You are in and around your car for a large portion of your day and it’s statistically likely that you are at risk for assault or injury when you’re on the road. In fact, according to one U.S. Department of Transportation study, aggressive driving may be a factor in 50% of auto crashes.
In low risk, permissive environments, your highest risk for assault might be in the form of road rage.
If you can detect and avoid dangerous situations by the intelligent use of your own vehicle, you are far ahead of the game, even for for the other 50% of crashes that are not caused by some maniac with anger management problems.
We participated in an executive protection driving course and here’s a couple of highlights gained which you can incorporate into your own training:
Explore the capabilities of your car. Modern technology is amazing — the tires, suspension and brakes for newer, well-maintained vehicles provide you with an escape capsule that is capable of more than you think. But you have to find out the handling characteristics of you vehicle before you have an emergency situation. Find an empty area where you can practice turning and braking. Then begin to take corners progressively faster and try to stop progressively faster. Be prepared to hear your tires howl under protest and learn what it sounds like as you push their limits. Also be prepared to feel the thumping of the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) engaging when you brake hard. The Mercury Marquis that were used in this course are extremely heavy at about 4500 pounds, yet they proved to be surprisingly nimble when pushed. For example, I could do reverse 180s with the big car.
Explore your own capabilities as a driver. You’ll find that once you start exploring the limits of your vehicle, you’ll run into resistance from yourself as fear and old training fight to keep you from pushing the vehicle to it’s ability. Some students report they are hesitant to increase speed or provide sharp steering input because they are afraid they will lose control or because they fear damaging the car’s engine, brakes or suspension. One student (who provides close protection for a well-known female country music star) told me she was holding back because when she heard the tires squealing, she assumed she was doing something wrong.
Be mindful of your tire contact and car balance. Car control depends on an understanding of the physics surrounding acceleration and deceleration and it’s effects on your tires. The only thing holding your car on the road — and therefore allowing you to go, turn and brake — is the contact patch provided by each tire with the road. At the highest circles of driving, you’ll hear more talk about tires and suspension geometry than you will hear about horsepower. Ironically, drift drivers seem to have an advantage here because they are pushing the limits of traction all the time. They know where the edge is, because they intentionally go over it. For many, however, it seems that that only time you know you are on the edge of losing your contact is when you are inexplicably making lazy circles without any control because you’ve lost all traction with your tire patches. You’ll learn how to use your throttle and brake to put the weight of the car where you want it to maximize contact.
Get a coach. Many people think they are expert drivers just because they’ve driven for a number of years or they have never been in an accident. But the truth is, we can all benefit from having a professional coach observe our driving and providing instruction and feedback. Hey, you have a coach for personal training, martial arts and shooting, having a driving coach is not any different.
If you have any road rage stories that put you at risk of assault or injury, please share them here with the group. As always, you comments are encouraged.
This revised post originally appeared on the Defend University website which no longer features articles.