20/03/2012. Reporter Graeme Hosken is put through his paces as he undergoes an advanced drivers course on a skidpan, which is being run in order to boost the driving skills of young and newly licensed motorists. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Wheels screeching as tyres lock, panic setting in as you desperately try to swerve out of the way of a young child probably no older than five who runs into the road, a sickening thud and then deafening silence followed by screams.

The nightmare of any motorist, anywhere in the world.

Reversing, I try it again and again. Emergency lane-change - the difference, I am told, between life and death.

Patiently Alicia Rich - a young driving instructor and owner of Adrenalin Driving Academy and Women ’n Wheels - tells me how to slam on brakes as hard as possible and swing the steering wheel of the car I am in.

Her objective: to get me to be able to do an emergency lane-change to avoid a potentially fatal collision.

Not difficult, I thought, just like reversing at high speed into a parking space to avoid a potential hijacker - a scenario I have personally endured.

With bravado I get into the car confident that I will be able to master the two-hour course in a matter of minutes.

How difficult can all of this be?

Surely my “lightning-quick reactions” honed on a PS3 will kick in, allowing me to avoid a young child running in front of my car as I travel down a road at 60km/h.

“So are you ready?” asks Rich, after giving me a quick demonstration.

I reply with confidence that I am more than ready and rev the engine to show my confidence.

“Right, let’s go. Let’s see what you can do, let’s see if you can really drive.”

Smiling as we pull off, I soon find myself in difficulty as I traverse the slalom - four cones placed about 10m from each other, managing to get my arms twisted as I desperately try to navigate without hitting anything.

I scrape through, literally, by the skin of my teeth, narrowly avoidina a “pedestrian”.

Gunning it towards the emergency braking cones I slam on brakes, bringing the car to a skidding halt.

“Nice,” says Alicia, “now let’s see if you can miss that child which is about to run into the road.”

Hands sweating, I race towards another four cones positioned in a block shape in an area awash with water.

“Brake and turn.”

“Brake and turn. Turn, turn, turn,” she says, as the car hopelessly slides towards the invisible child, stalling as I try to brake, change gears and control the car at the same time.

The realisation of what has happened sinks in after I “kill” the child for the third time. That momentum combined with speed and a lack of knowledge about what to do in a “real emergency” has potentially fatal consequences.

Rich says: “This is precisely what we are trying to teach young and new drivers. That driving is not just about getting into a car and driving, but about being able to keep yourself and others alive in an emergency.”

For Rich, driving is a passion passed down from her father.

“It is in my blood and it something that I want to ensure - that the drivers on South Africa’s roads really know how to drive.

“Statistics on road deaths show that the victims of road accidents are mostly young and newly licensed drivers. Our course is aimed at helping to reverse these statistics.

“Although this course is a basic advanced driving course, you will learn life-saving skills, from skid control and emergency lane-change to how to reverse at high speed from a potential threat, be it an oncoming car or a hijacker,” she said.

Crash-Proof Your Kids

Rich said the aim of the two-hour course, which is conducted in the parking lot at the Grove Shopping Centre, was to get motorists to go on the company’s more advanced driving courses.

She said the course, which is dubbed Crash-Proof Your Kids, taught a driver ABS braking techniques, over and under-steering, steering control and skid control.

“We are specifically targeting shopping malls because this is where young people come.

“This is a community initiative and it is part of our way of giving back and ensuring that those using the country’s roads are better and safer drivers,” she said. - Pretoria News