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Skid Recovery and Evasive Swerve Training are Dangerous!


Research shows that what we might think logical and good is, in reality, ill-advised and potentially harmful


Article Copyright © 2011

Eddie Wren

All Rights Reserved


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Unfortunately, the terms “defensive driving” and “advanced driving” are currently open to undesirably-wide interpretation in the USA, due in part to the fact that the driver training industry here is effectively unregulated. (What IS "Advanced Driving"?)


One result of this situation is that anyone who has a driver’s license can set themselves up as a post-test driver trainer and claim that what they teach is either defensive or advanced driving, irrespective of their own knowledge level or of the extent to which their curriculum complies or fails to comply with research and best practice.


This situation is compounded by the seemingly-logical but incorrect belief that teaching drivers how to get out of a bad situation – either by means of making an evasive swerve at the last moment or of being able to get out of a skid – is beneficial in reducing crashes and their related casualties. This apparent logic, however, has repeatedly been proven by research to be incorrect, as follows:


(Note: Italics have been added for emphasis in this document and are not present in the original research.)



Research Excerpts


● Advanced training aimed at increasing the vehicle control and handling skills of experienced drivers has not been shown to be effective in crash or violation reduction terms (Christie, 2001, p.23).


●  … no-one has come up with an evaluation that shows there's a benefit to advanced skills training… gains from training may be offset by confidence and reduction of safety margins… (Lord, 2000, pp.21-23).


● [Following] a debate in Sweden, … 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).


● In an experiment, two different strategies for training have been compared with regard to their influence on estimated and actual driving skill, as well as the drivers' degree of overestimation of their own skill. One of the strategies, used in the "skill" group was to make the learner as skilled as possible in handling a braking and avoidance manoeuvre in a critical situation. The other strategy, used in the "insight" group was to make the driver aware of the fact that his own skill in braking and avoidance in critical situations may be limited and unpredictable… The "skill" group estimated their skill higher than the "insight" group. No difference was found between the groups regarding their actual skill. The results confirm the main hypothesis that the skill training strategy produces more false overestimation than the insight training strategy (Gregerson, 1996).


● In a road safety context, skid-control and emergency braking are seldom required by drivers in everyday driving… under these circumstances, a driver trained in these skills is highly unlikely to retain them… drivers quickly forget those behaviours which they do not have to use regularly. Malaterre (1989), who tested the competency of experienced drivers immediately after advanced training, concluded there was little point in training these drivers in such skills as they did not retain them (Christie, 2001, p.29).


● A word of warning: taking a course in more advanced driving skills such as emergency braking, skid control, [or] 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. (Drivers.com, 2007)


Driver training and education programs targeting the development of hazard-related skills need to target driving skills that reduce the need to respond to a hazard rather than skills involved in responding once a hazard has occurred. The behavioural responses to emergency situations are almost certainly based on automated processes that depend on experience rather than education or knowledge, … (Harrison, 2002, p.10).


● … alleged benefits [of skid pad training] rest upon the assumption that a substantial proportion of crashes are attributable to a lack of vehicle-control skills: [in other words] increased exposure to assorted manoeuvres on a skidpan will improve these skills and thus reduce accidents. However, … the evidence does not stand up to close examination: attendance at skid training programs has increased rather than reduced crash involvement (Langford, 2002, P.36).


● Naïve application of apparently straightforward logic would suggest that more skill will allow greater safety. After all, being able to avoid a crash in a 'tight situation' (a potential crash situation) may depend on emergency braking or fast, accurate steering around an obstacle, however, the data clearly disconfirms this view by indicating that driver training generally produces no safety benefit, or results in a significant disbenefit, as the following indicates. Evidence shows that in the USA the highest skilled drivers (registered race and rally car drivers) have a much higher crash rate than the average driver (Naatanen and Summala, 1976). Careful analysis of apparently successful skills training programs in reducing the road toll indicates that these programs often work when used as a prerequisite for a licence. [But] Their effectiveness lies in deterring people from getting a licence not in increasing skill and safety (Job, 1999, p.22).


● Job 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. (Job, 1999, as discussed in Submission to the Australian Parliamentary Travelsafe Committee, January 2003.)


● Driver training and driver testing badly needs to be lifted out of the arena of wishful and woolly thinking. There needs to be less reliance on opinions, including the opinion of those whose experience is long but shallow participation in the field. Development needs to be based more heavily on valid research … (Staysafe-18, 1990).


