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Driver's ed for grownups

Advanced classes range from seating positions to racing instruction

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Think you’re a good driver? Most people do. But if you’ve never taken training beyond what you needed to get your license, you would probably benefit from an upgrade.

Advanced driving courses will address any bad driving habits you’ve acquired, and teach you techniques to help you better appreciate your vehicle and what it’s capable of doing.

Most start with some classroom time, covering such basics as braking, vehicle weight distribution, cornering and tires.

From there, you get behind the wheel, either one-on-one with an instructor, or guided through your paces via radio contact. Most of the premium schools include a pretty good lunch, as well.

That introduction will seem basic, but having gone through several courses myself, I found that there’s always something new to learn.

For example, who doesn’t know how to sit and where to look? Surprisingly, a huge number of drivers could use a brush-up in these rudimentary skills.

In one of the first courses I took, my instructor said, “People find that when they sit properly, the car gets smarter.” He was right: sitting correctly gives you control and lets you make manoeuvres you wouldn’t think possible, especially in emergency situations.

Although track training is great fun, it’s not just about going fast. It’s all about controlling the car, which will improve your highway lane changes, keep you settled on tight curves, and help you avoid serious problems when someone who isn’t as good makes an unsafe move or causes a crash ahead of you.

If you have young drivers in the household, they should definitely be taking advanced courses. Not only will it make them better and safer drivers, but there’s a chance they could qualify for a discount on their auto insurance.

Regular driving schools — the ones that teach you how to pass your licensing test — are everywhere. But you may have to travel to visit an advanced course, especially since many are held at motorsport facilities. Some of the premium ones will bundle a package that includes luxury accommodations.

Even at the basic level, your instruction should be advanced. The instructors need to take you out of your comfort zone by sending you into skids, or setting up emergency braking situations.

Despite its name, Young Drivers of Canada takes on drivers of all ages in its Collision Free advanced collision-avoidance program, along with a winter driving program, as does the Skid Control School from Safe Roads Canada.

IRL Car Control School also offers collision prevention and winter courses, along with high-performance and autoslalom courses.

At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park near Bowmanville, you can sign up for a variety of riding or driving experiences (canadiantiremotorsportpark.com).

One is the Bridgestone Racing Academy, which puts you into an F2000 open-wheeled race car and then teaches you how to drive it: anything from a half-day event to three days of training that will qualify you to apply for a racing license.

Some automakers offer driving schools, at various levels and locations. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have programs in the Toronto area, as well as other Canadian locations, and supply vehicles for the course.

Land Rover, meanwhile, will teach you how to navigate a challenging off-road course, while you stay in the lap of luxury at exclusive resorts in Quebec, Vermont, North Carolina, and California.

If you’re into something more exotic, Porsche offers several courses, including its winter Camp4 in Canada, sport driving school at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., or international training in Leipzig, Germany.

Or you could head over to Italy with Ferrari, where a variety of courses can potentially take you as far as the Ferrari Challenge series.

Still hungry for more?

Racing schools are as much about control as they are about speed. Many offer instruction at various U.S. tracks, including Skip Barber and Bob Bondurant, along with Jim Russell at Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

And if you’re heading to Las Vegas, you can detour to the Ron Fellows Corvette performance school.

When it comes to driving, you never want to gamble on safety.

wheels@thestar.ca

  • Driver's ed for grownups
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