- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

Professional race car driver and instructor Danny McKeever has been teaching people how to go fast around a track for more than 30 years. Ensconced at Willow Springs International Raceway about 90 miles north of Los Angeles in the high desert hills near Lancaster, Calif., Mr. McKeever makes use not only of the circuitous 2.5-mile track, but also a skid pad, an off-road course and simulated streets.

Mr. McKeever's proximity to Los Angeles means he counts Hollywood types among his charges, as well. Actors Lorenzo Lamas, Craig T. Nelson and Tim Allen turned out to be some of the best drivers he ever coached.

Mr. McKeever also teaches a "Highway Survival" course. "It's about how to stay out of situations and how to react from knowledge," he says.

Mr. McKeever doesn't teach just experienced drivers who want to become better. He has also taught those who haven't received their licenses.

"One young girl was scared of left turns (because of oncoming traffic)," he said. Rather than force the issue, Mr. McKeever told her to make all right-hand turns until she got comfortable and confident enough to try a left-hand turn.

Here are some of the key points of the McKeever survival technique for driving on our nation's highways:

• Look far enough ahead to anticipate problems. A problem seen in advance can be solved. A problem "in your face" can spell disaster.

By this, Mr. McKeever means that you shouldn't look at the car right in front of you, but through that driver's windshield to see what is ahead. If you are following a vehicle you can't see through or around, such as a truck or a large sport utility vehicle, drop back until you can pass, then pass quickly. And if you are on a freeway, it's good to be in a lane where you can take evasive action on the shoulder if need be.

• Hold the wheel at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. Your hold on the wheel should be firm but not tight, to avoid becoming tired. A light, firm hold on the wheel will also give you a feel for the road beneath your tires. "Ultimately, we are tire managers," Mr. McKeever says.

• On mountainous or winding roads, expect anything around the corner. Don't make any assumptions about what you cannot see.

This would seem to be stating the obvious, but it isn't. Particularly if you are an aggressive driver, the tendency is to assume that the road ahead is clear and that you can zip around corners. This doesn't mean we should drive timidly, but a cautious thought in the back of one's mind might not hurt now and again.

• People do run stop signs.

Most people who go through a stop sign are just careless. The point is to watch them stop at a four-way stop. The same goes for a driver signaling a left turn. They may have their signal on inadvertently. Wait for them to actually begin a left turn before pulling in front of them.

• Don't compete on the streets.

If someone cuts you off, forget it. Sure, it's infuriating, but if it makes you two seconds late, who cares?

"You can't go into the office and say, 'I won.' But if you have an accident, you sure can lose," Mr. McKeever says.


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