."

All of which were addressed by the Gerotek pilot course trainers.

'SKILLS TO SURVIVE'

Antonis added: “Advanced driving programmes are fairly costly so Monroe is subsidising the training, making it accessible to a far larger number of, particularly, younger drivers.

"In a perfect world, we would like to see all newly licensed drivers complete the course.”

Gary Ronald of the Automobile Association of SA commented:  “The real focus is not just the skills to pass the K53 but the skills needed to survive on our roads.

“Little has been done in South Africa to create change or prevent road deaths during the busiest times of the year.”

AND THE VIEW FROM THE STEERING -WHEEL...

Justin Malherbe, 20, was Wheels24’s ‘guinea pig’ for the Monroe Driving Academy introduction at Gerotek. He’s been driving for nearly three years but here’s how he felt about it...

It is definitely aimed at the right age group (18-25). Considering the driving styles, risky driving techniques and overall lack of concern for the safety of others (and, without realising it, themselves) that I see daily on my way to and from university Monday to Friday this could prove to be extremely beneficial.

First, a safe driving distance - how long a car takes to stop from the speeds being driven at on our freeways - and overall driving position are probably the most under-rated and neglected factors of post-test driving.

MANY ACCIDENTS

Just from the students I have driven with or seen driving (as well as adults on their way to work) there seems to be a complete disregard for these factors or a massive misconception about them which probably leads to collisions and the far too relaxed, confident (false confidence really) and comfortable driving style that seems to be a common trend.

I’ve seen many accidents ranging from minor bumps to slightly more serious crashes involving many students; looking back now, they should never have happened and wouldn’t have had they known the correct methods of driving and if they actually understood their car.

Which they would probably have learned on the Gerotek course.

More about Monroe South Africa.
More about the Monroe Advanced Driving Courses

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