It’s snowing, the ground is a sheet of ice and I’m behind the wheel. I slam on the brakes. My car begins sliding, sliding. I pass a man dressed like a pylon who smiles and waves as I glide by.
I try to wake up from this surreal dream but can’t. This is real life, and the pylon man I’m sliding by is Ian Law, owner and head instructor of the ILR Winter Driving School.
Rewind seven years. It’s snowing, I’m in my car, with a four-way stop ahead. I slam on my brakes and my car skates through the stop sign.
I signal frantically to the car coming at me, but to no avail. Our cars make a loud crunching sound on impact. I’m fine. So is the other guy. My car isn’t.
Today, I’m a carpooling mom with kids to protect. I need to learn how to control my car in all conditions. So I took some me time to drive northeast to the snowbound town of Minden to learn how to drive on ice.
The course begins at 10 a.m. at the community centre, in a makeshift classroom with eight other students. I’m surprised there’s not another mom in sight.
Ian kicks the day off by going over the basics: correct seating position, no cellphones, be proactive in all driving conditions. With someone else, this information could be incredibly dry. However, Law’s passion for safe driving and storytelling makes him an engaging and informed teacher.
At 11:30, pizza arrives. We grab a 10-minute lunch break. Law introduces us to our three driving instructors, Opal, Guillermo and Peter – all skilled race car drivers. We’re split into three groups, and drive to the ice track.
Our first station: the Figure 8 of Death. The object: to understand oversteering and understeering – the two driver reactions that cause vehicles to lose control on ice. Peter jumps in. I drive tentatively around the track. I make it through the first time, so he encourages me to step on the throttle.
My car immediately is sliding out of control. I’m frantically whipping the steering wheel around, praying for my tires to follow. No luck. I sail sideways into a snow bank. We do it again. This time I look where I want to go, keep my wheels gently turned and trust. It works. Im still sliding but this time I make it around the track.
Slalom is the next station. Opal joins me and we’re off weaving through pylons on sheer ice. I look where I want to go, hands on my steering wheel at the 9 and 3 oclock positions (Law says hands at 10 and 2 is old-fashioned), turning smoothly.
With Opal’s coaching, I pick up speed, learning how to balance right and left turns.
Then she shows me how to use my parking brake to do the Handbreak Turn. I do a doughnut. Woohoo! I wish my husband could see me now.
Next is collision avoidance. Guillermo jumps in and we slide through an obstacle course of pylons to simulate lane changes in icy conditions.
The object: not to hit anything. It’s about control and not oversteering. I get used to slamming on brakes, the grinding of my ABS, releasing brakes and turning my wheels smoothly. I rocked. The other guys were hitting pylons, but not this yummy mummy.
Last on the agenda: the Braking Game. Stepping on the throttle, I spin my wheels until they catch; 40 km/h never seemed so fast racing down a track of pure ice.
At the first pylon I’m told to slam on my brakes. They make their usual grinding noise as the ABS kicks in. But there’s no stopping this thing. I slide a good 12 metres.
After five tries, I relax and learn that pumping my brakes helps me stop slightly more quickly. In the end, my car has the worst stopping distance of all nine vehicles.
Law, still dressed like a pylon, recommends I spring for a set of good winter tires. My skid marks speak for themselves.
Five o’clock comes too quickly. I’m having a blast out there on the ice. Fear is gone, replaced by confidence.
We receive our Advanced Driver Training diplomas. When I leave, it’s snowing. The roads could be rough. I take a deep breath, start my car and say to myself, Bring it on!
Article courtesy of Yummy Mummy Club