Bridgestone South Africa

Bridgestone Young Driver Initiative gathers speed

Aug 21, 2013
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Tyre maker Bridgestone's initiative to expose young drivers to safer driving is gathering speed. Since the start of the Bridgestone Simulator Experience in July 2013, more than 110 schoolchildren of driving age have had the opportunity to take the wheel and get a taste of the real world of driving. For almost half, it was their first experience of driving at all, and even those raised on a diet of racing games soon realised that surviving on the roads is a far cry from setting killer lap times on the console.

"For years, Bridgestone has brainstormed ways to make a real difference to the driving skills of young drivers," said Bridgestone PR Manager, Mandy Lovell. "The problem was how? We didn't want to just preach and hand out pamphlets. We wanted to actively change mindsets, but that is difficult without sending children to a driver training centre, which isn't always practical," she said. "The obstacles seemed insurmountable."

The solution came when Bridgestone's driver training provider, driving.co.za, proposed combining their recently-acquired truck driving simulators with their proven self-study defensive driving course. The simulators reproduce a generic truck cab, with detailed graphics and audio. Unlike most other commercially-available driving simulators, they also include a motion platform which reproduces the sensations of vehicle movement.

"At first, we weren't sure whether a truck simulator would be the right way to go, but then we drove it and were hooked," Lovell commented. "Many schoolkids have driven a car; very few have driven a truck, so it's almost sure to be a new experience for most."

Currently limited to Gauteng only, the simulator is mounted on the back of a Hyundai H100 vehicle and is fully self-contained, right down to a generator. "Learners get the same experience whether we're at a rural farm school or a private school in the city," Lovell explained.

Driving.co.za MD, Rob Handfield - Jones, said that the focus was on improving road safety knowledge by tailoring each session to the learner. "We configure the vehicle, controls and route to match the learner's driving experience; and each learner gets a ten to 15-minute drive. For learners who can already drive, our trainer running the session will give valuable defensive driving hints and tips," he explained. "For novice drivers, we address more basic skills, like how to move off safely and steer," he added.

The simulator monitors driving errors and produces a printout which is given to each learner at the end of the drive, along with a self-study defensive driving course pack to help them learn the right driving habits from the word go. Lovell said the reaction so far had exceeded expectations. "The learners really love the experience and quite a few ask for a second try on different routes, or with a more advanced setup like a horse-and-trailer truck with a manual gearbox," she explained.

The programme is entirely free of charge to participating schools, with Bridgestone covering all costs. All the school needs to provide is a place to park the simulator and a plug point if possible. "We encourage schools in Gauteng to contact us and help improve awareness of safer driving among their learners of driving age," Lovell concluded.

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Bridgestone South Africa

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