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BusinessCar Office Blog: 5 June 2009 - As safe as Mercedes

Date: 05 June 2009   |   Author: Tristan Young

There are a lot of driver training courses available and BusinessCar has experienced a few in its time. And at first glance Mercedes joint venture with driver training and risk management firm Ultimate Car Control, run by 1980s and 90s touring car ace Rob Gravett, looks much the same as all the rest.

However, this being Mercedes it needs to be one better.

The one-day course is being offered to Mercedes' business customers to help provide a more compete package than just a company car.

Half of the day is spent in the classroom learning about driving and road safety. The difference here is the instructors. Most road safety courses are a touch preachy. The Ultimate Car Control team make the experience fun and interesting for all, no matter what the driver's level of experience Importantly, they tell you why you're supposed to be doing something. And as the safety gurus will tell you, if you don't get at the thinking and attitude of a driver (and indeed the company) then none of the skills you are taught will worth anything.

And the afternoon is skills based.

First up is an on-road eco-driving lesson, which cleverly teaches the basics of getting a higher mpg. But it's the track-based work that teaches you life-saving skills.

The aim of the exercise is to not so much how to avoid an accident, but when it has all gone wrong (and that may not be your fault), show you that there are still things you can do to at least minimise any impact and therefore possibly saving you and your passenger's lives.

The system taught doesn't rely on any clever technology either, it simply teaches and hopefully imprints some very basic skills.

However, I say basic, but modern cars actively encourage bad habits such as making it possible to brake (heavily) and still turn. If you've ever been on one of these demonstrations of the latest electronic anti-skid technology you'll know how capable modern cars are.

The Ultimate Car Control course offered by Mercedes shows how much the driver can do to help him or herself, with or without electronic driver aids.

The principle being to (a) get the car straight, (b) brake very hard, and (c) turn quickly. Sounds simple doesn't it? But getting the timing right takes a lot of practise.

Get it right, and you will by the end of the course, and you'll be amazed at what is still possible long after you think you've turned from driver into passenger heading toward a crash.