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Does Knowing How to Drift Make You A Safer Driver?

Introduction

At first glance, drifting can seem reckless, unsafe, and just plain stupid. While this can be true in some cases, there are many benefits that can be translated directly to your everyday driving and help you become a safer, more controlled, and overall better driver.

A Short History of Drifting

Japan is generally accredited to the birth of mainstream drifting, when drivers racing through the twisty mountain roads would purposefully skid their car through the corners. This was furthered when the movie The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was released in 2006. Set in Japan, the movie glorifies drifting and brought a lot of popularity to the activity.

Two drifters in action
Two drifters in action

What is Drifting?

The unfamiliar reader may be wondering: What does drifting involve? How can this dangerous act improve my driving? Drifting is the art of the controlled slide. A driver will initiate a skid or slide in some way, pushing the back end of the car out farther than the front. Then he or she will stomp on the gas and steer into the turn, spinning the back tires, maintaining the slide, and causing a lot of smoke and noise in the process. The initiation of the drift can be done a few ways. The driver may just floor it and turn, and depending on the conditions, this can be enough to start a drift. Alternatively, the driver can yank on the emergency brake right before or during a turn; this breaks the rear tires loose and allows the back end of the car to swing outward. In a manual car, one can also use a method known as the clutch kick. The driver pushes the clutch, revs the car up, and drops the clutch. This causes large amounts of torque to go to the wheels all at once, and usually is enough to break traction and begin the slide.

Once the drift has been initiated, it takes great car control to maintain the slide without spinning out or straightening back out. The driver must be able to accurately modulate the throttle while at the same time using the brakes and giving adjustments to the steering wheel. While this could sound simple on paper, it is anything but. The driver has to be able to sense any imbalance in the slide and immediately make adjustments to the controls in order to counteract the problem. A light, now, should be beginning to dawn as to how this activity can be beneficial.

How Drifting Affects Everyday Driving

Drifting is all about car control. A drifter has to know how his or her car will react with the road surface, how to instantly react to outside forces, where to look, and how to recover from mistakes. A drifter has to have impeccable hand and foot coordination and confidence in a vehicle. All of these values transfer directly to everyday road driving. For example: On the road, there are obstacles of every kind, and all conditions imaginable. One day in the rain or snow, for instance, a car could lose traction on a corner. If the driver of that car was someone who had only driven their car slowly and carefully, they may stomp on the brakes, steer the wrong way, or simply hope for the best. However, if the driver of the car has drifting experience, the reaction will be second nature. The hands and feet will do what is necessary of them, modulating the throttle and brake, and steering into the turn. That is just a single example. Drifting skills can be applied to recovering from any control loss situation. In addition, drifting teaches you how hard a vehicle can be driven before it breaks traction. Drifting forces you to learn how your a car reacts in almost every situation, so you gain a heightened sense of the physics behind driving, and this helps you keep control of the vehicle and regain control when it is lost.

Example of Drifting

Not all drifting has to be, or should be for that matter, as intense as is shown in the video above. However, the video does a good job showing some of the car control and quick reflexes needed to drift.

How and Where Do I Learn How To Drift?

Practicing drifting can be difficult, as there are a few requirements necessary. Some helpful suggestions are listed in my upcoming article on learning to drift. Coming soon!

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