Simulator dents over-confidence

23:24, May 28 2014
natasha thyne
STEER CLEAR: Herald reporter Natasha Thyne drives past a rural road obstable while in the driving simulator.

Much like Rain Man, I consider myself to be "an excellent driver".

However, if my half hour on the driving simulator is anything to go by that may not be the case.

To put it bluntly, I crashed and probably killed not only myself - twice - but also an innocent yet slightly idiotic driver who cut in front of me.

The driving simulator is run by South Canterbury Road Safety and aims to give information on how to maximise safety on the road.

It is a make-shift car - like a racing car game at Time Zone - with a seat, steering wheel and gear-stick set up in front of three television screens showing various driving scenarios.

Not to sound cocky, but I was feeling pretty confident (I did, after all, get 99 per cent in the restricted driving test).


But I was quickly brought down a few notches.

My first exercise in the half-hour session behind the wheel was to familiarise myself with the simulator. Putting my foot down, I did my best Niki Lauda, and went as fast as I could, 80, 100, 120, 140, 160. The road was a blur.

Tyres began to swerve. All control was lost and, crash. I was hard up against the barrier. Dead as a doughnut.

Then road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude took me through breaking and how it varies on dry, wet and icy roads.

The "only a fool breaks a two-second rule" was already drummed into me by my driving instructor but the lesson was invaluable as it made very clear how important quick reaction and breaking in time is.

Next was the driving assessment. Testing how well I coped with hazards on a country road.

Basically, every car or person I passed was going to be a nutter.

I correctly indicated while passing, slowed down to appropriate speeds when needed and even made use of the horn when a man nonchalantly strolled in front of my path.

Everything went downhill during the final obstacle. As a car turned in front of me, failing to slow down or swerve I collided full on into it.

Overall I found the driving simulator harder than driving a normal car as it is not the same sensory feeling, but I took away some points to think about every day.

It would be fantastic for learner drivers or anyone needing to freshen up on their road rules.

But those of us who suffer from motion sickness will not fare well.

Book a time in the driving simulator by going to the South Canterbury Road Safety website:

Drivers need at least a learner licence and to have gained basic handling skills.

This service is free to all South Canterbury Residents.

The Timaru Herald