I once drove a race car at 147.6 miles per hour to celebrate a landmark birthday a few years ago. I admit it – I have a need for speed. This need isn’t met as I drive my three boys around in my minivan everyday. That’s why I paid money for the privilege to drive it like I stole it.
I got another opportunity to drive in ways I usually don’t at the Lexus Family Safety Camp in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California last week. I slammed on the brakes, went way too fast around curves, and learned about the importance of safe driving practices, all thanks to Lexus and this informative, well-organized experience.
The first stop in my schedule was the Brake Override Station where I drove the Lexus ES 350 at 40 MPH and slammed on the brakes. Here’s the catch: I kept one foot on the accelerator and applied the brakes at the same time. This demonstrated the new Brake Override System, which “automatically reduces engine power when the brake pedal and accelerator pedal are applied simultaneously.” This feature will be standard on all Lexus vehicles by the end of the year. With Lexus, the days of driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake are over.
The Anti-Lock Braking Station was next and one of my favorite driving experiences of the day. I drove a Lexus RX 450h to 40MPH and slammed on the brakes again, but this time I was braking in a patch of sand intended to make me skid and get my car out of control. Thanks to the anti-lock brakes, I was able to steer the car to the right even though the car was skidding on the sand.
Next, I drove the same kind of car, but with the anti-lock brake system turned off. What a difference! I turned the wheel during the skid and my car kept skidding straight. In a real-life situation, I would have slammed into the car in front of me. There would have been no chance of me turning to safety.
The acronym ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System, however, I learned ABS is also known to mean “Ability to Brake and Steer” or “Allowing Braking and Steering.” What it means to me is safety when I drive a car.
My other favorite station allowed me to drive with a celebrity: Roberto Guerrero of Indy 500 fame. While he was my passenger, I tested the Vehicle Stability Control of a Lexus GX 460. I drove through a simulated patch of ice and a real-life puddle of water. Both situations caused the car to lose control, but the system “reduces the throttle and applies the brakes to individual wheels to help correct the vehicle orientation.” I could control the car even though it was skidding, slipping and sliding around on the pavement.
On my first try, I was a bit intimidated and tentative. I barely activated the system, which you know from a beeping noise as the system is engaged. It beeped only a few times. Roberto asked, “Want to try that again?” You bet! My second time I drove faster, especially as I drove through the water puddle. The system beeped loud and long, but I was able to maintain control easily and get back on course quickly.
A tip I learned from Roberto: having your hands at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position is not the safest place for driving. Driving with your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock is safer. Who knew? Not me. But now I do, and I keep my hands in this position every time I drive, ever since the event.
My final station of the morning presented the Lexus Enform System in an HS 250h. This system features Safety Connect (TM), eDestination, and Destination Assist all aimed at helping drivers in the event of an emergency and helping them find where they want to go. As with other systems found in other luxury vehicles, this feature requires a paid subscription, but for frequent travelers or realtors, it may be worth the price.
The most important station of the day discussed car-seat safety as well as safety for children in and around motor vehicles. Not only did Lexus sponsor this event for me, they invited my three boys to attend and enjoy the Kidspace Children’s Museum as I experienced the driving course. After their time in the museum, Stephanie Tombrello, founder and executive director of SafetyBeltSafe USA, sat each of my boys in a booster seat to see if they still needed one.
To my surprise, M2 (my tall, seven-year-old son) still needs a booster to help the belt sit lower on his lap to avoid injuring his internal organs in the event of an accident. Using a booster, he is raised in his seat. This allows the lap belt to sit low on his lap where it should be. Sorry, M2! Looks like you are booster-bound until further notice.
I met Janette Fennell of kidsandcars.org who taught me about the dangers of letting children play in cars, our inability to see children when we back up, and why every trunk needs a release handle on the inside. Lexus featured this content during this event to show their dedication to the safety of the people who ride in their cars, not just the people who drive them.
The safety features I experienced represent the best the automobile industry has to offer, however, I learned Lexus is never satisfied with how their cars are performing today. In the spirit of kaisen, the Japanese word for constant improvement, Lexus is constantly looking at how they can better their cars in the future. They showed us a GX 460 model cut in half with all the air bags deployed. If I am ever unfortunate enough to get in an accident, I hope I will be fortunate enough to be in a Lexus when it happens.
Not everyone can afford a Lexus with all of these incredible safety features. For someone like me who gets excited about the cruise control on my 10-year-old minivan, these features were luxurious. I worried I was compromising the safety of my family by driving a vehicle that lacks anything more than a few airbags. However, the professional drivers of Lexus taught me the best safety feature in a car is my own two eyes. They said to look out as far ahead of you as you can to see what may be ahead. Your ability to see what cars are doing in front of you can give you time to react and avoid an accident.
Want to help your teen be a better driver and have a driving lesson from Toyota? You can by attending a Toyota Driving Expectations session. These free, four hour long sessions give teens behind the wheel time as well as classroom instruction and discussion to help them become better drivers.The program requires parents to attend to better understand the challenges teens are facing behind the wheel and receive the benefit of the classes themselves.
When Eileen isn’t keeping her eyes on the road, she is working as the Chief Mom Connector here on Mom Central, writing on her own blog at calandroclan.com, and never tweeting while driving as @calandro5.