Car Advice

Why advanced driving courses don’t always make you a safer driver

You are wasting your money if you think the average advanced driving course will make you a safer driver.

SORRY TO GO against the received wisdom here, but why don’t we step back from anecdotal stories or what “seems” right, and instead look at actual evidence and studies by specialist researchers who deal with facts and data.  Here’s a few:

Although some portion of teenage crash involvements can be accounted for by poorer basic vehicle handling skills, the research suggests that it is young drivers’ immaturity and inexperience, and the resultant risk-taking, that contribute most to their increased crash risk.

Teenage Driver Risks and Interventions, Scott V. Masten, January 2004.

 

Low risk on-road behaviour basically requires three things:

  • the acquisition of necessary skills
  • the ability to apply these skills efficiently and effectively when operating on the road and in traffic
  • the willingness or motivation to apply these skills when operating on the road and in traffic

When trying to place a framework on novice driver safety, the interplay of the following global factors should receive consideration:

  • the skilled performance literature indicates that novices perform significantly worse than their more experienced counterparts for a variety of reasons associated with the nature of information processing
  • there is mounting evidence that the riskiness of novice driver driving cannot be fully explained by skill decrements and that there is a motivational component contributing to their over-representation in accident statistics.

….evidence in the area serves to further reinforce the view that novice driver safety has two, complementary aspects – the skills-based and the motivational and that safety improvements can potentially be derived from both.

–AN OVERVIEW OF NOVICE DRIVER PERFORMANCE ISSUES: A LITERATURE REVIEW: Alan Drummond

 

In a previous study, it is well documented that adolescents are more likely than adults to engage in risky behaviour (Arnett, 1992). Most evidence suggests that risk-taking is the most important major factor underlying the high crash rates among teens. 

— The Relationships between Demographic Variables and Risk-Taking Behaviour among Young Motorcyclists Siti Maryam Md and Haslinda Abdullah

 

There is no sound evidence that either advanced or defensive driving courses reduce the crash involvement of experienced drivers who attend them

RACV

 

OK, I’ll stop now.  There’s more excerpts at the bottom, and even more on Google.  Feel free to do what I’ve done over the years and read some of the papers. 

What is a “good” driver?

Before we go any further, let’s define a “good driver”, a term often used, rarely defined.  It could mean a driver that, compared to the average, is:

  • safer – less likely to crash
  • quicker – can drive faster
  • more specifically skilled – for example able to back a trailer, drive a 4WD offroad
  • smoother and more sympathetic – less wear and tear on the car, a limousine sort of driver
  • able to drive more economically

Some very safe drivers are very poor at backing trailers or controlling skids. Does that make them a bad driver?  I would say no, but the prevailing wisdom looks at immediately impressive skills, not a track record of no accidents.

You have to match the training to the objective.  The problem is when “good” or “better” is not defined, and you end up using the wrong training for the wrong purpose.

Now let’s look at driver training programmes, because ” advanced driver training” is a pretty broad term:  I’m writing this from experience as a student having done many, many of these courses, and also as an instructor and designer of courses as diverse as 4WD, winching, towing and car control, plus work as a car demonstrator.

Types of driver training

  • Race training – focuses on driving the car fast: skills such as racing lines, skid identification and recovery, car setup, trailbraking, heel’n’toe shifting.  Much emphasis is placed on car control.
  • Stunt skills – controlled skidding, understeeer and oversteer, drifting, handbrake turns, j-turns and the like.  Another car-control focused course.
  • Driving Experiences (short) – these are a few laps in some fast car or other. You will not learn very much, and the idea is to give you a thrill, a “say you’ve done it” moment. The instructor is there to stop you having an accident, and to ensure you have fun.
  • Driving Experiences (manufacturer) – carefully not named ‘training’, these courses are primarily there for you to have fun and get a positive brand association, and never expose the car in a negative light!  There is some element of training with the objectives of improving car control and safety.  Usually half to a full day.
  • Defensive driving – Wikipedia has a good definition – ” driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”  This is the “everyone else is an idiot” school of thought.
  • Low Risk Driver Training – same objective as defensive, but a big, big change in philosophy where the onus is placed on the driver to take fewer risks regardless of right of way or legal right, yet still be assertive.  In general terms, defensive is about imparting skills, low risk is about changing attitude and that is a very significant difference.  Low risk is superseding defensive.

