by Yolanda Vazquez
Grace under fire is a well respected virtue, and behind the wheel, it can mean the difference between life and death. Well, behind the wheel is exactly where we find our FYI reporter Yolanda Vazquez this week, at an advanced street driving school that specializes in the do’s and don’ts of panic situation motoring. So let’s buckle up, and go for a spin.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: It doesn’t take long…to realize that blacktop boot camp…is not your typical driver’s ed course. This combination of classroom instruction, on course driving and skid car training goes well beyond the basics.
See how fast you go from being in control to completely out of control.
CHRISTOPER IHARA: As a law enforcement officer, I get to see the end result of a lot of bad driving decisions.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Christoper Ihara created this advanced driving course for teens and young adults to help improve their driving skills.
CHRISTOPER IHARA: Most of the students when they come here are looking right at the nose of the car; we get them to recognize their own bad habits and work on breaking them out of their bad habits.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: The intense training takes place on a specially-designed braking and slalom course in Manassas, Virginia. Exercises include accident avoidance lane change maneuvers and threshold braking. The drills are done in a safe and controlled environment under the watchful eyes of experienced instructors. They ride along with the students
Wait for it, wait for it; now brake.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: As they coach and monitor them every step of the way.
DAVE PARKER: I’m watching their feet, their eyes, where they’re looking.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Dave Parker helps this young driver with shuffle steering as she tries to navigate a few, twisty turns
DAVE PARKER: Good job!
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: But the real fun and learning begins when students take a spin in Blacktop Bootcamp’s skid car. Ihara has outfitted this 2012 Ford Fusion with special outriggers that can raise the front or rear of the car.
CHRISTOPER IHARA: We can reduce the amount of grip available in each wheel by how much weight we put on that axle.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: This allows the instructor to induce any skid he wants—making the students feel like they’re driving in rain, snow or even ice.
JAKE ROSENTHAL: It was hard to get used to because you know you’re on asphalt-I should be fine, but the slick car changes it.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Chris helps them manage their skid control and recovery.
CHRISTOPER IHARA: Gas, gas, gas, both hands.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: 16-year old Cayla Phillips only has a month and a half of driving under her belt. She says the day-long course has been a real eye-opener.
CAYLA PHILLIPS: I think you get a much more in-depth when you’re taking this; you learn much more of what’s going on in car, outside car, what you should do to prevent certain things you wouldn’t normally think of.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Seeing her handle the course instilled a bit of confidence in her father, Jim
JIM PHILLIPS: It all helps, it all builds, it all builds; I’m not ready for her to go on 95 to Florida yet, but we’re gettin’ closer.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: The last task of the day, Ihara switches up the exercise and programs the skid car to demonstrate oversteer. As you can see, the back tires swerve erratically as he straightens up the wheel to avoid a spinout. The simulated scene is wet roads driving 60 miles per hour.
CHRISTOPER IHARA: So it’s gotta be a smooth, controlled motion with the wheel.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: I rotated into the driver’s seat to test my oversteer abilities.
CHRISTOPER IHARA: Easy on the gas, otherwise you’re going to loop it, just like that.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Thank goodness it’s a simply a practice drill and i didn’t just spin out on the highway. Oversteer can be unnerving-just ask Laura Coonsfield
LAURA COONSFIELD: It felt uncomfortable at first, I was really scared.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: But working with Ihara one-on-one helps boost her confidence
LAURA COONSFIELD: I think now having done that, I’m willing to try driving in the snow, driving in the rain, all that stuff never would have even tried before.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: So no matter your level of experience or driving ability, Blacktop Bootcamp ups the ante on driver training- with life-saving skills that make the roads safer for everyone.