See how it’s done before hitting the road

See how it’s done before hitting the road

The act of driving symbolises so much … It gives us freedom to go where we want to be and ensures that goods get to their destinations, but it is possibly one of the most nail-biting skills to master. Enter Bridgestone’s Simulator Experience – an initiative to expose young drivers to safer driving practices and ease the new-driver nerves.

“For years Bridgestone has brainstormed ways to make a real difference to the driving skills of young drivers,” says public relations manger, Mandy Lovell. “The problem was how? We didn’t want to just preach and hand out pamphlets. We wanted to actively change mindsets, but that is difficult without sending learners to a driver training centre, which isn’t always practical,” she points out – adding that the obstacles seemed insurmountable.

But these were overcome when Bridgestone’s driver training provider, driving.co.za, proposed combining its recently acquired truck driving simulator with its self-study defensive driving course.

The simulators replicate a generic truck cab with detailed graphics and audio. Unlike most other commercially available simulators, they also include a motion platform that imitates the sensation of vehicle movement.

“At first we weren’t sure whether a truck simulator would be the right way to go, but then we drove it and were hooked,” Lovell relates. “Many high school learners have driven a car; very few have driven a truck … So it’s sure to be an exciting new experience for most.”

Currently limited to Gauteng only, the simulator is mounted on the back of a Hyundai H100 and is fully self-contained, right down to the generator. “Learners all get the same experience whether we’re at a rural farm school or a private one in the city,” Lovell underlines.

Rob Handfield-Jones, MD of driving.co.za, points out that the focus is on improving road safety knowledge by tailoring each session to the learner. “We configure the vehicle, controls and route to match the learner’s driving experience, with each learner getting a 10 to 15 minute drive.”

He adds: “For learners who can already drive, our trainer running the session will provide valuable defensive driving hints and tips. As for novice drivers, more basic skills are addressed, like how to move off safely and steer.”

After each session the “drivers” receive a self-study defensive driving course pack to help them learn the right driving habits from the word go. Feedback is also provided at the end of each session in the form of a printout.

Lovell adds that the reaction so far had exceeded expectations: “The learners really love the experience and quite a few ask for a second try on different routes or with a more advanced setup.”

And this wonderful initiative is free of charge to participating schools – with Bridgestone covering all the costs. All the school needs to provide is a place to park the simulator and a plug point if possible. “We encourage schools in Gauteng to contact us and help improve awareness of safer driving among their learners of driving age,” Lovell concludes.

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