By Art Liggio, President, Driving Dynamics
Amos Neyhart, a professor at Penn State University, started the first driver’s education course in 1934 at a high school in State College, Pennsylvania. While vehicle types, traffic conditions and behavioral issues have greatly changed since then, just how well have we kept up with preparing people to drive safely—especially those who spend hours each week behind-the-wheel for work?
Over the past decade, a number of reviews on the effectiveness of standard driver education licensing programs have been conducted. This includes a comprehensive international review sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (Clinton & Lonero, 2006). These reviews uniformly concluded that in the majority of programs, no reduction in the crash rates among newly licensed drivers was observed. This is not surprising given that the primary content and focus of most current driver education programs is to train drivers to pass the licensing exam in the shortest period of time, not to make great drivers—the emphasis here is to keep training costs to a minimum.
Representatives from 40 of the 51 jurisdictions (50 states and Washington, DC) responded to surveys conducted by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Included in this analysis were similar surveys conducted by the Driver Education and Training Administrators organization. Results of these studies recorded that a great majority of driver education programs required by the states called for 30 hours of classroom instruction with the lowest number of required hours at eight and the highest at 56. And very disconcerting, most programs require only six hours of behind-the-wheel training. Some states required no behind-the-wheel training at all, while one state mandated 20 hours.
With an average of only six hours of formal behind-the-wheel training, how else have drivers picked up new skills from the time they first received their licenses until now? Subsequently, most additional experience gained has been self-taught. These self-learned behaviors may include taking shortcuts around traffic rules, ignoring dangerous weather-related road conditions, and perhaps achieving a level of comfort with risky or distracted driving habits. Spend any time on the road and you’ve likely experienced a multitude of safe driving quality control deficiencies that are the product of this “curriculum.”
As a fleet operator (non-CDL), do you think, based on an average of only six hours of formal behind-the-wheel training, the drivers in your fleet have come to you with an optimum level skill to operate a vehicle safely? Are these great drivers?
Pundits may deem that we have little control over societal woes related to driver safety. While many still fight the good fight, Americans, mostly through omission, have sadly accepted the cost of inadequate driver training. Are 96 road fatalities per day acceptable? How about 6,700 injuries per day? These are the 2015 statistics provided by the Insurance Information Institute. So what’s the acceptable price to pay for inadequate driver training? Whatever your answer, I am confident that your number is much lower than the real life facts.
While there are contributors beyond lack of training that make up these statistics, fleet safety leadership can be on the forefront of change to make drivers great by implementing safety training programs backed by meaningful communications campaigns. And by offering regular, ongoing training fleet operators will be making drivers great—again and again by keeping skills current and sustaining lasting change.
What about non-fleet operators? Eighty-six percent of workers drive to work. Best in class employers want to make sure that their employees arrive at their job safely and get home in the same condition. Ask your HR department what the cost of not doing this is to the company for lost time. It’s staggering and so much of it can be avoided by instituting a reasonable, cost effective driver safety training program for all employees. More and more employers are adopting this strategy. And time and time again, studies have proven that companies can achieve a sizable ROI for their investment in improving the skills and safety awareness of their drivers.
While there are many cries for safety improvements from various government regulators and other institutional entities, nothing can be as nimble or effective as what the business community can accomplish. Fleet operators employ millions of drivers and can have an important effect on the quality of the safety performance of those drivers. Let’s not settle for the price we’re now paying for inadequately trained drivers. By regularly delivering a training effort that fits within your company’s culture and resources you can provide meaningful improvements in employees’ driving skills and heightened awareness to act responsibly behind-the-wheel.
Safety & Risk is presented by Driving Dynamics an accomplished provider of impactful driver safety training and risk management services. Continually building and delivering programs based on sound research, proven learning methodologies and expert instruction, we are dedicated to improving drivers’ abilities to stay safe by leveraging risk management tools, principle-based learning and applied techniques. The One Second Advantage™ safety training principle developed by Driving Dynamics is rooted in research that shows 90 percent of all traffic crashes can be avoided when the driver has just one more second to react and knows what to do with that additional second. Driving Dynamics encourages all drivers to Steer Toward Safety™
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