By Rob Sass
Photos by Andrew Trah
A driving school and Chevy’s available teen driver feature help build safety behind the wheel.
Read the full article from New Roads magazine below:
Kellie has been driving for about six months. Like most teens these days, she's had limited formal training. Young and impressionable from a driving standpoint, and lacking confidence in many situations, she made an ideal test subject to see what impact an advanced driving school course could have on her habits behind the wheel.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT SAFE DRIVING
To get a baseline assessment before heading to driving school, Kellie spent time in an all-new 2016 Malibu with available Teen Driver2 technology activated through the available 8-inch diagonal MyLink3 touch-screen. This system provides parents with a tool to help encourage safe driving habits in their kids, even when they are not in the car with them. This includes muting the audio of the radio when front-seat occupants aren’t wearing their safety belts, and giving audible and visual warnings when the vehicle is traveling faster than preset speeds.
All advanced safety features are activated and cannot be turned off when the vehicle is in Teen Driver mode and the designated Teen Driver key is used.
Kellie's parents used the system's in-vehicle report to start a conversation. What they saw wasn't alarming, but they did notice the antilock brakes (ABS) had been activated a few times, indicating hard braking from perhaps following others a bit too closely; a couple of Overspeed Warnings; and that some of the available active safety features had been engaged. Now it was time for the instructors to weigh in.
The Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, in Pahrump, Nevada, an hour from Las Vegas, is one of the world's premier advanced driving schools. Although best known as the school founded by famous Corvette racer Ron Fellows, and one that teaches Corvette owners how to get the most out of their cars in a supervised racetrack environment, the school also does a superb job of better preparing inexperienced drivers to face the challenges of the street.
Like most teen drivers, Kellie admitted that she had confidence issues at both ends of the spectrum—overconfident when she should be cautious and under confident when she should be decisive.
"In addition to confidence issues, one of the biggest problems we see with teen drivers is a simple lack of situational awareness," said Rick Malone, chief instructor at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School. "They lack the ability to use their peripheral vision and the car's mirrors together. Instead, they fixate on what's directly in front of them, rather than scanning ahead to see possible situations as they develop, which would give them time to react properly."
SCAN AHEAD, PLAN AHEAD
Malone believes the racetrack provides one of the best teaching tools to achieve safe driving on the street. That's because the level of precision, theory, physics and situational awareness involved in properly controlling a car and finding the quickest route through the track (known as "the line") applies to everyday driving, as well.
Finding the line involves a fair amount of multi-tasking, combining the ability to scan ahead and around, looking out for traffic on the course and minding distances between other cars. The driver also must anticipate how to connect the complex array of cones that mark the proper point to brake and turn in toward the apex-the peak of the corner and the point at which turning into it is complete and when drivers should begin to unwind the steering wheel and accelerate again.
The instructors at the Ron Fellows school view ABS as perhaps one of the biggest advances in automotive safety over the past 30 years. It comes standard on every new Chevy. Yet a large percentage of the driving population doesn't fully understand what ABS does or how to use it properly. That's not surprising in light of the fact that many of the parents who teach teens how to drive grew up learning to drive in cars not equipped with the feature. Indeed, Kellie was initially unsure about what ABS does.
Through a wet-braking exercise, Kellie got comfortable with the workings of ABS and addressed some of her fears about driving in bad weather. "I had to accelerate the car to 35 mph, then hit the brakes while simultaneously trying to make a lane change. It was really hard," said Kellie.
"The instructors taught us how the ABS prevents your wheels from locking up by pumping the brakes much faster than a person ever could so you can keep steering control in a hard stop. The key is to not be shy about applying the brakes and let the ABS do its job," said Kellie, sounding like a confident pro.
TEEN DRIVER SYSTEM
A CONVERSATION STARTER TO ENCOURAGE SAFE DRIVING
Available Teen Driver2 can help encourage safe driving habits. This built-in system is the first in the industry to offer an in-vehicle report that lets parents view on a display how their teenager drove. Parents can set radio volume and select a maximum speed. All data remains securely in the car. Teen Driver can track:
- Distance Driven.
- Maximum Speed.
- Overspeed Warnings.
- Stability Control events.
- Antilock Brake System Active events.
- Forward Collision Alerts, if equipped.
- Forward Collision Avoidance Braking events, if equipped
CORVETTE HIGH PERFORMANCE DRIVING SCHOOL
Fellows school instructors have respect bordering on awe for the 2016 Corvette. "Even though these are absolutely stock street cars, they're capable of performing to the level of a dedicated race car of just 10 years ago," said instructor Tom Lovelady.
Exploring the capabilities of this remarkable sports car in a supervised track setting can benefit any Corvette driver.
If there's one key takeaway from the track, it is to be consistently smooth in your braking, steering and throttle inputs. Smooth equals fast. No exceptions. Track time is generally done in the Sport setting with Traction Control and Active Handling engaged. But as helpful as these driver's aids are, they won't make up for poor technique.
Smoothness in all facets of driving is certainly something that any driver can practice on the street. And the 2016 Corvette certainly encourages this—its electric power steering is sharp and quick, allowing you to set up for corners with precision; the available 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters lets you downshift like a pro before entering the corner. The 7-speed manual-transmission cars have Active Rev Matching to automatically blip the throttle for smooth downshifts. Race-bred Brembo® brakes are powerful, confidence-inspiring and easy to modulate.
For those who do track their cars, the available award-winning, industry-first Performance Data Recorder—or PDR—logs video and real-time performance data onto an SD card. It’s such a powerful teaching tool that an hour of class time is devoted to it. Make sure you pay attention to the settings, choosing the Track Mode video overlay that will include key performance data, like g-force, rpms and lap times on your video. The school provides a graduate-level education for any Corvette driver, helping to get the maximum enjoyment out of the world’s premier sports car. Chevrolet offers this two-day school to all new Corvette owners for a discounted rate of $1,000. See CorvetteOwnersSchool.com for details.