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SKIING... Whistler Blackcomb Snow School

June 2006 Newsletter
*Most Wrecks Are Avoidable

One of my colleagues at the Skip Barber Racing School was

prone to flatly stating that 100% of motor vehicle crashes

are avoidable. In a sense he was correct. A skillful

driver, paying attention, in a well maintained car, should

be able to stay out of trouble. This same instructor did

manage to prang an M3 BMW while doing a smoky powerslide

for the cameras. He probably should have resisted waving at

the crowd and kept both hands on the wheel.

The moral of the story is that cheap shallow showing-off is

great fun if all goes well.

Realistically, given the advanced safety features and

handling of today's cars, there should be no more than a

handful of collisions in this country per year. That people

are killed and maimed on our streets and highways in large

numbers is anything but an accident. As simplistic as it

sounds, we need to pay much more attention to driving than

is currently the case.

Occasionally, when a student is doing well on the skid pad,

I will turn on the car radio. As a training tactic, this

tends to work best with the young and cool, who seem to

assume that a vehicle cannot be moved without the stereo

blasting. Inevitably the result is a series of spins. Loud

music in a vehicle is bound to hurt your driving skills. If

it helped, we would be playing tunes in racing cars. Imagine

that as an excuse. "Dude, I don't know what happened. I must

have missed turn two, but the Grateful Dead were awesome."

Beyond music, we have to deal with distractions like

cellular phones, faxes, notepaper, and passengers. As a

first step towards driving better, try to avoid turning for

that meaningful eye contact with the front seat passenger.

It feels weird, but will help you understand where a

driver's focus should be.


*The Koreans Are Here

Japanese vehicles won all ten categories in the year's best

car ratings, as picked by Consumer Reports magazine. No big

surprise there. In the mid-nineties I did a few Auto Show

reports for a local television station. At one of these

events, the Toyota stand was beside those of Lincoln and

Cadillac. Even from a distance, it was easy to see that the

base Corolla was built to a higher quality standard than the

two luxury models. That doesn't make the domestic brands bad

cars, but JD Power surveys notwithstanding, they still have

ground to make up.

Now we have the Koreans emerging as truly world class

competitors. I was involved with Samsung when they looked

at building cars. The company's capabilities were obvious,

even though they chose not to go ahead with the project. An

added factor is that many Koreans don't much care for the

Japanese, and would love to outdo them in the marketplace.

Anyone who remembers the early Hyundais and Daewoos, (the

latter rebadged by GM as the Pontiac LeMans)  will be

astonished at how they have grown up. When people ask me

for a car recommendation these days, I suggest they at

least take a look at Kia and Hyundai, which are sister

companies. Something like a Kia Spectra 5 offers value for

money, decent dynamics, and a conspicuous absence of that

penalty box feeling, allied with a great warranty.

A couple of classes upwards, the Hyundai Sonata is worth a

look. No, I don't own one, and there are many other great

cars on the market. Vehicles are a matter of personal

preference, but when dealing with the pocketbook, it is not

a bad idea to look past old stereotypes and prejudices.


*The Beckham Code

The story goes that clever thieves have relieved

international football star David Beckham of a couple of

fancy cars. Many of today's high-end vehicles have done

away with the ignition key in favour of a remote, which

communicates with the car when the owner approaches.

Presumably this causes the vehicle's computer to unlock the

doors, start the air conditioning, and produce caviar on

toast for all passengers.

The fly in the fish eggs, apparently, is that skilled

electronics geeks can build machines to read the code as

well. All that is required is that they are standing in the

vicinity when the owner is near the vehicle. That would make

it easy to steal the car at a later date.

I don't know if this is true. It could be an

alligators-in-the-sewer story, one more urban legend in the

making. Kind of fun, though. The brave new world of

technology is far from flawless, as any home computer user

can attest.


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