(JARI = Japan Automobile Research Institute)
Japan is the second largest producer of cars after the USA and also the second largest domestic user, again less than the USA. Therefore, there is an emphasis on safety concerns in car making as well as driving. That's also why getting a Japanese driving license is just like a little battle here in Japan.
When I first read the article "A Valuable Driving Lesson" by Shaney Crawford I decided to take the course she mentioned. Actually I had been looking for this type of opportunity from the beginning of my stay in Japan. I really did not want to miss this great opportunity to get valuable safety driving lessons from JARI (Japan Automobile Research Institute). Shaney was kind enough to introduce me to the people of JARI.
The safe driving program is only hosted once a year (usually at the end of May or early June) and the number of participants is limited. This year, there were 18 people including professional drivers, automobile engineers, a Ferrari sports car driver, etc. I felt like an inexperienced driver even though I got my first driving license in 1984. To tell you the truth, I was really a little bit scared and felt uncomfortable among the expert drivers. However, very soon I felt better and got more confidence after some practical, valuable technical lessons. I will not go through all the lessons as Shaney already described them in her article.
All lessons were taught by the seasoned---and highly patient---instructors who are professional safe driving teachers and researchers from JARI. The first thing I want to tell you is not to let your children play around the car. According to Japan's child fatality records, it has been shown that most accidents occurred near the house and most of the children were killed due to the negligence of their fathers or mothers. Before parking and going out always check around your car. The JARI staff demonstrated that even six-year-old children might not be visible from the rear view mirror of the car. There are many hidden sides that we cannot see from inside the car.
Another lesson taught during the program involves learning how to handle a vehicle under icy driving conditions. The institute has special vehicles on hand that are rigged with equipment that can simulate, at a touch of the controls by the instructor, what happens when you encounter ice while driving. This part of class is great fun and provides valuable insights into icy conditions.
The reaction by participants has been overwhelmingly positive. These lessons renew your sense of confidence, they are fun, and they promote safety behind the wheel of a car. The event does indeed make getting there half the fun again. I left JARI with an increased sense of comfort behind the wheel, and that can translate into better driving.
Lastly, I am telling you that next time I will buy a car with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System). If I did not participate in these lessons I might not know the difference between cars with ABS and without ABS. From the practical lessons I am now confident about what to do in critical situations like icy, slippery conditions, emergency braking, etc.
So, fellows, if you will be here at least one more year from now, you have a valid license for driving in Japan, and you would like a Japanese driving lesson, why not take this class? The safe driving program is educational, but it's also fun.
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