Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins & Kaira McDaniel
Parenthood is a beautiful experience and wholeheartedly fascinating watching your kids mature from babies to young adults. Yet, it is also scary at times and keeps you on the edge as thoughts of their safety invades the consciousness incessantly throughout the day, every day of the week. From school security to cyber bullying there is an overbearing need to continuously safeguard our children and provide them with protected environs consistently. One of the most important educational aspects of all is teaching them, through experiences and instruction, the basics needed for understanding vehicle dynamics and awareness of both traffic and other drivers around them. BMW is helping with some of that burden through their popular Teen Driving School.
As a Fit Father of two young ladies and the publisher of Automotive Rhythms I am astute enough to know that one can never receive enough experience and professional instruction behind the wheel. With today’s world spearheaded by digital communication kids are bombarded with non-stop information from social media to texting. There are so many distractions in their space, it becomes inundating getting around town safe and sound. Well, welcome to home of the BMW Performance Driving School in Spartanburg, SC where the German manufacturer has created a state of the art facility incorporating a skid pad, almost 2 miles of paved road, instructor controlled waterfalls, decreasing and increasing radius turns, straightaways, an off-road tracks and of course a fleet of current BMW vehicles. Both new and veterans behind the wheel are versed by a team of expert BMW driver training instructors who guide participants through divergent programs which helps them become a more confident and safer driver. A few curriculums include the One-Day Car Control School, M School, BMW Performance Center Drive and the aforementioned Teen Driving School. As well, there is a service center on site that maintenances all 8,000 to 8,200 factory employee vehicles when needed. Spartanburg is also the epicenter to the manufacturing of the BMW X Sport Activity Vehicles (SAV). There’s an important corollary between meshing an all-terrain utility with the performance attributes of a sports sedan. As one of the most successful model lines for BMW, the X5 is pertinent to the economic accomplishments of the group since it sets the tone for the rest of the “X” family.
For a complete understanding of the program BMW invited a few journalists and their teens to South Carolina for an epic weekend consisting of invaluable time behind the wheel and vital classroom instructions. The BMW Teen Driving Media Event comprised 14 adolescents across the country including my 17-year old Niece Kaira McDaniel who just earned her learners permit. “The BMW Teen Driving School teaches you what it’s going to be like in the real world. When I first arrived I was nervous to drive with the instructors and others. But it was such a great experience and I learned so much more information about driving and what can happen on live roads,” she stated.
For parents who are not in the position of traveling then no worries. BMW is bringing a micro version of the program to nine markets by way of their Ultimate Driving Experience. The free 2-hour teen driving course featuring the BMW X1 and 228i will take place in Atlanta, New Jersey, Miami, Washington, DC, Seattle, LA, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago and New York. The underlining message and focus at the Teen Driving School will be comprehending the consequences of distracted driving while highlighting driving and texting and its negative impact. “We are excited to once again be providing BMW fans and driving enthusiasts across the country the opportunity to get behind the wheel, “said Kevin Philips, Head of Retail and Experiential Marketing, BMW of North America.
Back in Spartanburg our host and lead instructor Derek Leonard disseminated basic information that may be trivial to teens and some adults but is very important. “We won’t ask you to do anything unsafe, but will ask the teens to get out of their comfort zone,” he exclaimed. Equipped with brand new 2015 BMW 3 Series vehicles the recruits were allotted 300-horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque at their disposal. SAVs of course were utilized for the up-hill climbing and water waddling. Derek’s main point was reminding people that bad eyes account for 95% of all things that go wrong on the road. With that he demonstrated proper hand and seating positions and positive driving habits such as getting your eyes up and looking ahead. Here are some of his classroom take-a-ways:
• Seeing things early will prevent many incidents.
• Look where you want to go and point the vehicle there. Your hands will follow your eyes.
• The 9 and 3 steering wheel hand position is better than 10 and 2 since it gives you 200 degrees of motion.
• BMW is a fan of 50 to 50 weight distribution since it offers four equal contact patches (the part of the tire that’s touching the road).
• Correct seating position creates good feedback.
• Blind Spots are a myth, there are only bad mirrors. 80% of American drivers set their side view mirrors where they can see a slither of their vehicle. The problem is that it creates an overlapping field of vision. Yet, you don’t need to see your own car. When your mirrors are out you have more vision and can always see another vehicle in your peripheral vision.
Out on the track the teens applied the new schooling to the warm up slalom, lane change, cornering, stability control and emergency braking which creates real world driving conditions. Learning how to correct understeer and oversteer on wet pavement was one of the most intuitive challenges (underster is when front tires are not responding and oversteer is when the rear loses grip). BMW’s circular skidpad was employed in this case. Kaira had trouble with the routine but felt more empowered afterwards because she learned C.P.R., and I’m not referring to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. BMW’s definition is Correct, Pause and Recover. The adults also had a chance to put C.P.R. to the test and I must say I did quite well, only spinning once out of ten rounds.
Next up was a true test of alertness as we organized at the lane change activity area. Derek directed everyone to keep our eyes up, hands and arms relaxed, left foot on the dead pedal and not to look at the cones. “My favorite course was the lane changes because it taught me how to move fast in different lanes just in case of an emergency,” said Kaira. “I accelerated at a certain speed and when the BMW approached the cones I quickly steered into the next lane and only used braking after finishing the complete turn.” As Derek would say, braking and turning simultaneously is not ideal for performance. “In the beginning it was a bit difficult, but after a while I got it down and succeeded every lane change, whether it was a single or a double.”
Another monumental lesson was learning about ABS and hitting the brakes hard for panicky stops. Yes, you can mash the pedal as much as your leg provides strength. There is no time to be light on your feet when an imminent impact is quickly approaching. More importantly, many drivers do not realize that they can brake 100% and still have room to steer. Thanks to ABS the vehicle will not lock up, providing it freedom to maneuver out of the path of the looming crash object. Using a BMW M235i both the teens and adults experienced this demonstration. What’s fascinating is how much extra distance is needed when just 5 mph is added to your acceleration pace. Keep in mind, when doubling the vehicle’s speed four times the stopping room is required, not double as most would suggest. Welcome to the law of physics.
All in all Kaira and I had a magnificent time at the BMW Performance Driving School. Designed to teach teens about the incredible engineering behind the blue, white and black roundel stamped with the letters B-M-W, their Teen Driving School is beneficial for everyone with a driver’s license or permit. Whoever said school isn’t for them obviously didn’t take the right classes. Remember, it takes time to build confidence behind the wheel.