Unlike other Worst series around the world, the Canadian version emphasizes the learning process of the contestants and the science of driving, and as such is often more serious than the other Worst shows around the world, which are mainly played for laughs. It is the longest running of any Worst series to date.
The series is also aired dubbed in French in Canada, as the Les zéros de conduite on Canal D.
In each season, eight drivers and their nominators are taken to the Driver Rehabilitation Centre, where they compete in challenges designed to improve their driving skills, in an effort to not be named Canada's Worst Driver. In the first challenge, the contestants begin at a location about an hour's drive from the Driver Rehabilitation Centre; they must drive to the Driver Rehabilitation Centre, following the directions that are given to each contestant. After arriving at the Driver Rehabilitation Centre, the driver's licence of each contestant is confiscated (for the first two seasons, their car keys were confiscated instead). The first episode concludes with an obstacle course challenge, meant to evaluate the skills of the individual drivers.
The series is well known for their obstacle course challenges; contestants must routinely manoeuvre their cars through tight spaces with less than an inch of clearance on either side. To show that the challenge can be done without hitting obstacles by an average driver, host Andrew Younghusband performs each challenge before any contestant attempts the challenge.
Beginning with the end of the second episode, each contestant meets with a panel of four experts and Andrew for an evaluation of their performance, and after all remaining contestants are interviewed, the judges and Andrew deliberate on which contestant and nominator pair have improved enough to graduate from the Driver Rehabilitation Centre. The driver who has graduated is eliminated from the competition, and is sent home with their licenses returned to them; the contestants typically drive off with their nominators in the car that they used to arrive at the Driver Rehabilitation Centre. The experts also reserve the right to not graduate anyone for any episode, or to graduate multiple contestants at the same time. The experts may also choose to expel any contestant who does not show any incentive to learn, or who the experts believe should not continue driving or who can not continue the rehabilitation program, often for medical or legal reasons. In this case, the contestant is eliminated from the competition and their licenses are returned, and they are given a ride home.
The elimination process continues until only three contestants remain (the original intent was for two contestants to remain, but due to the first season containing an episode in which no-one graduated, there were three; every season since has had three finalists). The remaining contestants are then given the Mega-Challenge, an obstacle course challenge with elements of almost every previous challenge, as well as a driving examination through the busy streets of a major urban centre in Canada near the Driver Rehabilitation Centre. Based on these two challenges, the experts determine which among the three is named Canada's Worst Driver. With the exception of the second season, the contestant who fared the second worst is deemed to not have graduated from the Driver Rehabilitation Centre, while the third contestant is considered a graduate.
Unlike other versions of the Worst Driver series around the world, where being eliminated early or being the Worst Driver is either rewarded with a new car or had their car destroyed, no prizes are given for being eliminated early or for being named Canada's Worst Driver, aside from a commemorative trophy in the latter case.
With the exception of the challenges in the first and last episodes, challenges are specifically tailored to each contestant, designed by show host Andrew Younghusband and the driving school sponsoring the series (whose head instructor is one of the judges). Challenges typically range from traditional driving school lessons such as parallel parking, reversing, and driving with a trailer, to those not normally found in a beginner's driving course, such as driving a standard transmission vehicle and extreme driving manoeuvres (such as the Scandinavian flick). However, there are some challenges that are reused from year to year.
The Shoulder Check Challenge is a challenge where contestants must drive in a straight line until they pass a sign on each side. The signs determine which of the two exits the contestants must take when the road forks ahead, but the signs are posted in the reverse direction, so the contestants must briefly look behind them to read the signs. If neither exit is permitted, they are simply instructed to stop in front of the fork in the road. The lesson of this challenge is to only turn the head when performing a shoulder check.
Distracted Driving is a challenge introduced in the second season that was so unusually effective on one contestant (Matt Elkind) that it has been used in every season since. In this challenge, drivers must drive around in a circle while having to do a series of tasks such as eating a sandwich, inserting a CD, and so on. Often, these tasks are tailored to each contestant's vices. The lesson is to not do these things while at the wheel, as it would cause car accidents.
Swerve and Avoid is a challenge where contestants must drive towards a wall at high speeds, only to turn away (that is, swerve) at the last moment to avoid hitting the wall. Typically, there are two exits to each side of the wall, which will either initially be blocked before one or both open at the last moment, or initially be open before one or neither are blocked in the last moment. The lesson is to avoid touching the brake pedal, as putting the foot down on the brake would severely limit the car's steering ability.
The Cornering Challenge is a challenge where contestants must drive towards a wall of foam blocks at high speed before braking hard, releasing the brake, and then turning away from the wall. The lesson in this challenge is to release the brake so as to not lose steering input to the car when it is needed. In some years, a large wet tarp may also be laid out on the ground in front of the wall, to simulate icy or slippery conditions.
The Three-Point Turn Challenge is a challenge where contestants must enter a small space and make a three-point turn, returning in the direction that they entered. The entrance may be off to one side of the area (as it is in earlier seasons) or to the centre of the area (as it is in later seasons). A key lesson in this challenge is to make use of the space available to the car in order to do the turn efficiently; in some years, obstacles may ring the outer perimeter of the area to give the contestants a better visual cue.
