When Extra Driving Courses Are a Bad Idea

This article was first posted by Eddie Wren in 2005 at the Drive and Stay Alive website & has been re-posted here on July 11, 2017, because it remains important.


For their own safety, drivers — and particularly young drivers — should not be encouraged to do crisis evasion courses or skid training. They can now be shown to cause more crashes than they will ever cure.

I was one of the lucky ones — lucky because nobody can deny that skid training is great fun.

Having said that, the training I received lasted for a total of more than a week spent on a skid pan (known as  a “skid pad” in America) during various stages of driver training to become a traffic patrol police officer in Britain.(1)

But now there is overwhelming proof that the one- and two-day courses that are widely available in emergency evasive techniques, including skid control, are not only serving no useful purpose, they are actually increasing the risk of subsequent crashes; a classic example of a little knowledge being dangerous.(8)(9)


This revelation came as quite a shock to me, as I’m sure it has to many of my former police colleagues. Having had the benefit of such extensive training ourselves we perhaps naturally believed that even a small amount of skid pan experience would be beneficial for anyone because drivers would learn more about handling a car.


The fundamental difference, however, lies in the fact that qualifying as an advanced driver and an advanced motorcyclist (for most police traffic patrol officers achieve both qualifications) in British police forces can take upwards of 600 hours and the vast majority of this overall duration is spent learning the discipline and attitude necessary for a remarkably safe standard of driving, irrespective of the high speeds at which traffic police officers often have to travel.

And that is the key to this issue: attitude training.

Even after I left the police and became a supervisory driving instructor — and later still when I was invited to become the managing director of an advanced driver training company aimed at ordinary people, so that they could learn to drive to the same, possibly unequalled safety standards as British traffic officers — I believed that an element of skid training would be beneficial for all drivers.

But I was wrong… totally wrong… and at that time so were virtually of all my colleagues and contemporaries.

But at least the truth has now emerged.

And it is simply this: Skills-based [driving] courses currently are, at best, a waste of valuable resources and, at worst, actively harmful to road safety.

Job (1999) suggests that the naive but pervasive belief that great driving skill is a critical road safety benefit persists despite the evidence to the contrary. This faith in skill has led to the waste of many road safety resources on numerous skill based driving courses and advanced skill components in courses (this does not apply to knowledge based or attitude based courses).(2)

Job’s research was used in Australia. In Sweden, one finds that: A new course syllabus for skid training was introduced on 1 July 1999. It had been preceded by several years’ work by the Swedish Road Administration and the affected organisations (TÖP, Skidcar [Federation of Swedish Skid Tracks], STR and TR [Associations of Swedish Driving Schools]). The impetus for changes in the course syllabus was provided by research results from e.g. Norway which showed a negative effect, i.e. that drivers had a greater number of accidents after completion of skid training (Glad, 1988). This gave rise to a debate in Sweden, and the National Society for Road Safety NTF took the initiative for a research programme which was carried out by VTI. This research programme resulted in proposals that a course syllabus should be formulated with the emphasis on risk awareness, anticipation in driving and recognition of the driver’s own limitations, instead of teaching the pupil how to handle the vehicle in critical situations, as in the previous course syllabus (Gregersen et al 1994)….

During the after-measurement, interviews were held with those in charge of training and instructors once every six months, when they were asked what they thought of the development work itself and the skid training. The responses reveal a definite positive trend; as time went on, people increasingly accepted the new message and the training procedure, and are of the opinion that it is without a doubt the right procedure.(3)

From the 31 countries that form the International Commission for Driver Testing (CIECA) the question is asked: Do you still teach skid control training to your participants?

Leave out highly technical, emergency reaction training (such as regaining control of a skidding car). Insufficient practice time and the potential for counterproductive effects are likely to make such exercises pointless. Trainers with years of technical handling experience should not assume that everyday road users can master such manoeuvres in a one day course and, crucially, be able to execute in a split-second at some random stage in the future. For instance, whilst emergency braking training is recommended, high speed braking and avoidance is not, unless extreme conditions mean that this type of manoeuvre is readily needed in everyday driving (e.g. Scandinavian winter).(4)

From Drivers.com, in Canada, one can read: A word of warning: taking a course in more advanced driving skills such as emergency braking, skid control, collision avoidance maneuvers may create a new risk for you. If the extra skills make you overconfident, that cancels out the advantages of having the skills in the first place. Research has indicated that drivers who take advanced skills courses have a tendency to misuse the skills and actually have a higher crash rate.

Advanced skills such as emergency braking and collision avoidance are not a substitute for good risk management.(5)

From Australia, under the heading of ‘Post-Licence Training’, one finds: Skills-based driver training and education continue to be recommended as potential road safety measures despite consistent evidence (see the review by Christie, 2001) that this approach does not result in road safety gains and may result in increases in crash risk for some drivers.

The ongoing interest in skills-based training most likely reflects a general belief that safe driving involves vehicle control skills and conscious decision-making that can be influenced by education or training. Harrison (1999) discussed the potential value of education and training given the assumptions it makes about the development of driving skill, and concluded that the likely benefits of this approach were limited to improvements in relatively basic skills relating to vehicle control.

Continued investment in this area is unwarranted given the consistency of evaluation results.(6)

And in Britain, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) state: There is evidence that driver training courses tend to concentrate on vehicle control skills and place too little emphasis on attitudes, behaviour, risk assessment, and hazard perception skills.(7)

See also: Training drivers to have the insight to avoid emergency situations, not the skills to overcome emergency situations (2014)



REFERENCES (some links are no longer available – 2017):

(1) Police Driving — the Standards and the Reasons (a DSA web page)

(2) Job R.F.S. 1999 The Road User: The Psychology of Road Safety, Chapter 2, Safe and Mobile: Introductory Studies in
Traffic Safety, J.R. Clark — as discussed in Submission to the Australian Parliamentary Travelsafe Committee, January 2003.
View that document here. See also the transcript of the enquiry of the Travelsafe Committee, dated September 23, 2003, here.

(3) Evaluation of new course syllabus for skid training, VTI rapport 472 (November 2001)

(4) Document from CIECA

(5) Article from Drivers.com

(6) Report On Review Of Novice Driver Road Safety Programs (Page 19)
Prepared for NRMA Motoring and Services
By Warren Harrison of Eastern Professional Services Pty, Ltd.
Christie, R. (2001) The Effectiveness of Driver Training as a Road Safety Measure: A Review of the Literature, Report 01/03. Melbourne: RACV

(7) Young and Novice Drivers Education, Training and Licensing; RoSPA, March 2003 (9.13)

(8) Evaluation of an insight driver-training program for young drivers, T. M. Senserrick & G. C. Swinburne (Monash Univ., Australia); 2001.
“Traditional driver-training programs that aim to improve vehicle-handling skills, including manoeuvring exercises and skid training, have tended to be relatively ineffective in reducing crashes. In fact, the introduction of skid training into driver-training programs has been found to increase certain crash types for young drivers. This has been attributed to associated increases in confidence that resulted in greater risk-taking….”

(9) Conflicting goals of skid training; Katila A, Keskinen E, Hatakka M.; Department of Psychology, Univ. of Turku, Finland.
“Efforts to make novice drivers drive more safely on slippery roads by means of special courses have mainly failed…. The exercises may give students the impression that manoeuvring skills are more important than anticipating skills. Manoeuvring exercises also increase their self-confidence and may lead to underestimation of the risks involved, resulting in e.g. driving at higher speed.”

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor — Advanced Drivers of North America