Very few courses are pure to the definitions above, for example defensive driving usually includes quite a bit of of car control, but nevertheless the categorisation works.  There are also specific skills courses on towing, 4WD and the like but we’ll leave them out of it for the moment.

So before anyone says “advanced driver training” does or does not work, we need to define what we want to achieve from the training, and what that training is.

Let’s assume we want a safer driver.  And here’s the contentious statement: what you don’t want is a course that involves car control or racing techniques, slaloms or any of that fun stuff you find on car control courses.  While improved car control does have benefits for safety, it’s by no means the most important thing to focus on, and too much of a focus may in fact be counter-productive.  Now to prove that point.

But surely car control courses work?

Try and find one, just one study that shows focusing on advanced car control skills makes road drivers safer.  Send it to me if you do find it.

IMG_1645
Slaloms are fun, but the skills you sort-of learn on the day (and then let rust) don’t make you a safer road driver.

 

Why don’t car skills based training work?

The answer is in all the references in this article, but it can be summarised as follows:

  • the basic mechanical skills of car control, sufficient to drive on public roads, are very easily acquired.  There are 5 year-olds who are ace go-karters.  A 17 year old just made it to Formula 1.  The average driver has no problem controlling or manouvering a car without crashing.  Maybe not very skillfully, but we’re talking safe not driving perfection.
  • people crash mostly because they take risks, not because of lack of car control skill.  Don’t we all drive very nicely when we’re being followed by a police car? 
  • so we know how to drive safely, we just don’t bother.  That means safety is about motivating drivers to ensure that they actually drive as safetly as they know how.  
  • car control skills are useful, but cannot be learned in a day, need constant practice to keep current, and do not address the major causes of crashes
  • the safety-related skills drivers lack tend to be observation, anticipation and risk assessment, not ability to hold a drift or manage skids
  • pure car control skills do have a benefit, but it’s nowhere near the biggest safety factor, and increasing them may lead to false confidence and therefore be counter-productive

What sort of driver training lowers crash rates?

Training that addresses the reason people crash, which is their attitude to risk more than their skill, and their motivation to drive more safely.

This is the basis of low-risk driver training, where people are made aware of their propensity for risk, and their appetite for risk decreased.

Low-risk driver training:

  • motivates the driver to drive as safely as they can, all the time
  • changes the perception from accident to incident, ie “it was their fault’ or “it just happened” or “the road..the car…the everything” to “what could I have done, regardless of fault, or legal right of way”
  • gives drivers skills in anticipation and observation so they can assess risk earlier

What about aviation?

Some people compare aviation training to driver training.   Having qualiflied as a pilot myself, and then done a fair bit of instruction I can confidently say that pilot training is light years ahead of driver training, and far, far, more thorough.  

However, pilot training does not involve spins or aerobatics, which is the equivalent of car control training.  The closest you get is stalling, when you fly so slowly airflow over the wing breaks down and you fairly suddenly lose lift. The reason that’s done is so that pilots can recognise a stall before it happens (an “incipient stall”) and take avoiding action.  The equivalent in cars would be recovering from a locked brake while braking.  The difference is that with stalling it is presented as something to avoid, whereas skidding in car courses is more “if this happens, here’s how you recover” leading to unwarranted self-confidence.  There is also considerable theory to go through in pilot training including stalling and aerodynamics, all part of a formal syllabus controlled by the relevant government authority so such exercises are carefully placed in context – unlike car driver training. 

