If you ever get an opportunity to take a Smith System driving course, take it.
When I started my current job almost four years ago, my employer required me to take a full-day Smith System driving class, even though my job seldom sees me more than a few feet from the computer, much less behind the wheel of a car. My vocal skepticism regarding the value of the course was noted by my supervisor, but he convinced me to keep an open mind. It turned out the course may not provide much value to my employer, but to me the value was immediate. By keeping the Smith System principles in the back of my mind, my daily commute became a more relaxed, almost enjoyable experience, allowing me to be more proactive and less reactive in my driving.
After three years, my employer considers the training expired. With the end of a fiscal year arriving — and not wanting to put my annual bonus in jeopardy — I took a Smith System refresher class a few weeks ago. The refresher course was 90 minutes of computer-based training, but the same principles were reinforced. And once again, as I almost subconsciously re-applied what I learned, my commute immediately became more pleasant.
However, the Smith System isn’t about being relaxed behind the wheel. It’s about avoiding accidents. And after almost four years, I hadn’t really experienced how well the principles work until a commute home earlier this week. After about two minutes on the freeway in moderate traffic, I was aiming high in my steering, checking my mirrors, and leaving four seconds of space between me and the car I was following — all without realizing it. Then, rather suddenly, I noticed a white pickup truck in the rear-view mirror going much faster than the rest of the traffic around me, while at the same time seeing a lot of brake lights in the traffic in front of me. By braking a bit slower, I was able to sneak into the extra space I’d created in front of me. This gave the pickup truck driver just enough time to swerve into the HOV lane and avoid hitting me, which worked out great … for me. It didn’t work out quite so great for the guy in the HOV lane at the time. His SUV got hit by the pickup truck, both vehicles missing my car by inches after the impact and suffering considerable damage. Yes, there was still a collision, but my vehicle wasn’t involved, and I believe the course had a lot to do with that.
If your employer offers Smith System training at no cost to you and you’re wondering if it’s worth eight hours of your time, trust me, it is.