● …the gap between what is taught and what the driving task requires, taking into account the dynamic demands of traffic, the environment and the vehicle, almost guarantees that such [skill-based] education and training strategies will fail to meet their safety objectives (Drummond, 1989).


…The negative effect is found when post-licence training focuses on driving skills rather than on attitude and behaviour (NovEv, 2004). On the basis of a literature overview, it was also concluded that courses concentrating on advanced vehicle control skills like skidding should not be included in driver training for novices… On the basis of this and similar studies (e.g. Keskinen et al. 1992; Gregersen, 1996), Engström et al. (2003) concluded that risk awareness training should not focus on vehicle control and manoeuvring, as this leads to overconfidence, and instead should improve knowledge, experience and recognition of dangers… (ECMT, 2008, p135)


● 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. Rather than focusing on physical skills, insight training focuses on attitudinal-motivational skills. The aim is to raise drivers' awareness of factors that contribute to crashes and potential risks when driving… Overall [the insight training] program did not inflate the confidence of the young drivers, as found to be true of other driver-training programs... Overall, the insight-training program resulted in important road safety messages being relayed and adopted in a relatively short time period. Researchers and others involved in the field of road safety should consider the potential benefits of insight training… (Senserrick & Swinburne, 2001)


Various sources in the literature emphasise the fact that learning manoeuvring skills does not contribute to safe driving and reducing accident rates of novice drivers. There is evidence that young drivers can have superior vehicle handling skills and still have many crashes. It is suggested that teaching safe driving strategies and training recognition of hazards and of higher order skills will be promising in reaching the aim of lower accident rates with novice drivers. (Falkmer, 2000, p5)


So What Exactly IS "Advanced Driving"?




Christie, R. (2001), The effectiveness of driver training: a review of the literature, RACV, Literature Report No 01/03, Noble Park, Victoria.


Drivers.com (2007), Car control skills: how important are they? http://www.drivers.com/article/217/ (as at February 6, 2011).


Drummond, A.E. (1989), An Overview of Novice Driver Performance Issues: A Literature Review, Monash University Accident Research Centre, Melbourne.


ECMT – European Conference of Ministers of Transport (2006), Young Drivers – The Road to Safety, ISBN 92-821-1334-5.


Falkmer, T. (2000), TRAINER - System for driver Training and Assessment using Interactive Evaluation tools and Reliable methodologies, Europa, http://ec.europa.eu/transport/roadsafety_library/publications/trainer_deliverable_6_1.pdf


Gregerson, N.P. (1994)


Gregerson, N.P. (1996), Young drivers' overestimation of their own skill – an experiment on the relation between training strategy and skill. Accid Anal Prev. 1996 Mar;28(2):243-50.


Harrison, W.A. (2002), What can parrots tell us about acquiring hazard perception skills? Conference Proceedings, Developing Safer drivers and Riders, The Australian College of Road Safety, Mawson, Australian Capital Territory, p.10.


Job, R.F.S. (1990), The Application of learning theory to driving confidence: the effect of age and the impact of random breath testing, Accident Analysis and Prevention. Vol. 22 No. 2 pp. 97&endash;107.


Job, R.F.S. (1999), The Road User: The Psychology of Road safety, Safe and Mobile: Introductory Studies in Traffic Safety, Emu Press, Armidale.


Langford, J. (2002), Using the research to reduce novice driver crashes, Conference Proceedings, Developing Safer Drivers and Riders, The Australian College of Road Safety, Mawson, Australian Capital Territory, p.36.


Lord, P. (2000), Advanced blindness: Advanced driver training produces safer drivers, right? Maybe, maybe not, say the experts, Wheels Magazine, pp. 21-23.


Näätänen, R. and H. Summala, Road User Behaviour and Traffic Accidents, 1976. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co.


Saffron, D. (1982), Driver instruction: some future research directions in driver training - Steering a course for the future, Transport Regulation Board, Melbourne.


Senserrick & Swinburne (2001), Evaluation of an insight driver-training program for young drivers, Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #186 - 2001


Staysafe 18 (1990), Steering novice drivers towards safety, Parliament of New South Wales, Sydney.




Article first posted on this page on February 7, 2011


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