Pilot training is also to a competency.  You keep going, no matter how long it takes, until you achieve the desired standard or give up.  The instructor has to sign you off as competent, and that will only happen once they are confident you can demonstrate the skill over and over because it’s lives on the line. 

I have spent many, many flights on specific skills before I could sign the student off as competent.  In contrast, with car post-license training there’s a set number of attempts at a skill and that’s it, you move on regardless, and the student gets a certificate of attendance, not of competence.

Also, pilots are regularly re-tested and have to keep their skills current – for private pilots in Australia this is once every 24 months.  When I was instructing we did minor checks every three months and full checks every year, which included stalls. 

Nothing like that happens for private drivers, once you qualify that’s it, and there are no post-license training standards. 

But here’s a maxim from the world of aviation that’s applicable to car driving:  “above average pilots use their above average airmanship to avoid situations where their above average skill is never needed”.  

Translated, the good pilots stay out of trouble and that’s why they’re good. A skilled car-control driver who relies on their car-control skills every day is a bad road driver.

But I car-controlled my way out of a situation!!!

Yes, we all did at some point.  Well done you.  But you know what?   You utterly failed as a road driver if you needed to resort to that sort of skill.  Refer to the maxim above.

A big part of low-risk is taking the attitude that accidents don’t exist, only incidents.  An accident is an unavoidable situation, an incident is one you could have avoided, and almost all ‘accidents’ are incidents.  Again, a look at aviation crash investigation is instructive.  You don’t find air accident investigators writing reports that say “well, it just happened and nothing could be done about it”.

crashnotaccident

Yes, but what if you ARE in a bad situation?

If you are in a situation where you are sliding across the road, then yes, of course car control skills will be useful and could save lives.  But:

  • how do you acquire those skills?  A one-day training course is not enough, you need a lot more time than that and constant, constant practice
  • there is a danger, as the evidence shows, that drivers become over confident and think they can car-control themselves out of situations when in fact they cannot.  Being able to recover a skid, once or twice, on one day, in one car, on one road when you’re prepared for it is quite different to recovering a different car, unexpectedly, in any given situation.
  • On public roads there is often insufficient space to recover a skid.  On a racetrack if the back end steps out you can forget about the apex and gather the car up….do that on a public road and you’re very likely into the opposing traffic.

Is racetrack and car control training really of no value on the road?

There’s no evidence I could find to say it is – but that’s because the studies look at safety.  I believe car control training can certainly help make you a smoother driver, and even a more fuel-efficient one, and you could certainly call that “better”.  Even for safety techniques like lifting your vision further down the road definitely helps, as does the correct steering technique, braking and so on.  It’s all good stuff.

The problem, as the research indicates, is that this sort of training doesn’t address the true factors of most accidents, and doesn’t help very much with better being defined as “safer”.

Driver training has to focus on the biggest causes of crashes.  For example, people crash because of car engine failure.  But very, very few…so dealing with engine failure is not a priority.   The research shows people crash mainly because of risk-taking behaviour which can be fixed by an attitude change, and the skills they need are mostly around observation and anticipation.  Exactly how the steering wheel is held and their smoothness of braking are not as important.

There is also evidence from the insurance companies.  Ask any one of them, and you will find the group of drivers least likely to crash are middle-aged women. The group most likely to crash are young men.   Now we have to go  anecdotal, but I think we can all agree that middle-aged women are not, as a group, particularly interested in cars compared to young men.  And if you had a test of car control skill, then my experience is that the young men would come out well ahead of the middle-aged women.  

Yet the women have fewer accidents. So what if they can’t brake hard into a corner…what about their driving record over the last five or ten years, not just on this artificial-situation day?   Take ten blokes and ten women and you’ll find the women have fewer accidents, and the blokes will be more likely to blame everything but themselves.

So car control skills are totally useless?

No, just not as important as people think they are.  The research tells us that skills do matter, because elderly drivers have a high accident rate.  These drivers are not risk-takers, far from it, but their ability to process information and drive the car decreases.  And sitting correctly behind the wheel, driving smoothly…it all helps for safety.  It’s just not as important as your risk-taking attitude, and your ability to anticipate developing situations.

