The Black & White

I Drive Smart skid training program teaches car safety in emergencies

By Lucy Chen

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Looking out the window of the car, I saw an abandoned warehouse parking lot with a few scattered buildings in the distance and a small shack next to the lot. This wasn’t the set of a Hollywood movie, and I wasn’t a stunt-devil—even when the car started spinning out of control.

I Drive Smart offers a skid car training program in Germantown to help drivers practice how to react after losing control of their vehicles. The car is specially designed for the course and is mounted on hydraulics. Photo by Abigail Pine.

This empty lot in Germantown, Md., is the site of the I Drive Smart skid car training program, where students learn how to react to losing control of their vehicle in a specialized training vehicle. The “skid car” is a regular car mounted on hydraulics, which allows the driver to take different amounts of traction off the front and back wheels.

The two-hour class, which is open to drivers of all ages, usually costs $250, although they offer the class for free to random students.

Junior Abigail Pine took the skid car course March 11. She found out about the course through one of her I Drive Smart instructors.

“They just put me in the car and were like ‘go!” Pine said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing at all at first. You just got to be in the car and experience a crazy skid that you’re probably never going to experience when you’re actually driving, but it’s so helpful to know how to control it and to feel more comfortable with any skid that you might encounter.”

I Drive Smart began offering skid car training about eight years ago, and it’s the only private driver’s education company in the country to run these kinds of lessons, said Mike Pecoraro, I Drive Smart chief operations officer.

Seventy-five percent of the people who take the course are students who took driver’s education with I Drive Smart, Pecoraro said. The other twenty-five percent are either parents who’ve had kids go through the program, senior drivers, corporate drivers who need some additional training or college students who drive 15-person vans around their campuses.

The FBI, Secret Service and other public safety entities use the same skid car training course. Many police enforcement agencies also use skid cars to train police officers, who sometimes need to use their knowledge when doing their job.

“One time I was going to a priority call, and when I was sent to it, it just started a slow mist and the ground starting getting wet, and the oil started rising from the asphalt,” instructor Michael Nelson said. “The backside of my car got a little loose, and the skills that I learned here, I used, like getting off the accelerator and the brake and getting that car righted again.”

Junior Zack Borkowski took a free lesson in January because of a special offer from I Drive Smart. He said he liked the instructor, although the instructor’s role was limited because it’s a self-learning experience.

“He actually didn’t really say much,” Borkowski said. “You kind of just get a feel for it.”

Both Pine and Borkowski said they’d take the class again, and Borkowski said he thought the experience was fairly unique.

“It kind of felt like you were drifting like a racing game,” he said. “It was pretty sick.”

While some people may think going in the skid car can be fun—although perhaps not for anyone prone to motion sickness—but I Drive Smart emphasizes avoiding skids in the first place.

“With the skid car, we can exaggerate movements with the car that shows exactly what happens to you when you get into a skid,” Pecoraro said. “We also show you defensive maneuvers that will assist you in getting yourself out of the skid. But the one thing that we stress more than anything else is that you don’t want to get yourself in that position to start with because it’s a very tough situation to get out of.”

1 Comment

One Response to “I Drive Smart skid training program teaches car safety in emergencies”

  1. Marion on May 15th, 2012 8:28 am

    in most states, you caonnt buy a vehicle until you are 18. you can provide the money, but it would have to be in a parent’s name. as for the cost of insurance, it depends on the make and model and year of the vehicle. a newer vehicle will be more expensive due to the additional coverages you would want such as comprehensive and collision as well as liability. if an older vehicle, it may be too expensive to purchase collision and/or comprehensive so you would just get liability. rates will vary from company to company with some being cheaper than others. also, if you have drivers education you can get a discount on liability, as well as for drug education, and multi-car discounts on your parent’s insurance.rather than buying a seperate policy, get it on your parents policy and you will be rated on their vehicle so you can drive it as well, though you inform the insurance company that you have a seperate vehicle that you will drive.don’t buy a car just to learn to be a better driver, but so you will have your own car. driving it will give you the advantage of getting more experience as well as provide you seperate transportation.