In research released by the Australian Road Safety Foundation, one in four Australians admitted to taking more risks on the road since lockdowns were imposed, with speeding up 17 per cent on usual levels.
Thankfully, an increase in traffic also coincides with the reopening of drive schools, track days and driver training sessions, making it the perfect time to brush up on your defensive driving skills – or even just the basics.
James Stewart, who runs Driving Solutions, located at Sydney's Motorsport Park, says their courses have started back up with limited numbers – and all are welcome.
"We do everything from free learner courses, including night driving for learners around the track, to defensive driver training and advanced driver training," Mr Stewart tells CarAdvice.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, Kevin Flynn of Sandown's Driver Dynamics says they're holding two track days and seven defensive driving courses in June, with only their stunt driving and junior driver training on hold, as both require in-car presence from an instructor.
Irrespective of your reasons for taking a course, Mr Stewart says it's more about other people's safety than your own.
"Do it for the safety of the other people in the car. It’s so much about you don’t know what you don’t know," he says.
Keen? Here's what you need to know.
What's the difference between advanced driving, defensive driver driving and track days?
The difference between defensive and advanced driver training, Mr Stewart says, is that while defensive driving is all about prevention, advanced driving is for when something has gone wrong and you need to safely recover.
"If you’re just driving to and from work every day or you're a fleet driver, a defensive driving course will teach you emergency stops, how to swerve, it will show you how long it takes you to react before you even touch the brakes. We hope the first time you lose control of your car is in a controlled environment like ours," Mr Stewart said.
As for track days – "We’re accredited by Motorsport Australia to get your licence to go racing and we do everything from track days for people who just want to experience going fast, to people who then get into motorsport."
John Boston of Sydney's Trackschool argues track days can be just as beneficial for driver training as defensive or advanced training courses.
"We'll teach you things like car balance, how to use your vision, how to brake through corners – and you'll be doing it all at freeway speed limits," he says.
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How experienced do I have to be?
"We get drivers from the learner stage, so if you’re reasonably competent at controlling the car, you'll be fine," Mr Flynn says.
"But if you’re at the learner stage where you’re still fishing around for gears and working out the indicator stalk, you’re probably not ready."
Having said that, Mr Flynn laughs, "we can have someone who’s been driving for 30 years and they’re terrible!".
As for licence requirements: "For defensive driving courses, we take learners to older above 80 year olds, and you don't need a full licence. For track days we take them with no experience but you need a full licence," Mr Flynn explains.
Driver training and track days are typically one-day courses, with pricing usually starting from around $200 and going up to around $600 or more per person, depending on the length of the course and the size of the group.
You typically bring your own car, but many training centres will also offer you the option to rent a car from their fleet for the day if you don't feel comfortable using your own vehicle.
"We usually check the car is in roadworthy condition and ask people to wear wrist-to-ankle clothing, enclosed shoes with socks and a helmet," Mr Boston explains.
"Prior to COVID-19 we would supply helmets, but at the moment we’re not supplying them so we're asking people to bring their own."
With limited courses available, it's best to book quite far in advance and most places take bookings online.
The best track days and driver training courses in each state
Got a track day or driver training course you'd recommend? Let us know in the comments and we'll add it to the article!
- Driver Dynamics at Sandown Raceway, Springvale. Book here.
- Drive Events, Phillip Island. Book here.
- Drift Cadet, Melbourne. Book here.
New South Wales
- Driving Solutions at Sydney Motorsport Park, Eastern Creek. Book here.
- Trackschool at Wakefield Park Raceway, Goulburn. Book here.
- The Bend Motorsport Park, Tailem Bend. Book here.
- Smart Driver Training, Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Spring and Nhulunbuy. Book here.
- Fastrack V8 Race Experience, Hidden Valley. Book here.
- Murcotts, Queanbeyan East. Book here.
- Performance Driving Australia, Symmons Plains and Baskerville Raceway. Book here.
- Motorsafe Tasmania, Cornelian Bay. Book here.
Brand-run training days
In addition to independent operators, several manufacturers run driver training days in their own cars.
Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW all regularly run drive days for both customers and, occasionally, non-owners, so it's worth reaching out to your favourite brand to see if they have anything coming up.
"There’s a dual purpose to these days," explains Steve Pizzati, driver training expert at Pilota Sportiva, who regularly runs brand-led training days.
"You learn the safety side of things and you get to know your car a bit better, but you also get to drive a newer model or a different model you may not have considered.
"They tend to be more expensive, but whatever you’re paying for a course, no matter how much it is, it’s usually not even covering half of what it costs. If you go to a manufacturer day, they’re subsidizing your training.
In fact, if you're buying a new car, you might be able to go to a dealer and say ‘I’ll only buy it if you chuck in a training day for me’. We highly recommend people do that. Chances are you’re probably getting into a high-performance model and I want you to know what it can do and how to use it properly!"