Utter the words “advanced driving course” and most of us think of high-speed driving, with some sideways action complemented by smoking tyres, or Fast & Furious driving.
There’s a degree of surprise when we learn what advanced driving courses do teach, as it’s not what was assumed. Yes, there are driving courses that focus on high-speed driving, and those are aptly named high-performance driving courses.
What is an advanced driving course?
It focuses on driver safety and awareness of the car and the variables. The principle idea is that driving is more than being mildly in control of your vehicle. It’s about being safe behind the wheel, the environment that you are driving in, and being aware of all the variables around you, and having an escape route in any situation.
What are the driving variables?
A great driver is aware of more than just the car they are driving, they’re aware of the things that could go wrong outside the car and they have an ‘escape route’ planned, that’s how they stay safe.
Variables would include the other road users, weather, the road and it’s changing surface, and everything next to the road. If you needed to take evasive action is the verge next to the road a flat run-off area, is there a ditch, hill, trees or is it heavily filled with pedestrians, making it untenable as an escape route to avoid a collision.
Are all advanced driving courses the same?
Most of the courses on offer in South Africa will offer two options, both involving theory and practical application. There is defensive driving, and collision avoidance, or all of it as one over a few days. All these courses have the same key principles; keeping yourself safe and keeping out of accidents.
Defensive driving is about keeping safe by minimising your risk when you’re behind the wheel, mainly the risk from other drivers. We know that the majority of accidents are a result of human error. Defensive driving teaches us to identify other road users about to make an error so we can mitigate around, or away, from it as safely as possible. Collision avoidance goes hand-in-hand with defensive driving skills. This skill set will help you when you actively need to avoid a collision, they’ll usually be taught on the skidpan and track with trained instructors simulating real-world collision avoidance techniques. Learning these avoidance techniques in a safe environment means you get to have stage fright (What do I do???), hit a cone or two (whoops), and learn how to perfect avoidance techniques (Yaaas Queen), so when it happens in real life you know how to handle it.
“Rain amplifies your mistakes, and water on the track can make your car handle unpredictably. When something unpredictable happens you have to react to it; if you’re reacting at speed, you’re reacting too late. And so you should be afraid.”
― Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain
All drivers should do an advanced driving course
We now know it’s not about speed, it’s about keeping safe and being aware. It gives us knowledge of what a car can do, and how to keep in control of your four-wheels in most situations. For women, an advanced driving course empowers us behind the wheel with a new skill set. It’s a fun way to learn essential driving skills, and do something you wouldn’t normally do. Who knows, you might even have a natural talent that you want to explore further.
I want to learn to drive faster
The best drivers in the world are those who are aware of as much as possible. Being able to drive fast doesn’t make you great behind the wheel. If you identify as a good driver and haven’t done any driving courses start with the advanced driving course, it’ll refresh what you think you know. Next up is the high-performance driving course, where you learn skills to get around the track more efficiently (which means faster) and thus improve your lap times. If you want to spice things up, do a drifting course. Many drivers think they can drift, when the reality is they’ve under- or over-steering, true drifting is an art form that can be learnt with XS Drift.
I’ve done the courses, now what?
You’ve done all the driving courses and you love it, you want to do this forever. Being a safe and fast driver you’ll know that speed is reserved for the track, not public roads. This is the point in your journey that you buy a car for track days, or if you have the cash to splash and want to compete, look at joining your local racing series.