As Jen mentioned, I am working towards getting a Swedish drivers license. I might go into a weird amount of detail on this post because Jen’s dad is a drivers ed instructor and will enjoy reading this …
The process basically consists of 4 parts. Part 1 is called Risk 1, and it is a classroom training on all the terrible things that happen on the road with a car. I was scheduled for a Risk 1 class, but work got in the way. Part 2 is a classroom plus in-the-car training on a closed course. I completed this earlier in the week and will talk about it here. Part 3 is a written exam. Part 4 is a driving exam.
So, Risk 2. I was scheduled into a timeslot at the driving site, and it turns out I was in a group of 4. Me and 3 Swedish teens who were getting their licenses for the first time. Before I get into the experience, I have to share this bit. The instructor realised that I do not speak Swedish, and said “ok, today is in swenglish!” (the sort of hybrid of the two that is often spoken). The whole session, the teens all spoke Swedish to the instructor and each other. The instructor spoke English to me.
Here’s how it worked. A short classroom session where the plan for the day was explained. Then, we went to a large room that had a bunch of simulators in it. One was a sled with car seats on it. You buckled in and then slid down a ramp to an abrupt stop at the bottom. It was pretty uncomfortable, but only hit at about 7kph. Then there was a whole car on a rotation contraption. All 4 of us got in, buckled up, and then the car was rotated 90deg to the side. So, one side of the car is lying on the doors, and the other 2 are sagging in the seatbelts. Then the car goes 180deg upside down, and it is NOT fun to hang upside down in a seatbelt! Then you keep going to the other side, and then finally back upright. Made me very sure that I did not want to roll a car! There were a number of other physical demonstrations to make you really feel the impact of an accident.
After the simulation room, we went out on the course. All the cars were Nissan Leafs. We had a number of experiences in the car driving around in low grip situations. The low grip was made by the concrete being painted with a smooth epoxy, and then basically constantly wetted with water to make it really slippery. Here are some pics of the course. These are all I got as the instructor chastised me every time my phone was out.
There were some interesting features of the course. There were yellow rubber posts that the instructor could pop up out of the ground that you had to avoid (to simulate an accident). Another trick they did (and did not tell you about until afterwards) is that they had 2 cars with winter tires in the front and summer tires in the back, and 2 cars with the set up reversed. And you went fast around the slippery corner in both. One you spun out like crazy (I did a full 180) – the winter tires in the front. The other you just understeered like crazy. There were braking distance drills at different speeds. Interesting stuff.
It took a long time to safely get thru all the drills for all 4 of us, including car swaps. And then we headed back into the classroom for debrief and the last thing was to pair up and do a little thought exercise. I looked at my teen partner, and started to stammer about speaking Swedish and she just started speaking perfectly good English. Turns out, all the teens spoke English just fine. Jerks. 😉
I have been driving for over 35 years, but I learned some new things on this outing. I cannot believe that the US does not have this level of training. Esp. in places like Minnesota where it is frequently bad driving conditions. This was a super good session, and gives new drivers practical, controlled experience on what to do and how to handle a car. And super-concrete experiences of why it matters to slow down and not take too much risk.