Driving tests

What is a defensive driving course?

A defensive driving course helps drivers become more aware of how to reduce risks while driving. A typical defensive driving course consists of several classroom sessions followed by a practical session in a car with an instructor which must be completed within 60 days of finishing the theory part of the course. For example, Street Talk consists of four two-hour theory sessions and a one-hour practical session.

Drivers can take a defensive driving course any time after they get their learner licence, but it is advisable to get some driving experience first. The course will improve a driver’s chances of passing a practical driving test by around 10%.

Drivers on a restricted licence who pass a defensive driving course approved by NZTA, such as Street Talk, don’t have to wait as long before they can take their full licence test.

  • Drivers under 25: 12 months (usually 18 months). The minimum age is 17 years 6 months to take the full licence test.
  • Drivers 25 and over: 3 months (usually 6 months).

Drivers on a full licence may be required to do a defensive driving course by their employer. Drivers who are disqualified from driving may be required by the court to do a defensive driving course.

How do you choose a defensive driving course?

Defensive driving courses are held very frequently throughout the country – you should not have to wait long to take one.

There are only two kinds: the DDC and Street-Talk. Both are approved by NZTA.

You might find a cheaper price by shopping around, but prices vary very little so it’s better to choose a good instructor offering a course at a convenient time in a convenient location than save $10.

Course material

Students must bring their driver licence and a pen to the course. The theory material is based on videos of driving scenarios and hazard identification by the students. Video clips show developing hazards in different driving situations and encourage drivers to develop their scanning and situational awareness. The instructor will discuss concepts around safe driving in the interactive classroom session. Drivers will learn how to stay focused, avoid distractions, detect potentially hazardous situations before they become dangerous, and drive more fuel efficiently.

Defensive driving courses are delivered by approved providers.

The types of topics covered include:

  • Understanding human factors in driving
  • Perceiving hazards before they become a problem
  • Defensive driving techniques and how to apply them
  • Managing fatigue and distractions
  • Understanding braking distances and cornering forces
  • Understanding vehicle performance and overtaking
  • Scanning and vehicle position
  • Setting up a vehicle for the driver
  • Steering techniques
  • Emergency braking and accident avoidance
  • Low-speed manoeuvring.

Once drivers have earned their full licence they can continue their advanced driver education by joining the Institute of Advanced Motorists where they will learn Roadcraft (the system of car control taught to police).

What won’t you learn on a defensive driving course?

Defensive driving courses are not high-speed, performance driving, advanced driving or specialist driving courses. You won’t learn how to back a trailer or drift a car around a corner. You won’t learn off-road driving, pursuit techniques or techniques for chauffeurs. All the things you learn will be useful if you take it to the next level in one of these disciplines, though.

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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