Four new vehicles, a Ford Focus sedan and a Ford Explorer, along with the Ford Fiesta, are being added to Day 3 class to give our students the opportunity to feel for themselves the differences between vehicles that are and aren’t equipped with ABS (anti-lock brake systems), traction control, and an electronic stability platform (ESP) (these platforms are called different things in different cars; i.e., dynamic stability control, Porsche stability management, etc). These systems all prevent skids and they all use the ABS control module, engine ECU computer, a yaw sensor and a steering angle sensor.
As anyone who has spent a week learning driving techniques at Team O’Neil knows, the vehicles that our students learn on are stripped of these systems, which are all designed to help the average driver avoid getting into a skid. As skid control is our specialty, we’ve removed these systems so that they don’t interfere with instruction. However, once most people leave our school, they do so in vehicles that include these systems. As such we think it’s important for students to understand how these systems can help them, what their limitations are, and how to adjust for those limitations, and we’re pleased to be able to offer an opportunity for students to experience a side-by-side comparison of how vehicles perform with and without these systems.
The Focus and Explorer were used as part of a project that Team O’Neil participated in to develop a loose surface tire model for driving simulation, as well as automated feedback training for driving simulators.
As Ed McNelly (third place finisher in the 2WD class at this past weekend’s Oregon Trail
Rally and Team O’Neil’s fleet manager and senior technician) and Danny Grant (who helped service Ed’s Fiesta R2 as well as Verena Mei’s Fiesta at OTR, and who is a Team O’Neil motorsports mechanic) make their way back across the country from Oregon, this seemed like an appropriate time to list some tips and suggestions for long distance driving. Here are some of our ideas as well as ones we’ve gleaned from various sources on the web, but we’re sure there are more. Feel free to share your tips with us!
- Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready! Check your tires’ tread depth and pressure. Check your oil and coolant levels. A good idea would be to have your vehicle serviced a week or two prior to your trip.
- Know your route. Bring a GPS system if you have it, and have maps available too. A navigation system can help you identify where you can stop for fuel, food, restrooms, etc.
- Bring a cell phone, and don’t forget your charger!
- Have your AAA Membership card with you, and make sure your account is current. AAA Plus offers better towing (up to 100 miles free) as well as free fuel service and other benefits that the basic membership doesn’t offer.
- Have cash on hand as well as debit or credit cards. If you’re driving across country, chances are good that you’ll pass through a few toll booths along the way.
- Be sure to have an emergency kit on hand – including things like jumper cables, emergency triangles, flat tire kits, flashlights, and windshield-wiper fluid. Some basic hand tools might come in handy as well on a long trip. Don’t forget to pack gloves (even if it’s warm, work gloves can be really helpful to have on hand), as well as outerwear to deal with whatever weather you might encounter on your trip.
- Listen to music! We’d recommend against anything too soothing or mellow, because you don’t want music that is going to put you to sleep. This is your chance to unlock your inner rock star or pop diva – play something that will keep you awake and singing along! Bring your MP3 player, CDs, or whatever other music player you might have for those times when there are no radio stations for you to listen to.
- But, if you’re passing through areas with thick traffic or when you need to be paying attention, we recommend turning the music down, or off altogether. Your ability to stay focused on the road is the key to safely arriving at your destination.
- Bring snacks and drinks, but be sure you don’t get distracted trying to open them while driving. Lighter fare is better than heavier foods when you’re driving, as the latter will tend to make you drowsy. Your best bet is to use hunger as a good excuse to pull over and take a break, and give yourself some time to actually eat while not also trying to pay attention to the road.
- Take breaks! Try stopping every 2-3 hours to use the rest room, get something to eat or drink, and just to get out of your vehicle and stretch… When you do stop, be sure to do so in a safe place, where there are lots of other vehicles and/or you’re under the lights when you stop at night.
- Listen to your body. If you’re tired, if you’re drowsy, if you’re uncomfortable, just take a break, and find a safe place to maybe even take a nap. You’re a lot better off taking some time for rest than getting in an accident because of fatigue later.
- Try not to stress (this will only cause other problems like heart rate and blood pressure increases), and enjoy the scenery!