Even on dull days, the shadows cast by a highway over-bridge is an excellent marker with which to check that your following distance is adequate.

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Using Racing Drivers to Teach Safe Driving can be a Bad Mistake!


It may seem very logical that race drivers are "the most skilled drivers in the world" but this creates serious problems


Article Copyright © 2011

Eddie Wren

All Rights Reserved


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It is a common belief that because young people look up to their sporting idols it will be both exciting and beneficial for teens to learn about safe driving from race drivers but, beyond getting the youths' attention, this is a highly-questionable approach.  Similarly, experienced drivers doing defensive driving courses have nothing to gain even from learning "evasive" driving skills or from skid pad training, and the research-proven reasons for this are outlined below.


For now, imagine that you are taking your family on vacation to Hawaii or some other wonderful destination. You are on an immaculate Boeing 777 and are being pushed back from the gate at Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles or wherever when the pilot's voice comes over the loudspeakers and he says:


"Hi, folks. Welcome to United 123 to Honolulu. My name is Johnny Rocket and I'm your captain for this flight. Actually, I'm a fighter pilot but I thought I'd try this today!"


It is probably fair to say that there would likely be some concern among the passengers if the pilot really did say this!


But aren't fighter pilots some of the most skilled pilots in the air?

Yes, of course, but it is not the right skill set to be flying a very different vehicle in the "public" air lanes.


Aren't fighter pilots incredibly clever at what they do?

Yes, of course, but for them to be flying commercial planes they have not only the wrong skill-set, but also the wrong mind-set! If they want to become airline pilots after leaving the military, it is necessary for them to re-train completely.


No doubt, some people will say this is an unfair comparison, but in real-life terms it is arguably very appropriate indeed.


No matter how good race drivers are at racing, research in the USA has shown that they have more crashes than the average driver when driving on regular, public roads. (See the research excerpt from Naatanen and Summala in the adjacent side-bar). How does this qualify them to teach you or – perhaps more frighteningly – to teach your son or your daughter about safe driving?


Similarly, several research programs have now shown that teaching any driver specific, higher-level driving skills is at best a waste of time and, at worst, actually encourages over-confidence which in turn can cause crashes.



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, as cited by Job, R.F.S. (1999),

The Road User: The Psychology of Road safety, Safe and Mobile: Introductory Studies in Traffic Safety, p.22, Emu Press, Armidale.)


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. [But] 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 [of ability] than the insight training strategy.

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.


Click on this link for more research results showing why "skills" training can actually be a bad thing.



Eddie Wren, chief instructor at Advanced Drivers of America, says: "The problem is that the physical aspects of driving are relatively simple. Other than people who are very apprehensive (and there's nothing wrong with that!), virtually anybody can quite quickly learn the basics of starting a car, moving off, making turns and stopping. One might even go so far as to suggest that a well-trained chimpanzee could probably be taught to start a car, move it across – say – an empty parking lot, stop it again, and turn the engine off!


"The problem – and the root of most car crashes – lies in the fact that even though the physical act of driving a car is comparatively very easy, it is a vastly more complex matter to consistently drive a vehicle safely, on busy, or narrow, or twisty, or badly-designed roads; in various weather conditions that can radically affect not only the grip of the tires (the "coefficient of friction") but also the visibility; with due regard to the engineering and inherent un/safety of the vehicle in question; allowing for the actions of all other road users and the presence of other random hazards such as animals; and – finally – one must also take into account the personality, the knowledge-level, the alertness and the state-of-mind of the actual driver. One of the major dangers is complacency!"


Around the world, various surveys of drivers' attitudes have allegedly come produced very similar results. Apparently, around 90 percent of drivers consider themselves to be anywhere from "above average" to "excellent" as drivers but – as statisticians might say – above 90 percent being "above average" is a mathematical improbability.


Next, we come to actual driving techniques.


There is a well-known and well-founded belief in driver training which says that "as you drive, so will you teach other people to drive." In other words, if you drive carefully, using appropriate techniques, that is how you would teach someone else to drive, but if you drive badly and use inappropriate methods, guess what!


Formula 1 Drivers in Trouble for Bad Attitude, and Bad Driving on the Streets of Melbourne


Australia - 29 March 2010

Formula 1 speed demons Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton have copped a head-on blast from one of Australia's top state traffic officials after their controversial off-track performances at the weekend.

Hamilton had his Mercedes impounded on Friday night after being caught by police doing burnouts in [Melbourne's] St Kilda....

Hamilton was arrested and had his car impounded for the hooning. Although the youngest-ever F1 champion apologised, [his incident] came after five people died on Victoria's roads at the weekend, putting the annual death toll on track to become their highest in five years....

As the Australian State Government launched a ''Don't be a dickhead'' road safety campaign, Webber's comments over "nanny state'' road rules provoked a strong response from top Victorian traffic policeman Ken Lay....

"I think what Mark Webber has done has been totally irresponsible, but he didn't display the behaviour that Lewis Hamilton did, and that put people's lives at risk,'' Mr Pallas said.

Yesterday, Webber – [an Australian] from Queanbeyan, NSW, where a family was wiped out by a speeding car thief last week – said "ridiculous'' road rules were creating a nanny state and driving in Australia ''pisses me off''.

Today, Deputy Commissioner Lay said... ''We've got probably one of the best road-safety track-records in the world, so I make no apology for our aggressive approach...

''I think there's probably a few Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber fans alive today because of our 'nanny state' approach ... I think Mark needs to take a bit of responsibility for the road safety message.''

He said many young drivers looked up to Webber and Hamilton and they should use that influence to spread the road safety message.

''I'd much prefer Mark to be talking about keeping the speeding and the hooning on the race track and being a bit sensible on our roads,'' he said.

Webber said that, after his return from Europe he had been ''dodging the ridiculous speeding and parking [rules] and all the nanny-state country that we have down here in Australia."

''It's a great country, but we've got to be responsible for our actions and it's certainly a bloody nanny state when it comes to what we can do,'' Webber said before yesterday's race.

''I think we've got to read an instruction book when we get out of bed – what we can do and what we can't do … put a yellow vest on and all that sort of stuff,'' he said.

Source: Stuff NZ at  http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/motorsport/3522167/Officials-F1-guns-collide-over-rules

So, what are the techniques that race drivers use which should never be taught for use on public roads?


The two commonest and most pervasive aspects are skid pad training and evasive maneuvers such as swerving at the last moment to miss an unanticipated crisis such as a vehicle pulling out in front of you. They sound perfectly logical, don't they? The writer of this article certainly used to think so. But research has proven that not only are these techniques unwise but they can actually cause more danger and not less. This is such an important and serious topic that it has its own web page, here.




The "Apexing" of Curves



"Fixed Input Steering"



"Trail Braking"



"Heel and Toe" Braking



"Drafting" or "Slipstreaming"



The belief that good driving is reactive rather than pro-active



A competitive attitude, even if not mentioned!













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