The Eye of the Needle is a perennial challenge where contestants must navigate through a series of archways at a minimum speed. The intended lesson is to have the driver look where they want to go, in the middle of the archways rather than at the feet on one side of the archway.
The Figure-Eight Challenge is a perennial challenge where drivers must reverse their car around a course in the shape of an 8. There are two versions of this challenge: one version, originally featured in the second season, has a pair of contestants perform the challenge simultaneously: both cars begin in one end of the course, and contestants must reverse their cars to where the other contestant began, with the only passing spaces available at the centre and opposite end of the course. The second version, featured in the fourth season, has each contestant do one lap in reverse with the remaining contestants as passengers.
The Parking Lot Challenge is a version of musical chairs where drivers must find spaces to park. The parking lot is filled with cars, and may have blocker cars that attempt to frustrate the contestants, and cars that may open up new parking spaces. Any driving violation (such as parking in a no parking zone) typically will send the contestant out of the parking lot in a time penalty. The challenge ends when all but one contestant finish.
Canada's Worst Gas Station is a variation on the Parking Lot Challenge, with many of the same rules, where contestants try to park to get fuel at a simulated self-service gasoline station, avoiding the diesel pump, which their car can't use. Hitting anything or performing a moving violation requires the contestant to leave the station and come back to try again. Most of the pumps start with blocker cars in front of them, which will leave as the challenge goes on. The challenge ends when all but one contestant is in position to get fuel.
The Water Tank Challenge is a perennial favourite in which the contestants must navigate around a tight obstacle course in a car with a roof-mounted water tank; should the contestants stop too abruptly, the contents of the tank will spill over into the cab of the vehicle, soaking its occupants. In earlier years, this was done with a pipe system, though in later years open-top cars or cars with a sunroof are used. Portions of the obstacle course will include a slow forward section, sudden stops due to last-minute reactions (such as a hidden stop sign or a pop-out car), a hump (infamous for repeatedly soaking Andrew in his demonstration runs), and optionally an acceleration portion. The intended lesson is on smooth threshold braking: should the contestants brake poorly or navigate too quickly, the water in the tank will spill, soaking the contestant and nominator inside.
The Handbrake Turn Challenge is a challenge that has contestants perform a handbrake turn around a foam figure, while in a confined space. The intent of this challenge is for contestants to learn the distribution of weight in a car, as well as a lesson on how to properly control a car in a skid.
The Reverse Flick is a challenge that has contestants perform the namesake technique in a confined space; it is in essence the handbrake turn in reverse, and without the use of the handbrake. The intent of this challenge is similar to the handbrake turn challenge, but also introduces elements of driving in reverse at speed.
Drifting Doughnuts is a challenge where contestants must drive in a wide doughnut around a figure; key to this challenge is counter-steering partway through in order to allow the car to continue drifting, eventually towards a designated exit point. The lesson behind this challenge is on extreme manoeuvres as well as avoiding target fixation.
The Trough is a challenge used in later seasons where contestants must get their car to move across the namesake trough, a series of concrete barriers placed on their side, without the car leaving the rails and hitting the ground. The lesson behind this challenge is that the rear wheels will turn more sharply than the front wheels; key to this challenge is to take wide turns and allow the car to hug the edges of the concrete rails.
The Parallel Parking Challenge requires drivers to parallel park. Often there is a moving obstacle, such an emergency vehicle, that the contestant must give way to.
The Teeter-Totter is a challenge that has contestants balance a manual transmission car atop a teeter-totter, such that both ends for the apparatus are off of the ground. The lesson of this challenge is on managing manual transmission cars on slopes. The Gimbal is a variation of the teeter-totter challenge, where lateral motion is also introduced.
The Slalom Challenge is a challenge where drivers "swerve" around blue and pink foam mannequins. In season 7, they were changed into red and blue hockey players, in keeping with that season's "Driving in Canada" theme. In season 8, they were changed into blue and pink shopping people, in keeping with the season's " Driving in a city " theme.
The Lane Change Challenge is a challenge where the drivers are on a two-lane course. The goal is to pass Andrew twice as he drives around. Key to this challenge is learning the proper technique for lane changes (Check the side mirrors, Activate the indicator, Shoulder check, Lane change). Each infraction committed or improperly-executed lane change requires the guilty driver to pass Andrew one extra time. The challenge concludes when only one contestant is left on the course.
The contestants are chosen by nominations submitted to Proper Television. Canada's Worst Driver and Canada's Worst Handyman are filmed alternately, with one season of Driver followed by one season of Handyman. Currently, Driver is filmed during the summer and Handyman in winter. Nominations for the next season of one are accepted shortly before the airing of a season of the other on Discovery Channel. Candidates may be nominated by multiple nominators, though only one nominator accompanies the contestant to the Driver Rehabilitation Centre.
