Graduated Driving Licences or Professional Driver Training

Worldwide, statistics consistently indicate that 95% of all vehicle crashes or incidents are caused by driver error.  Unfortunately, ‘new drivers’ in the first 2 years after passing their test are more than 5 times more likely to be a statistic than the ‘experienced’ driver.

Why is this? What should be done about this?  Further restrict the freedom of every new and experienced driver by the imposition of more costly restrictions? Or improve and extend the training of the ‘new’ driver?

For various reasons, and despite the implementation of new procedures such as Theory and Hazard Perception testing, the crash statistics relating to new drivers are not improving.  The lack of improvement is provoking agencies to investigate a new layer of restrictive measures in the form of Graduated Driver Licensing – UK included.

Some authorities already operate a ‘Graduated Driving Licence’ system and it would appear that the benefits are not always as would be led to believe.  A report of the system operated in New Zealand would appear to contradict the claims that GDL is the answer.  (White Rose Research Online http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/3745/).

The majority of drivers do not take risks intentionally – they naively and needlessly place themselves and others at risk through a lack of knowledge and understanding.  Regardless of the restrictions placed on them, some of those who may wish to drive ‘competently’ and comply with good driving practice will still be involved in major and minor ’crashes’ due to lack of adequate training.

Those who enjoy ‘risk taking’ will continue to take risks, regardless of GDL restrictions, unless their attitude can be modified before, during and after training.

A very achievable, cost neutral and effective alternative to GDL is to ‘improve and expand the basic training’ of the new driver.

Since 2009, all northern European countries have regulations in place controlling the standards of professional driving instruction and the standard required for a ‘new’ driver to drive legally unaccompanied.

The standard of assessment used for and the range of topics being assessed for the statutory driving test, the driving instructor qualifying examinations and the monitoring of an instructors continued ability to instruct, certainly in the UK and the republic of Ireland, are inadequate and woefully incomplete. The current reviews of training methods and outcomes hopefully may go some way to remedy the situation but it must be said changes are long overdue.

Up to now, the testing agencies have only been able to measure the performance of the test candidate on the day, a problem easily exploited by many instructors and training organisations who just teach their students to pass their test and not to drive or instruct.

Believe it or not, there is a huge difference.

At the same time, many driving students and their parents are only interested in getting their licence as quickly and, in many cases, as cheaply as possible and never think about or question the quality or value of the training they are paying for.

Short sighted and possibly responsible for many of the fatal consequences.

It must also be said that the current accepted testing methods available to the agencies seriously limit their ability to assess a driver’s attitude and their natural response to hazardous scenarios.

Again a very achievable, cost neutral and effective system is available to augment and complement the traditional methods of training and testing and that is to embrace technology.   On line programmes and E-learning can increase the depth of knowledge and help cultivate positive attitudes of a student driver, be they experienced or novice.

Driving Simulators can positively allow students to gain greater experience of how to deal with the most dangerous of hazards and can even assess a driver’s ability to respond correctly to minimise or avoid danger.  Furthermore, the simulator can also very convincingly make a driver very much aware of the consequences resulting from their errors or misjudgements.

GDL may look good in countries where the base level of perception of competent driving and of training and testing is currently sub-standard.

Changes to syllabus content and the quality of delivery of training and coaching plus improved testing and ‘assessment’ criteria is likely to prove in the long term the best solution.

Further restrictions in the form of GDL will not be necessary if quality of training is improved.

As for the designers and manufacturers, certainly of the simulators, they must quickly take a step back and look to see if the technology is being used to the best advantage.  My view is that up to now they are only getting about 10% out of what is possible.  Simulators must change or they will continue to be viewed quite unnecessarily as something better suited to an amusement arcade.

Barry Jones   E-mail: barry@absolute-fleet.com and www.absolute-fleet.com

2nd October 2010

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About Barry Jones

40 years experience in the ‘driver education’ industry as driving instructor, DSA Assistant Chief Driving Examiner, driving instructor trainer and driving simulator designer and consultant. Barry is available for assessments and coaching for any driver or 'new' or 'experienced' driving instructor. Barry has always had a passion about cars and remains a lifelong follower, and previous competitor and organiser, of a range of motor sport activities including circuit racing and motor rallies. If anyone wishes to discuss any aspect of driving, training or motoring in general please do not hesitate to contact via email.
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