This morning I discovered one of the benefits of racing. Racing drivers develop quick reflexes. Reacting quickly saves lives.
I race karts socially. They’re not particularly fast, just 160cc single cylinder no-gear karts at my local indoor kart track. There is a karting league at the track, and I’ve been part of a team there for just over a year.
On the kart track, when a driver spins just in front of me, I react without even thinking. Avoiding the accident has become instinctive. Sometimes it’s impossible, but most of the time, the reflexes I’ve developed will keep me out of trouble. Reflexes are also useful for kart control. If the kart slides, I have to react quickly enough to control the slide, otherwise I will spin. This has also become natural, and I’ve reached the point where I can use the slide to my benefit. Until this morning, however, I did not really appreciate how significant karting has been in improving my reflexes while driving on the road.
While on my way to work this morning, driving in traffic, a man ran in front of my car. He was just going for his morning jog, and decided not to wait for a few cars about to cross an intersection. Avoiding him should have been easy, except that there was an SUV on my right and slightly in front of me that blocked my view of the runner. As a result, I only saw the man when he was probably about 10 metres in front of my car. I was doing about 30 km/h, no great speed, but enough to potentially do him some quite serious harm.
As it turned out, I saw him, braked, just missed him, and carried on driving. He carried on running quite serenely as though nothing had happened. But I was left to wonder what could have happened if I had been just a little distracted, just a little slower to react, just a little less sure of what to do.
The conclusion I have come to is that my amateur, social racing experience probably saved that man’s life, or at least prevented serious injury. I was fully focused on my driving, and was able to calmly and confidently take the correct action for the situation with no hesitation. Without the experience I have on the race track, I’m not sure that I would have been able to do so.