Atlantic Slalom 2008 spotlights hybrid &
By Gilles Francoeur
The Slalom 2008 in Edmundston, NB involved Hybrid and Eco-energy vehicles that were tested under a beautiful blue sky and just enough wind to get the racing flags up in the air. Sixteen vehicles in all, 4 from each dealer, Edmundston Honda, Edmundston Toyota, Rendez-vous Chrysler and Violette Motors (Ford) were challenged in an obstacle course.
As a driving instructor, I was the first to test the obstacle course and then each sales rep was given a short training on the rules and regulations for the course, since they were the ones to show off their vehicles. The slalom itself contained some of the new road safety changes done by the province of NB, such as the construction zone with speed bumps and a flag person, and a school bus zone. For education purposes, if a driver failed to stop for the red lights of the school bus, he would loose his fake driver’s license and had to correctly answer a safety question, live on the local community radio CFAI in order to regain his license to keep doing the obstacle course. Drivers and members of the public realized how we have a tendency of forgetting the importance of certain road safety rules.
The course started with a funnel that had only 5 inches of play at the opening and 3 inches at the exit for the vehicle to pass through, sharp 180 degree corners, a serpentine, full stop, a 5 foot in length of tennis balls cut in half, placed in a row and aligned to be approximately 1.5 inches on each side of the tire. The driver had to drive his right or left tires through the row of balls without touching them. The decision maker was an obstacle in which a driver must bring the vehicle to a full stop ahead of him, or on the spur of the moment take the right or left lane so to avoid a head on collision.
Information booths were also on site, such as vehicle maintenance, GP Transmission , and nitrogen versus air in tires. I had a booth on the “Be Tire Smart Program” and was also the spokesperson in the Atlantic region. A company called Cogerno was also on site to discuss recycling of batteries, the Edmundston Police Force had a booth on road safety, and Provincial Bandag Tire had a wonderful display of winter tires, since we are in the season of tire changes. Two out of three small mini buses were also on display for the public to visit, and I tested one of them on the obstacle course. A gentlemen by the name of Mr. Gilles Fournier collected near $80,000 in a short period of time to purchase one new bus and get the others safely repaired for our roads, then donated them to two seniors homes.
Over 250 people had a chance to speak with a sales person or different booth representative and discuss the technology, the advantage of Hybrid and Eco-energy vehicles, and the low fuel consumption of these vehicles. But mainly they were surprised by the performance and handling of these vehicles on the track.
We also had a challenge where one vehicle rep from each dealer had to participate in a flat tire change involving a member of the public to complete a team. Not knowing that we had removed the air pressure from the spare tire and another having the wrong size, the challenge showed the importance of checking the tire air pressure once a month, including the spare tire, cause you never know when you might need it. On site, a story about a collision was made up with a vehicle simulator to educate the public on drinking under the influence, and at the same time showing that improper tire inflation, speed, driver distractions, weather and much more, could have been factors to cause such a collision.
For fun and comparison we had on display a 78 Honda Civic, a 79 Toyota Corona, a 67 Dodge Coronet and we tested a 74 Dodge Charger which smoked the police vehicle at a stop sign. We gave over 200 tire pressure gauges to the public and many other prizes, including the Auto Atlantic magazine and small portable air compressors from the “Be Tire Smart’’ program.
Let’s be serious now, why a slalom of this type? Well, first of all, how many of us are ready to make a change for the environment? Reduce gas emissions? We complain daily about the price of gas, that the government doesn’t do enough to help. The automotive industry has made big changes in our vehicles, better fuel mileage, better engines and reduced gross weight. This slalom was able to inform some of us about this new technology. In reality, while we wait for some action, why don’t we get off of our drivers seat and take action ourselves; start reducing our idling, drive through, excessive speeds, and other bad habits that we have on our roads today. Lets start checking our tire pressure monthly, drive safe and ‘Lets save our planet together!”
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