Here’s our second article on road safety from our friends at Aviva Car Insurance, an interview with racing driver and coach Scott Mansell.
Name: Scott Mansell
Job Description: Racing Driver and Driver Coach
Can you briefly describe your career and any high points?
I’ve won numerous European championships, was BBC Midlands Young Sports Personality of the Year, I first drove an F1 car at the age of 16, I have 5 outright lap records around Europe and have spent thousands of hours sat next to racing drivers coaching them on circuits.
What is the most common mistake you see learners and new drivers making?
The first thing we need to correct when someone drives on the circuit is their vision. Their vision becomes very narrow and focused due to all of the new information and excitement of driving. We initially train drivers to open up their vision and look further ahead.
When they do this, they naturally see more and have more time to process all that’s happening on the circuit – they give themselves more time to understand what’s happening as they’re looking further ahead.
Please describe some of the techniques you use to show professional drivers how to control their car?
We’ll take drivers to an open piece of tarmac (where there’s nothing to hit!) so that they can become used to a car breaking traction – skidding – in a safe environment.
Once the drivers are used to the car sliding around and can control it properly, it’s time to go to the circuit. Learning to have the car skidding, in a controlled way and just a little, is very important to being a fast racing driver as when the car’s in this state, it’s travelling around a corner as fast as possible.
What do you think is missing from the current driving test?
I think that new drivers should learn what to do if/when their car skids. Many accidents could be prevented if drivers had this tool set. It’s training that many drivers receive in Germany.
Can you elaborate on some situations where your techniques would benefit the average road user?
Imagine driving down a country road and you arrive at a corner that it unnaturally slippery – maybe there’s water or fuel on the road. If a driver was able to control a skid they might prevent an accident.
What are your views on vehicle tech and its rise in usage?
I’m fully behind road cars having improved tech to make the roads a safer place – the improvements in the last 20 years have been significant with the likes of ABS and stability control really helping to keep more people safe.
What out-of-car techniques (things that can be taught in a setting other than driving) do you use to improve driver skill?
We play lots of hand-eye coordination games and reaction test such as Batak.
How can drivers avoid accidents?
It’s all about being more visually aware. There’s a lots of information coming to you when you drive, a lot to process. If drivers can process all of the information, and stay below their mental capacity, there would be fewer crashes – on the road and on the circuit.
The problem comes when people aren’t visually aware or there is too much information coming to them. The simple way to resolve this is to drive slightly slower and so have more time to process the visual information.
If you could give one piece of advice to learners, what would it be?
As above. If you feel that things are a little too frantic and you’re overwhelmed, slow down. Just by slowing a fraction, you give yourself so much more time to process and make sense of information – thereby not going over your mental capacity.
If drivers want to go faster, head to the race circuit where you can drive faster in a safer environment.
For more great driving tips, check out Driving like a pro: keeping road safety on track.