Home Video/Internet Availablity
Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are currently available for download in Canada from iTunes in Standard Definition (480i/p) Anamorphic widescreen. Season 8 is available from iTunes in both Stanadard Definition (480i/p) Anamorphic Widescreen and High Definition (720p/1080p); Season 9 has yet to be released on iTunes. Each season has also been posted on Discovery Channel's Canadian website in the past for streaming, with only Seasons 5, 6, 7, and 8 currently being available. There has been no news on whether the series will be released on DVD/Blu-ray.
Canada's Worst Driver (2005) took place at CFB Picton (currently operating as Picton Airport), a decommissioned military base near Picton, Ontario, with the final challenge taking place in the streets of Old Montreal. The theme of the season was on winter driving (every season since has been filmed in the summer), and Chris Ferguson was named Canada's Worst Driver for his inexperience on the road.
Canada's Worst Drivers vs. The World (2006) 1-hour interseason special compiled from clips of World's Worst Driver and CWD season 1.
Canada's Worst Driver 2 (2006) took place within the grounds of CFB Borden, with the final challenge taking place in downtown Toronto. The theme of the season is on summer driving, and Henrietta Gallant was named Canada's Worst Driver due to her vision issues and her insistence on not wearing glasses, along with being unable to complete the final road test. The season also saw the first expulsion in any Worst Driver series when Colin Sheppard was expelled due to his unwillingness to learn.
Canada's Worst Driver 3 (2007) took place in the ghost town of Edgar, Ontario, with the final challenge taking place in Barrie, Ontario. The theme of the season is on extreme driving manoeuvres, and Jason Zhang was named Canada's Worst Driver for his dangerous performance, stopping in the middle of a highway. As a result of this, Jason immediately surrendered his driving licence and gave up driving permanently, the first contestant to have done so.
Canada's Worst Driver 4 (2008) took place in an abandoned prison in Guelph, Ontario, with the final challenge taking place in downtown Toronto. The theme of the season is the legal consequences of bad driving, and despite passing most of the challenges and being nominated in nearly every episode, Ashley van Ham was named Canada's Worst Driver for having never addressed her frustrations with her nominator. The season also saw the first medical expulsion in any Worst Driver series due to the experts' belief that the contestant should no longer be driving: Donna Hicks was eliminated in this manner, in part due to angina.
Canada's Worst Driver 5 (2009) took place at CFB Borden, with the road test in downtown Toronto. The theme of the season is "driving boot camp". This season saw the first time a contestant, Crystal Hubley Farao, leave due to a personal (and ironically, driving-related) tragedy (her brother in law was killed in a motorcycle accident). Anxiety-riddled and distracted Angelina Marcantognini ended up as Canada's Worst Driver this season. Host Andrew Younghusband further stated during the FAQ special his belief that Angelina is the worst of the "worst drivers" to date, though he subsequently retracted this statement in the ninth season and said that her severe emotional problems were more to blame for her driving than a lack of technical ability.
Canada's Worst Driver 6 (2010) took place at Dunnville Airport, the local airport of Dunnville, Ontario, with the road test in Niagara Falls, Ontario. A racing theme was employed this season, with every challenge being ones that were used in previous years, but at higher speeds. Being inexperienced and having denied that his anxiety had anything to do with his driving, Lance Morin was named Canada's Worst Driver. The season also featured the first instance of a driver effectively being removed by their nominator, after Scott Schurink's poor attitude caused his nominator to cancel their shared insurance policy, resulting in Scott's immediate expulsion.
Canada's Worst Driver 7 (2011) started from the Ontario Street parking garage in St. Catharines, Ontario on June 18, 2011, with the Driver Rehabilitation Centre located at Dunnville Airport for the second year in a row. The theme of the season is the uniquely Canadian aspects of driving, and the final road test was taken in Hamilton, Ontario. Despite an overall good challenge performance, an ultimately disastrous road test was what caused Shirley Sampson to be named Canada's Worst Driver.
Canada's Worst Driver F.A.Q.'s/CWD Frequently Asked Questions (2012) 1-hour interseason special of viewer questions for the first seven seasons.
Canada's Worst Driver 8 (2012) started from a parking lot in Niagara Falls, Ontario, with the Driver Rehabilitation Centre located at Dunnville Airport for the third year in a row. The theme of the season is "driving in a big city", and the road test was taken in Hamilton, Ontario. At the end, Flora Wang's poor progress and Kevin Simmons' non-functioning right eye caused a tie for the title of Canada's Worst Driver, a first for the series.
Canada's Worst Driver Ever (2013) is the first "all-star" season, which saw nine previous winners and runners-up return to the show for a chance to either redeem themselves or be named the worst-ever. Ultimately, Kevin Simmons was named the outright worst driver ever after turning in an even worse final road test than in the previous year. This season saw the first time a contestant was disqualified and removed from the show due to the experts judging them ineligible to take part (Henrietta Gallant being sent home in the first episode after admitting she largely gave up driving after previously being named the worst) and also the first time a contestant's nominator was replaced (when Michael Telford's nominator Yolanda Kozak was replaced by her husband Eric, due to her excessive negativity and hostility toward Michael).
Canada's Worst Driver 10 (2014) is the upcoming tenth season.