Skid pan training is an exception to the rule that anything fun can’t be good for you. It teaches drivers how to react to skids in wet, snowy or icy conditions, or due to an oil spill. If you fancy unlocking your inner Freddie Flintoff while learning a potentially life-saving skill, read on.
Despite restrictions during lockdown or in higher tiers, many driving schools and other centres continue to offer skid pan training. However, due to regional legislation and restrictions, staff shortages, as a result of self-isolation, courses may be subject to delay or cancellation.
Skid pan training involves:
working out why cars skid or aquaplane. It’s due to a loss of traction resulting in the front or rear end of the car drifting, but that’s a simple definition, the course goes into more detail
learning how to drive in different conditions, in order to reduce the chance of skidding
explaining how motorists can swiftly and accurately identify different types of skid, such as front wheel understeer or rear wheel oversteer, and successfully drive out of the skid
Skid training takes place on ‘skid pans’. These are lubricated, flat, tarmac or polished concrete surfaces, which are large enough to ensure safety when a driver loses control of their car. Unlike skidding on a road where there are cars, trees and lamp posts, not to mention pedestrians, skid pans are risk free.
The practical element of the training differs between centres. Some wet the surface of the skid pan and use cars fitted with slick types, other simulate a skid by using cars that sit in hydraulic cradles.
In addition, some courses offer the option of further driving experience on local public roads, subject to conditions, as part of the wider Defensive Driving courses. It’s worth asking.
What causes slides, how to avoid skidding and how to get out of a skid can be taught. But there is nothing like experiencing a real skid and learning how to correct the car safely, which is why skid pan training exists.
Skid pan training ensures drivers gain hands-on experience in a safe, controlled environment and are instructed by seasoned driving instructors who specialise in the skills being taught. By practising driving through skids motorists build up muscle memory that can be drawn on if need be.
Part of the training sees the benefits of anti-lock braking systems explained. These systems help bring a car to a halt in icy conditions by preventing the wheels from locking-up, which only increases the chances of a skid.
Part of the skid pan training programme involves learning valuable driving skills in a range of vehicles. You should have the option to practise driving through a skid in cars featuring some of the following:
front wheel drive vehicles
rear wheel drive vehicles
manual transmission vehicles
automatic transmission vehicles
Many skid pan training centres are geared up to allow customers to gain experience at this specific driving skill in their own car, vans and even HGVs – ask your employer about the latter.
Thruxton Racing is among those who offer this type of experience. It states:
Using your own car, we'll help you understand and feel how to control a sliding car, relying on pure driver skill! We feel this will give you the best preparation for anything the roads and weather may throw at you!
Trainers are well versed in temporarily altering the configuration of car safety systems, which would otherwise make it hard to skid – and make the training harder to achieve, and less fun.
Trainers may disable the Electronic Stability Control system, which slows the car in dangerous condition, and diverts torque to either front or rear wheels to prevent sliding. Instead, the car is usually put in Sports mode, which sees a relaxing of safety protocols.
Likewise, staff can override traction control and electronic stability control systems for the duration of the course, and – importantly – advise on how to ensure these safety features are up and running when you need them.
Unfortunately, skid pan training alone does not directly lead to lower premiums, unlike PassPlus, IAM RoadSmart and AA qualified driver courses, which may do. But skid pan training can be part of wider defensive driving course or a perk of membership of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
However, your insurance premium will rise if you are involved in a road accident that was caused because your car skidded, hitting something and a claim was lodged by you or a third party. As such, it is fair to say skid pan training could help prevent your next premium from increasing.
The range of venues and companies that offer skid pan training is vast. Larger driving schools, such as Red Driving School and Into The Blue, provide these courses, as well as specialist driving academies, such as CAT Driver Training.
However, given the space needed and the cross over with leisure, it comes as no surprise to learn that high profile venues also offer skid pan training courses. These include:
Anglesey Circuit, based at the renowned Welsh race track
Goodwood, based at the horse racing and motor racing circuit in West Sussex
Thruxton Motorsport Centre, based at Thruxton race circuit in Andover, Hampshire
Red Driver Training, based at Donnington Park race circuit in Derby
It’s not just driving centres and bespoke race tracks that provide skid pan training courses. After all, they are intended to be fun as well as educational.
You can also take part at corporate venues, entertainment and leisure facilities, run by companies with several venues nationwide. It’s often possible to buy gift cards or vouchers as presents, so recipients can pick and choose the venue and date. Options include:
It’s best to wear long sleeve shirts or other tops, long trousers or skirts, flat-soled shoes and the ubiquitous face mask and hand sanitiser.
Crash helmets and other essential safety equipment are provided. Also, during the Coronavirus pandemic safety equipment, including wipes and gloves are provided. Cars are cleaned between lessons.
Driving venues use a range of pretty standard road cars. For health and safety reasons, they do impose restrictions on who they can instruct. Typically – although always check beforehand, drivers typically must:
weigh less than 18 stone (114kg)
be from 5'0" (1.47m) to 6'4" (1.93m)
be at least 17 years old, with a provisional or full licence
and in good health
Most sessions last from two or three hours to as long as half a day. They typically include driving experiences in more than one car to ensure the driver appreciates how different cars handle when temporarily out of control.
Many skid pan training centres allow up to two passengers per car, so other people can experience the fun and learn to trust the skills of the driver while they manoeuvre their way out of a slide.
It is best to check with individual sites, as some will have limited capacity and may charge extra. But given these centres tend to allow the driver and passenger – subject to their driving licence status – to exchange roles, it’s worth considering.
Skid pan driving sessions can usually be purchased for between £100 and £170. Price differences reflect the experience offered, tending to cost more for going round prestigious race courses than a driving school’s grounds.
Also, the cost will reflect session length, the types of cars available and any other added extras, such as upgrades to more advanced skid pan driving courses.
Specific types of lesson, such as off-roading skid pan training can cost more.