So What Exactly IS Advanced Driving?

‘Advanced Driving’ is a phrase that is often used, out of context, in driving schools and racetrack driving courses by people who suggest that knowing a few enhanced evasion techniques is enough to qualify for this description. True advanced driving, however, is solely concerned with public-road driving, not private tracks, and is entirely structured towards avoiding any hazardous situation rather than rectifying one after it has started.

In other words, enhanced vehicle-handling techniques may be useful but represent only a small part of true advanced driving. Zooming around through coned obstacle courses and learning skid control, in isolation, will serve to make a driver faster, but do virtually nothing to teach that driver to be truly safe, especially when driving above the speed limits, as police officers sometimes need to do.

The only proven methodology is based on something known as the Roadcraft “System of Car Control.” This was founded by the police in Britain in 1935 and has been continuously refined by them since that time. It was created to reduce the number of crashes experienced by police officers and succeeded in doing so to the extent that the crash rate fell to one sixth of its previous level.

The key factor is that this is no “Johnny-come-lately” scheme, dreamt up by a few individuals on the basis that it seems like a good method. It has been refined and improved for more than seventy years by collective thousands of the world’s top public road driving experts.

The fundamental aim of advanced driving is to utilize observations, anticipation and planning, to allow a driver to have adequate time to deal with any situation that might arise. This is applicable not only to genuinely good drivers, travelling within the relevant legal speed limits, but also to emergency personnel driving at very high speeds.

One mantra for emergency-service drivers that the writer of this article was taught from the outset of his own police advanced driver training, in Britain, is a classic but basic example of the ethos in question:
“It is no good being sent to deal with a serious road accident if you cause another one yourself on your way there!”

Advanced Driving — A Definition

Advanced Driving is defined as the ability to control the position and speed of a vehicle safely, systematically and smoothly, at all times. It works with existing road and traffic conditions to allow reasonable progress to be made unobtrusively, with skill and responsibility. It requires a positive, knowledgeable, courteous and all-around good attitude, and creates a high standard of driving competence based on concentration, effective all-round observations, anticipation and planning. These aspects must be coordinated with good handling skills.

Advanced Driving is based on the System of Car Control, which in turn is defined as “a system or drill, each feature of which is considered, in sequence, on the approach to any hazard.” In other words, the vehicle must always be in the correct lateral position on the road, at the right time, traveling at the right speed, with the correct gear engaged, and always able to stop safely in the distance that can be seen to be clear.

A hazard is defined as anything that may cause a driver to change speed or course. Hazards include obvious features such as curves and intersections, plus other vehicles and pedestrians, but also include less obvious instances such as a minor movement sideways to avoid a small object on the road surface.

In simpler terms, Advanced Driving is a way of approaching and dealing with all hazards that is methodical and safe, and leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Its one overriding aim is to give a driver time to react and to deal safely with the situation, whatever the circumstances.

Anybody who has already passed their state or provincial driving test can learn advanced driving. For the full range of courses available from ADA, click here.

Definition Copyright © 2006: Advanced Drivers of America, Inc.

To give greater insight into this very involved subject, we are including here some external links, such as this one on the remarkably important ‘System of Car Control’ —

The point should be made again that good driving requires far more than just competent handling skills. Some hazards that drivers encounter are hard to predict and can occur either singly or in overlapping clusters — think about all the potential dangers at a busy town junction/intersection, especially if the traffic lights/signals have failed. If you wish to develop the necessary physical and mental skills for advanced driving, you must develop a forward-thinking, investigative approach in order to recognize and negotiate all hazards safely.

The UK traffic police are widely held to be among the best-trained road drivers in the world and a brief summary of their typical, 160-hour advanced driving course may be found at the Scottish Police College website. Officers who qualify both as advanced drivers and advanced motorcyclists benefit from up to 680 hours of public-road, largely-high-speed training (including initial and intermediate levels, prior to the ‘advanced’ course). To qualify as an instructor in both disciplines would require a further 496 hours of training.

It is all well and good writing about police driving courses but obviously these are not available to ordinary drivers. Nor should they be, as they are targeted primarily at high speeds and emergency driving. The concept of ‘advanced driving’ therefore needs to be considered somewhat differently when talking about members of the public but that surely doesn’t matter as long as the same basic techniques are taught so that people get a good grounding in the subject.

To the best of our knowledge, at Drive and Stay Alive, there is only one driving school in the whole of the United States that offer public-road, truly advanced driving courses (see the above definition), and that is Advanced Drivers of America, Inc. (for both Canada and the USA).

Advanced Drivers of America (ADA) also provides advanced driver testing and a range of awards.

In Britain, however, there are two parent organizations that provide not only courses but also recognized tests in the fundamentals of advanced driving. Links have been included here so that you can, if you wish, have a look at what is involved. They are the Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM), and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ Advanced Drivers Association (RoSPA-ADA). There are also several private companies that provide such courses (without the recognized tests) and these are almost always owned or run by former traffic patrol police officers.

One of the IAM’s 200+ affiliated regional groups is based in Dumfries, Scotland, and their website gives an interesting insight into the aims of advanced driving.