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I have had my license for twenty-five years. It does not mean that I have been driving for a quarter of a century though ? in fact I did my bit for the environment about eight years ago and sold my car. Yet earlier this year we purchased a company van for shared use. So from time to time, I’d take to the road in the RedBalloon Van. Some of my team members made some not so subtle suggestions that perhaps I needed to brush up on my driving skills. So I was sent on our Defensive Driving experience

So off I went to Oran Park, 55kms from Sydney (this is the longest distance I have personally driven in more than 3 years). That was an adventure in itself. In the van, you are representing the brand, so a very careful and cautious driver I was.

It was a cold winters morning but the sun was shining, our hosts Anthony and Gary looking dapper in their smart uniforms and bright smiles eagerly welcoming the 20 participants. (We were later put into two groups of 10). The day was made up of about a third classroom and two-thirds out on the track. It is a long time since I sat in a class room, but I was absolutely impressed not only with the quality of the materials, but the vivid nature of the story that unfolded. I was totally engrossed in the conversation. Some of the video presentation materials were very graphic, no crash dummies here. This is the real world. Whilst Anthony presented, Gary disappeared and came back with a report card on our cars. Now the van is pretty new so I was feeling pretty confident. No gold star for me, however. The van’s carriage barrier had been lowered and the air pressure in my tyres was too low and uneven. Note to self, check air pressure every time you fill up with petrol and make sure restraining devices are in place with no loose objects in the cabin.

Our supplier has run thousands of these days around the country ? and experience shows. I did get the feeling that there is a greater purpose to the education. That both Anthony and Gary are committed not just to the saving of lives, but the saving of time, needless bingles cost dearly in time. These guys are on a mission. About a third of our class were ‘P’ platers, what a wonderful gift for life. The printed workbook and take home handbook are first class.

Lessons learned, mirrors if correctly positioned will eliminate blind spots, we have been passing bad habits from one generation to the next. Correct seating position and where to place your hands, and what a safe distance really means. I learned many other things from where to focus on the road to anticipation.

I’d seen the TV ad that says ‘Wipe 5 off’ but doing your own speed tests at 65kph and how long it takes to stop, versus 60kph, was remarkable. As each small group of five did the exercises, the others watched, and Anthony in our case then would ask us to say what we witnessed, then his observations. You learned just as much by watching as you did by doing.

About half the class were women, and it was fun to watch their reaction to doing the driving exercises. Usually, a huge beaming smile and a sense of accomplishment came across these women’s faces. The men seemed to have more of a determined look, concentrating, focusing at the task at hand.

I’m a busy person and giving up a Saturday for my children was hard, but this experience was not only interesting, captivating and fun, there was not a wasted minute in the day. I like people who appreciate the importance of time. This was absolutely a great return on time invested. And I suggest Sydney drivers are now just one small bit safer for having me do the program than they were before.

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