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Driving instructors are brave

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I once, not so long ago, was an avid weeknight and weekend track-time enthusiast. I spent countless hours perfecting (still working on it) the art of going fast smartly by developing and honing performance-driving techniques. In fact, I still spend time on the track and am currently getting that much closer to being signed off and getting my regional FIA racing license. 

I have driving instructors to thank for most of it; I already had the talent, of course. 

These techniques were and continue to be handed down to me by these teachers. These dedicated lovers of driving fast intelligently love their craft so much so that many volunteer their time (or trade it for track time), and graciously share their knowledge and experience. 

I have the utmost respect for them, and have even befriended a few including my good buddy Philippe Letourneau, who many of you may already know. It’s people like him that we need to thank for, in my opinion, fewer accidents (and even deaths) on the road -- and I’m not exaggerating.  

The skills, techniques, tricks, tips, and advice shared by these instructors not only come in handy on the track but can be (and are) applied to the streets. I have often said and written that all who hold a driving license should have a mandatory track day as part of the required criteria to obtain a renewal. If you’re in line to get your permit then you gotta do a track event in order to get it. 

I was therefore very saddened to read the story about the driving instructor that was tragically killed while doing his job last week. That’s the risky part of the job where driving mistakes can and do happen with potentially deadly consequences. 

I’m obviously all for track days and learning to go fast in relatively safe conditions, but perhaps the idea of selling the opportunity to drive and lap in a vehicle with near 600 horsepower to anyone is not the best approach. Perhaps, much like a learner’s permit, getting to that stage should require a two-step program. 

I suppose that if step one involves lapping a track in a Corolla, the program is not likely to make money, however, a reduced rate for step two could be the necessary motivation to get more youngsters/oldsters in a helmet and on track. If anything, step one should probably involve taking one’s personal car around a series of cones, then the Corolla on a track, and finally (as a reward) a Ferrari or Lamborghini. 

Because the vast majority of qualified driving instructor are truly devoted to their jobs, they won’t be running to Costco looking for weekend work out of fear; track time is simply too good to pass up. 

I would ask that you all consider looking into performance driving schools for your and everyone else’s safety, and do remember to follow instructions carefully. At these speeds, the line is indeed very fine between pleasure and the unthinkable.