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Lowndes backs driver training

Craig Lowndes: “I would still love to see today a state put everyone through a driving course”.

V8 Supercar star Craig Lowndes supports training for new drivers on our roads

General News logo15 Dec 2004

By BRUCE NEWTON

ON the eve of a major road safety forum held at Parliament House in Canberra this week, leading Ford V8 Supercar star Craig Lowndes has backed increased training for drivers.

One of the key issues to be discussed at the forum is a scheme endorsed by Federal Transport Minister John Anderson for mandatory provisional license-holder training.

A pilot scheme involving 14,000 Victorian and NSW P-plate drivers undergoing an eight-week intensive driving course is about to go into development. Their skills will then be compared to another 14,000 drivers who have not undergone additional training.

The current plan is to roll the program out nationally in 2007. The scheme is endorsed by the Federal Government, Australia’s four car manufacturers and many car importers.

State and territory governments will also have to participate if the scheme is to fly, and representatives have been invited to the forum.

While taking no part in the proceedings in Canberra, where touring car legend Peter Brock will make a key presentation, Lowndes endorses the direction the forum is taking.

“I would still love to see today a state put everyone through a driving course,” Lowndes told GoAuto.

“People disagree with that because they say you are just educating people to drive faster, but I look at it as educating people to survive and (to) save themselves.

“Ninety per cent of the time, when a driver puts a car sideways on a road that’s the last time.

“They never see the light of day again because they are wrapped around a pole, a tree or gone off a cliff.

“That’s because they haven’t got an understanding of what the car is potentially going to do.” But Lowndes’ vision goes further than pure car handling. He believes the educational needs of Australian drivers are more widespread than that.

“It’s really for me a frustrating thing, because when you see people on the road driving around, they don’t look far enough ahead, they park too close behind at a set of lights, and what really irks me is no-one indicates.” While not currently involved actively in driver training or road safety initiatives, Lowndes has previously been involved in community awareness campaigns in Western Australia and Queensland. He also worked as an instructor at Jim Murcott’s driving school in Melbourne in the early 1990s before breaking through in V8 Supercars.

It was his period as an instructor with Murcott that helped form his strong views on the need for driver training.

Lowndes remembers learner and provisional drivers attending the courses and the L-platers being more receptive to instruction because the P-platers believed they knew how to drive because they “had passed the test”.

He also admits to loathing the process he had to go through to gain his own driving licence, remembering being taught the push-pull steering method by his instructor, a method he rejects as outmoded.

“That certainly frustrated me and I know it’s frustrated a lot of good drivers,” he said. “It’s been an ongoing battle to get the government and educators to understand that side of it.” Lowndes, 30, learnt how to drive on his father’s property and racing go-karts. He is a three-time V8 Supercar champion and won Bathurst in 1996. In 2005 he shifts to the Triple Eight Racing team, his third Ford-backed outfit since moving from Holden to the Blue Oval in 2000.

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