I am planning, in the next few months to do a refresher defensive driving course to ensure my skills are maintained at the necessary high standard. This course will involve some skid control training.
It is actually many years now since I was last on a skid pan, and it has got me thinking as to whether skid control, as opposed to skid avoidance training is actually beneficial to the average driver.
As a trainer and assessor of emergency response drivers I myself was subject to regular re-assessments, which among other things included skid control, so for quite a few years I was on a skid pan being assessed two to three times a year.
It’s now at least 15 years since I last “played” on a skid pan. Would I be able to get myself out of trouble now if I screwed up and got into that situation? Probably, because of the number of times I went through the process – but I certainly wouldn’t be as confident of it. Now, if I had been through the training ONCE 15 years ago and it happened to me, who knows but probably not.
Research and experience has shown that a one off skid control session can quite easily have an adverse effect. People do a one off session; they are given some skills to deal with skidding. This then can have an effect of making them over confident in their ability to deal with this situation and encourage them to push the limits.
The best skid control is to not get in that situation in the first place. When I was carrying out the training a good 85%, if not more, of the day was about avoiding the vehicle losing control in the first place. Skids do not simply happen, at the moment a skid starts to occur the driver has already screwed up. The single and only cause of any skid is driver error, other factors may be contributory factors but they are not causes.
What is a skid?
A skid occurs when you have asked too much from your tyres. This is why you should be or should have been trained to never steer and brake or accelerate at the same time.
Your tyres have a finite amount of grip to use for changing speed or direction. If you are using 70% of your tyres’ grip for braking and you then ask for 50% of your tyres’ grip to turn a corner, they are simply going to give up because you have asked too much.
Skids can be avoided by gentle use of brake, accelerator and steering. Electronic Stability Programs in cars now make it much easier to recover but no technology or driver can overcome the laws of physics.
Finally, have I ever needed the skills I practiced so frequently?
The skills involved in avoiding the skid in the first place; very often – after all, emergency service drivers do not have the luxury to not go out on the road when the advice is to stay at home.
The skills to control or correct a skid; never, outside the training arena.
So, to answer my question that is posed in the title I would say generally skid control training is NOT beneficial to the average driver. Skid avoidance training, however is a different matter, and I believe should be taught as a basic in the learner driver phase, along with an understanding of the technology that now helps vehicle control.