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An argument for drivers ed'

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

An argument for drivers ed'

Tim HillerbyMorgan
December 20, 2009

Tim HillerbyMorgan

In 2007 the Department for Transport document Road Casualties - Main Results presented us with some scary accident figures.

27774 people were seriously injured - beyond hope of full recovery.

The number of deaths among car users was 1,432.

The number of car users seriously injured was 11,535.

This is a shocking indictment of the way the UK licences its drivers.

We are not concerned about the overall figures. Instead, I want to concentrate on the driving test demographic. This age group is involved in nearly a fifth of all car accidents.

We need to establish the figures for the target group. Transport for London has done this for us. They said that in 2008 17 - 25 year old drivers were involved in 18% of all crashes. Simple maths and we arrive at the figures we need.

4999 people people killed or seriously injured - beyond hope of full recovery.

The number of deaths among car users was 258

The number of car users seriously injured was 2076

The Driving Standards Agency is responsible for driving tests in the UK. They say that those who pass their driving test have had, on average, about 45 hours of professional training combined with 22 hours of private practice. Learners who prepare this way, with a combination of plenty of professional training and plenty of practice, do better in the test.

Yet the problem remains. 17 - 25 year old newly qualified drivers are not properly prepared for life on the roads.

There are three main reasons for this.

In the UK, the driving test is a rite of passage. It does fit Ninian Smarts description of a religious rite. The driving test is seen as something to prepare for - An ordeal to be survived. Learner drives are made test ready and not road ready.

The second factor at play is money. Learning to drive is expensive. Parents put driving schools and driving instructors under a lot of pressure to take pupils to test as quickly as possible. Ask any instructor if they have heard this phrase from a parent. "It only took me 10 lessons"

The next factor at play is the test regime itself. It is inadequate for modern driving. The theory test is neither use nor ornament. Learner drivers can buy CDroms with the questions and answers supplied. This reduces the test to learning by rote. The driving test is only thirty minutes. This is not enough time to test persons driving skills.

These factors combine to release young drivers onto the roads with out the depth of skills and knowledge they need to stay safe.

Research into Drivers Ed

The main academic research into drivers Ed' focuses on one study in America. It demonstrates that drivers' has an effect on road safety.

This experiment took place in DeKalb county Atlanta. The high school students were divided into two cohorts. One received drivers and the other did not.

The cohort who had drivers ed' were involved in 6% fewer accidents. The reference for this is a 1994 report to congress by NHTSA.

The effect disappeared after six months. This puzzled many of the American researchers. The answer is simple - the longer you have been driving the more road experience you have - the more expereince the less the crashes. The accident rates even out after two years in this country.

The only possible conclusion is that drivers ed' preloads driving expereince. Drivers Ed is worth six months of driving experience.

European Research.

There is no research published in Europe on this topic. There is one study on styles of driver testing and training. Stefan Siegrist, Ph. D. Of the Swiss Council for Injury Prevention bfu published it at the 2003 Forum on Driver Education and Training, in Washington.

The UK and Holland have the lowest accident rates in Europe. The difference between the Dutch and the British is structure. The Dutch system is tightly structured.

The Dutch have recently trialed a tightly structured driver training course. It involves a series of modules similar. The Dutch course is called Driver Training Steps.

In the Dutch province of Gelderland in 2001, a small-scale test with the DTS took place (Nägele & Vissers, 2001). For the 109 DTS learners, the pass rate on their first driving test was 83%. In the period immediately before the DTS was introduced, the pass rate for the regular learners at the same driving schools was 46%.

In addition, the DTS learners had not needed more lessons than the group of regular learners with the 46% pass rate. From January 2002 to April 2003, a large scale follow-up study was done in Gelderland in which 557 DTS learners participated. In this study their pass rate was 75% compared to 53% for the regular driver training given by driving schools involved in this second DTS test.

Claims for Drivers Ed.

It is reasonable to expect that a tightly structured drivers' course will reduce post-test accidents by 6%. It could prevent 300 KSI accidents a year. A higher pass rate. This is supported by the Dutch experience and the experience of instructors in the UK who structure their training. The effect will be an 8 to 10% increase in pass rates.

A UK Drivers Ed' Programme will save lives.

The Drivers Ed Company own and manage the BTEC in Driving Skills. This combines the work of driving instructors, driving schools and learner drivers. The course runs alongside driving lessons to form a powerful driver training aid. This course will improve pass rates and reduce deaths on the roads.

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