Every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, there’s a possibility you can change your life or the lives of others…

Alexandra Straub tests out Laguna Seca's raceway.

Alexandra Straub tests out the raceway.

B.C. race car driver Cherie Storms told me she was taking an advanced driver training course to appease her father’s wishes.

She’d been putting it off since teenagedom. That said, her father is an accomplished racecar driver and a proficient motorist, so you could argue it was an inevitability.

But she had to find the desire in herself first. What followed, even she didn’t think would happen. She recently took home the championship title for the B Spec series in her Mazda2 for the 2013 race season.

She grew up in a motorsports household but it wasn’t until she actually got behind the wheel at the driving course that her mindset changed.

“I was just overwhelmed with all of the technical aspects that it takes to be a good driver,” she stated.

It’s like what my grade 12 math teacher always said, “Math is not a spectator sport.” There was even a poster on the cubicle wall to remind us.

The same thing goes for driving. (Except there’s no poster in the cubicle for that!)

We need to be an active participant, not a wallflower. Anyone who has taken advanced driving courses will know exactly what Cherie is talking about.

It’s not just about knowing how to shift gears on a manual transmission without jerking the car, or parallel parking your sedan without curbing the rims. Driving is so much more.

I understand that this mode of transportation is a necessity for many. And it’s something done out of convenience rather than love. Kind of like laundry or grouting the bathroom floor tiles.

Then again, for others, it’s a passion. Myself included.

Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca

Taking a specialized course, whether it’s a track day or a race school isn’t just for wannabe racers. It’s for everyone. And we can all learn if we have an open mind.

We read to keep our mind sharp. We walk/run/work out to keep our bodies active. We sleep to keep our bodies functioning. Why should driving be any different? Why shouldn’t we actively engage in making ourselves better drivers?

Every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, there’s a possibility you can change your life or the lives of others. We might not think too much about it, but operating a vehicle is a huge responsibility.

Poor driving habits, not shoulder checking, not using your signals, driving in the left lane when you’re not passing are minor details in the grand scheme of things, but have a large impact.

It’s never too late to refresh the basics and then pick up a few new good habits.

For example, if you look at any of the top athletes in their sport, they’re training most of the time. They’re trying to perfect their craft, even when they’re at the top of it.

I doubt Sebastian Vettel slums around in his down time, even after winning his fourth consecutive Formula1 world championship. Sure, he gets a break, but he’s constantly training to be faster and stronger.

In another interview, I chatted with Izod Indy racecar driver Simona de Silvestro. She tells me that there’s really no such thing as an “off-season.” She says she trains all year long. In fact, she trains harder when she’s not always behind the wheel of a car to prepare for the upcoming races.

If the pros do it, we should too.

Some of the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of a car has been at a driving school. Whether it was the three-day racing school at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the Skip Barber program, or a track day at the Mission Raceway with Morrisport Advanced Driving, or even a track program close to you, it’s a win-win.

If we’re all safer drivers then the chances of accidents are minimized and we can keep our vehicles dent-free longer. And avoid going through insurance claims. The few hundred dollars it takes to enrol is of infinite worth in the long run.

Contact:

Email: Alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Twitter: @CarGirlsGarage

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