If you want another view on this subject read this from Paul Murrell.  Feel free to comment with your views…

IMG_1244
Offroad driver training requires new skills and much new learning. Car control skills must be improved to be successful. In contrast, qualified roadcar drivers can already drive and while there is room for improvement in basic car skills, there are more gains to be made in changing attitudes to take less risks.

 

Even more evidence…

Here’s a few more excerpts from papers on the subject of driver training. 

High teen crash risk is due to a number of factors, including (obviously) a fundamental lack of driving skill. However, contrary to what one might think, the evidence suggests that poor vehicle control skills account for only 10% of novice driver crashes; the remaining 90% is accounted for by factors such as inexperience, immaturity, inaccurate risk perception, overestimation of driving skills, and risk taking (Edwards, 2001).

Evidence shows that in the USA the highest skilled drivers (registered race and rally car drivers) have a much higher crash rate than the average driver (Naatanen and Summala, 1976).

  … alleged benefits [of skidpan training] rest upon the assumption that a substantial proportion of crashes are attributable to a lack of vehicle-control skills: increased exposure to assorted manoeuvres on a skidpan will improve these skills and thus reduce accidents. However, again the evidence does not stand up to close examination: attendance at skid training programs has increased rather than reduced crash involvement (Langford, 2002, P.36).    

An analysis of accident and conviction data for a two year post-training period showed no statistically significant differences between any of the groups, (ie trained vs. untrained young drivers)

Strang, Deutsch, James & Manders (1982) A comparison of on-road and off-road driver training. A comparison of novice driver training Road Safety & Traffic Authority.

 

Post Licence driver education and driver improvement programs have shown no differences between drivers who have completed the program and those who had not.

Circosta and Salotti (1990) A review & discussion of issues related to the training and education of novice drivers. Brisbane; Road Safety Division, QLD Transport.

 

Driver and rider training programs have suffered over recent years from the fact that many skilled and careful evaluations have shown little effect, none, or even a negative effect on accident rates when it has been employed.

Henderson (1991) Education, publicity and training in road safety; A literature review.

 

Racing drivers, young drivers and male drivers, the very groups with the highest levels of perceptual-motor skills and the greatest interest in driving, are the groups which have the higher than average crash involvement rates. This demonstrates that increased driving skill and knowledge are not the most important factors associated with avoiding traffic crashes. What is crucial is not how the driver can drive (driver performance) but how the driver does drive (driver behaviour).”

The clear failure of the skill model underlines the need to consider motivational models that incorporate the self-paced nature of the driving task.

Leonard Evans (1991) Traffic Safety & The Driver     

 

In our view, the increased accident frequency of the racing (trained) drivers is not due to their superior driving but can be more likely contributed to a greater-than-average acceptance of risk, which induced them to pick up the activity of car racing to begin with.

 

Offers such as track days giving youngsters the chance to drive quickly in safe conditions would need to be considered very carefully and we strongly advise you need to further examine the available evidence in greater detail before proceeding with these ideas. Norwegian studies from 15-20 years ago (reported in Tronsmoen 2008) found an increased accident rate from people who had been on skid courses – probably because of over-confidence. 

Courses have been trialled extensively in the U.S., taught by police or specific driving schools, however a number of studies (U.S., Norway) indicate that young drivers who joined these courses went on to have higher crash rates than those who did not (Jones, 1993; Glad, 1988). Williams and Ferguson (2004) attribute this to inspiring overconfidence and/or that tempt young people to try out the manoeuvres, while Horswill et al (2003) suggest that raising people’s estimations of their hazard detection skills through hazard perception improvement interventions may cause them to drive more riskily because they think they can handle the risk better. 

Encouraging Road Safety Amongst Young Drivers: How can Social Marketing Help?

