Do track days make for safer roads or drivers?
Not a rhetorical question. I'm genuinely curious.
Theories are a wonderful thing. At least, in theory. Theories, by the scientific method, require some actual evidence to back them up, or else they're just hypotheses. Some time ago, there was much fist-wringing over the number of accidents and incidents on Australian roads, and there were many suggestions about what could be done to solve the problem.
One of the suggestions made to curb the enthusiasm of young louts was to offer them a racing area, so that they can "blow off some steam", or that they can learn the limitations of their abilities and cars in a safer, controlled environment. The "Steam Blowing" facet of that theory, nay hypothesis, rang very hollow to me, when in the same year I first heard the idea, Lewis Hamilton was struck on the knuckles for hoonish behaviour outside the Melbourne Grand Prix.
If the best in the world can't blow off enough steam in the heat of the pinnacle of Motorsport (arguably) then what hope is there for Mister or Missus Everyday in their modified Nissan 180 Type X? Hamilton's a professional, and yet even he couldn't help himself. How much steam does one driver build up?
Image by Jan Ivo Henze (@jan_ivo) on Unsplash
Yet I remained curious about the hypothesis that track days somehow made drivers more aware, or capable.
So I went on the Internet. And I found nothing.
No really, I couldn't find any studies to suggest that offering a controlled environment would assist drivers in making our roads safer. I'm not saying it's untrue, because a lack of evidence doesn't necessarily mean something doesn't exist. It may just be that not enough studying has been done on the subject.
I will outline that I am somewhat wary about the idea. I have often thought that tracks, and track days, offer an environment so vastly different to that of the open road, that they are universes apart. What is learned on the track could seldom be transitioned to the open road, where there are so many elements that could be introduced at any moment. Mid-corner bumps, other road users, and random and muscular fauna being only three chaos causers that immediately come to mind.
Couple that with the idea that growing confidence could lead to more risk-taking, and it would indicate that having a racing facility available for people so that they can learn to be safer on the roads is an counter-intuitive contention.
Image by Thanuj Mathew (@thanujmathew) on Unsplash
South Australia's premier motorsport park, The Bend, opened in April 2018
But before I demand everyone to get off my lawn, I will temper my inner rocking-chair inhabitant by admitting that driver training is something I feel is lacking in Australia. Compared to other countries, our teaching of youngsters about car safety is minimal at best, and laughably inadequate at worst.
If we ever had limitless Autobahns in this country, I wouldn't go anywhere near them. They would be a magnet for carnage.
As mentioned in the header, I am not trying to cement an opinion one way or another. I was wondering if anyone else had been successful in finding any information on this topic, and could help me form a decent idea on the matter.
Because if the evidence stacks up, and supports the idea of providing a track facility for the purposes of instruction, then I will support the (now) theory with a spring in my step, and a song in my heart.
But until then, it remains a hypothesis.