Car skid training (“halkbanan” in Swedish) is a mandatory 3-hour long course you must attend and successfully complete prior to taking your written- and driving test! One of the most fun and scary adventures I have ever embarked on, but more about that in a minute!
I want to start this blog post off by saying that I already have my American license. 5 years ago I studied the laws and regulations for a few days, practiced driving an automatic car for a few weeks, took the written test and then the driving test and BAM! I had my license. Easy!
After 4 or so years of driving through the busy city of Atlanta (and down to Florida a few times) I gained a decent amount of experience. Every day at least one person almost hit me due to them driving too fast, not looking, not using blinkers, going the wrong way – you know, the typical things that make you scratch your head in confusion, but thanks to always expecting something to go wrong on the road or for someone to not follow laws I avoided every one of those accidents.
But even then I was nowhere near perfect; I was unclear on many rules and on what to do if I hydroplaned or started to skid on ice, to name a few things.
A year after I started driving, I was heading to work on a busy 7 lane highway and the air from a school bus on my right pushed me out of my lane and in trying to get back in I began to hydroplane. First I began to swerve and then lost total control of the car to violent spinning that carried me all the way from the left side of the highway to the far right and then back again and straight into the median. As I saw the median flying toward me only one thought crossed my mind: “This is it… There is a very big change that I am going to die. I’m not sure if I’ll wake up at the hospital or if this will be my last memory, but I hope that I either survive this with my brain intact or that I don’t wake up at all.” Right after that I blacked out (didn’t even realize that the airbag inflated) and woke up to witness that the impact had propelled me right back onto the highway as if the median were made of rubber and after traveling across another couple of lanes I finally gained control of my car and parked it on the side of the road.
Clouds of smoke emerged from the vehicle, so my first reaction was to gather only my most important possessions and leave the car as quickly as possible. The door on the driver’s side could barely open, but somehow I squeezed through. As soon as my feet touched the asphalt it hit me – I was alive and somehow the traffic avoided me. Shortly after that I collapsed onto the trunk of my car.
To this day I cannot wrap my head around how I made it out in one piece. I was very lucky… The doctor I went to see afterwards due to a non-functioning right arm said I was lucky to be alive and when I sent my boss at the time a picture of my car with its engine that was rendered to a right angle flipped and said that I should be dead. To this day I still wonder what it is that I am meant to do in life that kept me here. My first reaction was, “I guess I am not done here!” but most of all I realized that after obtaining an American license I was nowhere near ready to drive. If I wasn’t, then is anyone really?
The process I am having to go through in Sweden to get my license reminded me of that occurrence, especially considering that the accident happened exactly 4 years before yesterday when I attended car skid training – a mandatory 3 hour long course during which you drive a car across slippery surfaces at high speeds and experience what happens, and then try to learn how to gain control of the vehicle again. In addition to that, you learn at which speeds you really can navigate around slippery turns, avoid obstacles and stay in control of the vehicle.
You have to keep the speed they say at all times which is scary, because you KNOW you’re going way too fast to handle the circumstances. There are some ways to try to gain control of a car when it’s skidding – let go of the accelerator, don’t slam on the breaks, and lightly steer in the direction toward which you want to drive, but at some speeds even that won’t help. So then why do people drive that fast on public roads when it’s obvious that it’s a stupid idea?
It was a fun, but extremely sobering experience realizing that a difference of a mere 5 km/h in speed can mean the difference between life or death!
If time permits you can even sit in a car and see what it feels like to flip over and learn how to get out of your seat belt since seat belts are designed to lock if you’re upside down – a safety feature that could prove not so safe is the car is in danger of catching on fire. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for that, but I’m still going to post a picture, because it’s so cool. Halkbanan – scaring people into driving right since 1969:
All that said, obtaining a Swedish license is an amazing experience, but it is difficult – far more difficult than I expected. To top it off, I have had to work on getting the whole thing over the course of about a month due to it being a condition that employment with Fritidsresor was contingent upon. Normally it takes way longer than that, especially considering that I have had to learn how to drive a manual well enough to pass the extremely strict driving test on April 14 (and how to drive it in the most eco-friendly way possible as well), but so far so good! 🙂 I feel like I was meant to drive manual cars, they are AMAZING! In addition, there were so many rules I never learned due to the limited knowledge required to get an American license (at least in the area I lived in), so even though I considered myself a decent driver overseas I feel like for the first time in my life, I am learning how to drive!
More on the whole process in a different post – perhaps some of you may find it all interesting!
Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday! 🙂
P.S. Whether or not they’re reading this, I want to give a huge thanks to my American friend Candace and my dad for what they did following my car accident. Candace came and picked me up, took me to emergency care, helped me figure out where the heck they took my car (and drove me all the way out there), kept me company while I stayed up that entire night studying for a Microbiology test, took me to school so I could take that test (with a non-functioning right arm, haha, to this day I still find that funny), and stayed with me a while longer to help me out. My dad also drove all the way down to Georgia from North Carolina after work when he found out what had happened.
I love you guys! ❤
As for you others – please drive safely! Do not overestimate your abilities in traffic. You may think you are a good driver (and you very well may be), but if you hydroplane or slip at a high speed, then it is very likely you will not be able to gain control of the vehicle before it’s too late. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else, because even if you and those around you somehow make it out alive, the shock can lead your sympathetic nervous system to stay excited for a very long time regardless of whether you are stressed out or relaxed, thus causing a mass of other stress-related symptoms that are hard to get rid of and a higher likelihood of developing certain diseases further down the road! Don’t do it!