 

“There is little evidence that courses teaching advanced driving manoeuvres such as skid pan control improve driver safety, and they can produce adverse outcomes”
(Williams and Ferguson 2004, p.4)  Wilde GS (1994) Target Risk

 

 “These results suggest that a high level of driving skill is associated with a high crash risk. This apparent contradiction could be explained as follows: the belief of being more skilled than fellow drivers increases confidence in one’s abilities more than it increases actual abilities. A high confidence in one’s abilities could lead to an aggressive style of driving that could lead to more critical situations.” OECD (1990) Behavioural adaptations to change in the road transport system. Road Transport Research. 

 

 A recent review of pre-driver training and education found no evidence to support the presumption that such programmes directly improve driver safety (Kinnear et al., 2013). While there was some evidence of short-term attitudinal change, the vast majority of programmes are not evaluated sufficiently, or at all, to determine if this is a consistent finding.
http://www.roadsafetyobservatory.com/HowEffective/drivers/driver-training 

IMG_9841
This is skills-based training, learning how to handle trailers in forwards and reverse. For on-road driving qualified drivers can already drive and while there is room for improvement in basic car skills, there are more gains to be made in changing attitudes to take less risks.


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[…] Why advanced driving courses don't always make you a safer driver &#8211. Practical … ….evidence in the area serves to further reinforce the view that novice driver safety has two, complementary aspects – the skills-based and the motivational and that safety improvements can potentially be derived from both. –AN OVERVIEW OF NOVICE … Read more on Practical Motoring […]

Maggie Dee
Maggie Dee
5 years ago

This pathetic old argument about driver training really is a bore!
Just ask you local ignorant politician if driver training is dangerous….THEN….
Ask her or him these questions….
Do government chauffeurs (ie. yours mate) have advanced driver training?
Do ambulance drivers get advanced driver training?
Are police officers allowed to touch a police car without advanced driver training?
UMMM, embarrassing for the poor pollie who will be forced to show their pure ignorance, because the answer is…. Yes, they all need advanced driver training.

We should be following countries such as Canada. They have a graduated license system which means you need to complete a full day course before getting your provisional license. Then, before you get a full license you need to complete another course. Not the best system in the world, but in the early 2000’s it did (with restrictions on P plate drivers) end up with a 40% drop in accident rates for under 21 year olds.

The poor drivers in Australia hit their P Plates, and then……School of hard knocks baby, good luck!!!!

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Maggie Dee

Thanks Maggie!

macca
macca
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

Hi Robert, I’m a primary school teacher who has done a lot
of driving throughout the state of S.A. Over 10 years I was paid to do….

4WD training with the SA police.
Advanced driver training through Cameron Wearing,
Then offered advanced driver training through the Transport Training Centre in
Adelaide. If they still do it, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

I did them all and am very glad I did!
All of them opened my eyes to better driving and better skills.

A small but classic example is regularly driving through the Adelaide hills and despairing at the lack of skills when using fog lights (in the fog).

So, if school teachers are good enough to be offered advanced driver
training, everybody should!

P.S. The 2 days training with Cameron Wearing was at Mallala Raceway. Great ,
informative, educational and also a bit of fun!

Nothing wrong with that either!

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  macca

Thanks Macca, nice post!

Duncan MacKillop
Duncan MacKillop
5 years ago

What’s the difference between the wily old driver that doesn’t crash and the young tyro that does? Before you say experience, experience is how we make the difference, but it is not the difference. The difference between the two is that one is simply a better predictor of the future system state than the other. That’s it, there is nothing else, it’s as simple as that.

The expert is always going to have a much better handle on what’s going to happen next than the tyro and if they know what’s going to happen next then they will always be in a position to take advantage or avoid disadvantage from the unfolding situation. All accidents are the result of prediction failures. Surprise is Nature’s way of telling you that you have made a prediction failure so if there is no surprise there can be no accident.

Don’t think there’s many driver training courses that teach their students that simple idea.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago

Duncan – that prediction difference does exist and is a function of skill and experience. However, attitude to risk is critical. You can correctly predict a scenario and decide to go for it anyway. That’s what high-risk drivers do, and why they crash.

