If you follow Stuff on Twitter, you might already know that last night Volkswagen announced its new night driving safety course – Night School. The event was held at the Zwartkops Raceway in Centurion, Pretoria where the night school course will be conducted alongside VW’s other advanced driving courses.
The new course contains lessons that are reinforced with practical demonstrations and exercises on and off the track. This combination not only improves the participants’ knowledge of what to do in emergency situations but also their understanding of why vehicles behave the way they do and how to react properly.
How to be safe at night
As you might’ve guessed from the name, the course focuses on driving at night when visibility is low because, according to statistics from the Road Traffic Management Corporation, over half of South Africa’s 12,436 road fatalities in 2022 happened at night. However, many of the course’s lessons and exercises can be applied to driving at any time.
At the event, we had a small taste of some of the lessons that make up the course’s curriculum. Instead of feeding us tequila shots to demonstrate the dangers of driving under the influence, an obstacle course was set up and we were given ‘drunk goggles’ to simulate the effects of too many drinks. Walking through the course wearing the goggles was hard enough so it was just as well the cars were kept at a distance.
Other topics covered in the full course’s curriculum include a night driving awareness lecture, correct and incorrect seating positions, understanding the various safety systems most modern vehicles are equipped with, and a bit about hijack prevention with a demonstration.
Putting theory into practice
But you won’t be listening to someone talk for six hours, the practical elements of VW’s night school complement the lessons and lectures rather well. The knowledge of inertia (the faster you’re driving, the longer it’ll take you to stop) makes sense in theory, but seeing a car going 160km/h take over 100 metres to a full stop hits different. And that was in a favourable scenario with one of VW’s performance cars, your stock Polo will take longer.
Listening to someone talk and watching someone else drive are great and all, but actually getting to do it yourself is where the real value lies. For this course, an instructor will take you through a series of advanced driving exercises, explaining what you’ll need to do and what’s happening with the vehicle during the exercise. Then you’ll get to have a go.
The aim here is to build muscle memory for the physical actions you’ll need to take when performing evasive manoeuvres like swerving to miss livestock and not overcorrecting. At the event, we went through three of these exercises; slalom driving between cones, and performing an emergency lane change with and without engaging support systems like ABS and ESC, Anti-lock Braking System and Electronic Stability Control respectively. If you’ve never had to do these manoeuvres before, getting to do them in a controlled environment can make all the difference.
VW Night School opens soon
But I don’t drive a VW, we hear you say. That won’t be a problem because VW will provide you with one of their vehicles for the course. We’re also told they have a variety of vehicles available and will try to provide a VW equivalent of what you usually drive so that you won’t have to do the course in a Polo and then go back to driving your Ranger and feel lost.
The full course costs R3,500 and is open for public registration from 01 November, just as South Africa enters its busiest season. Like the event, it will take place at Zwartkops Raceway in Centurion and last for around six hours – from 15h00 to 21h00. If you can’t make it in person, VW says it will make the curriculum available online for free and that it plans to bring the full course, including the on-track section, to more provinces in the future.