We are often advised to drive to the conditions and take care on the roads, but how many of us know how to translate those words into action when challenging conditions, emergency situations or the sudden need to react arises?
Developed in response to the startling realisation that most people don’t know how to handle their car in adverse conditions, the expert team at Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago developed the Winter Drive Experience.
This is a three-hour course led by professional drivers, providing expert tuition in a safe environment enabling participants to learn and practise defensive driving, including ice simulation.
“In Central Otago, we’re blessed with four seasons,” says Josie Spillane, Chief Operating Officer at Highlands. “In the winter months, the road conditions change dramatically and most people have never been taught how to drive in winter conditions.”
Skills that save lives
Harnessing the expertise of the professional drivers at Highlands – a world-class motorsport facility focused on innovation – the Winter Drive Experience has been hugely successful in delivering skills for life that have proven from participant feedback to have saved lives over the past four years.
“By covering off the skills and knowledge needed in the more extreme winter conditions, people taking the course receive a comprehensive set of skills and understanding that will help them every single time they’re driving on the road,” says Spillane.
Head Professional Driver Andrew Waite has been training drivers for more than 10 years and has seen the course grow in popularity every year. “The programme has been very well received; we get a lot of people coming back for follow- up training – some for their fourth year.
Teaching people how to understand the modern technology within their vehicles – ABS and ESC (Electronic Stability Control) – and how crucial it is in the event of an emergency is an important part of the programme,” says Waite.
“We then do exercises to put the learning into practice. Our focus is on upskilling drivers to learn what their cars are capable of, which helps them gain confidence.”
Local police support
Detective Matt Jones, Area Health and Safety Representative for the Queenstown Police, has seen the benefits of the programme, creating safer drivers in his team.
“We know more than most the heart-breaking consequences of people not having the correct skills to drive to the conditions on NZ roads. Having put several of the team through the winter drive programme at Highlands, we are confident that this programme is upskilling drivers to be able to drive to the conditions, in turn making our drivers safer.”
“Our team enjoyed the day immensely as well – they were impressed with the delivery of the training and the knowledge and expertise. We’d highly support this programme.”
The programme launched four years ago and so far has helped 1500 people improve their driving capability. The results benefit the community collectively with an ever-increasing number of more experienced drivers on our roads.
For participants who have completed the Winter Drive Experience, the team at Highlands can design personalised training for those wanting to learn more advanced skills. Bespoke training can also be created to suit the needs of particular groups.
“As health and safety has become much more important in the workplace, it is imperative that businesses who provide their staff with vehicles that are essentially a place of work ensure their staff are trained to operate vehicles in all conditions,” says Spillane.
The Winter Drive Experience offers businesses an innovative means to upskill staff, create rapport, meet health and safety requirements and equip staff with invaluable knowledge.
The driver programmes act as a catalyst for making NZ’s roads a safer place for us all.
To build on their success, Highlands is now working on its vision for a Tourist Driver Programme to give visiting drivers the same hands-on practical training on how to drive to survive on NZ roads.