Low-risk training addresses exactly this point.

Duncan MacKillop
Duncan MacKillop
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

It’s a good explanation Robert, but not entirley correct. Crashes most often happen when the people involved predict that the risk in the unfolding scenario is at no more than background level and so is perfectly manageable. It’s when external observers with a different understanding of the actual risk level in a scene get involved that we begin to conflate an ‘understanding’ problem with an ‘attitude’ problem.

Accepting that the local rationality principle works the same for everybody from tyro to expert is one of the most difficult things for an expert to grasp. The ‘nightmare overtake’ only gives the person watching it nightmares as the person doing it is perfectly happy that everything is going to work out fine.

Strangely enough the biggest killer on the roads is the fuilly compliant, non speeding driver yet their attitude to risk is hardly ever called into question.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago

Duncan part of the problem seems to be not that risk it not anticipated, but that is is taken anyway…you do the dangerous thing even when you realise it’s risky.

Duncan MacKillop
Duncan MacKillop
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

People do the dangerous things because they are confident they can manage and handle that risk although that confidence may well stem from a lack of knowledge and understanding about the actual level of risk present in any circumstance.

Riding a motorbike is risky, but by far the biggest risk is bound up with clambering onto the thing in the first place. Any additional risks then become variations on a theme rather than new risks.

We maintain what is to us the optimum efficiency/thoroughness trade-off (ETTO) by matching our understanding of risk against the the environment in which we find ourselves. This ETTO is a moveable feast and changes by the second in response to unfolding circumstances and our ever changing knowledge and understanding about those circumstances.

kwh
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

Having been young and foolish once, I vividly remember asking myself spur of the moment ‘what if’ questions in my early twenties and impulsively deciding to answer them by experimentation. ‘How far will this rusty old Ford Escort I’m driving fly if I hit that hump back bridge I can see ahead absolutely flat out?’. This was number 1,456 in a series of several thousand similar experiments. And that was on top of all the judgement failures that characterised my early driving experience. On the plus side, being an accident waiting to happen hugely improved my car control skills – I discovered a year or so ago that my muscle memory will still catch a car that has broken away mid corner before I consciously realise it has ‘gone’, even decades later, which was handy at the time. I mildly bent a lot of metal, but never myself, and I didn’t really count them as crashes, even though had I ended up upside down in a ditch on fire, which I easily could have, the police certainly would have counted them thus. I only had one ‘fault accident’ with another vehicle, coming round a corner and finding a stationary queue of traffic I couldn’t stop for. In hindsight, clearly I was overdriving my sightlines, but I was oblivious to the clear warnings (It was hedge trimming operation, there were signs and everything so I shouldn’t have been surprised yet I was). I also had literally half a dozen collisions in the firest few years of my driving career, none of which were my fault or cost me my NCB for insurance purposes, but all of which were eminently predictable and thus avoidable. I don’t know what my attitude to risk was – it’s complicated… I wasn’t anxious to injure myself or die, I had a few friends & friends of friends who didn’t make it, mainly when they got involved in mopeds and motorcycles – I reckon replicating my car driving record on two wheels would have been the death of me as well, so I waited until I was 28 and seemed to have got being young out of my system before I got on a bike… and that was a conscious choice, which I made even back then for that very reason, although I would have articulated it differently back then. And yet, there I still am 10 feet in the air, head sore from bouncing it off the roof of the car, in a rusty Ford Escort Mk II, thinking ‘I probably should have thought this through shouldn’t I…’. I wasn’t stupid, had you given me half an hour and a sheet of A4, I could no doubt have filled it with lurid descriptions of all the ways jumping a Ford Escort of unknown structural soundness at high speed could go catastrophically and fatally wrong, although again there were probably myriad more possibilities that I wouldn’t have predicted, but certainly none of them sprung to mind before I hit the bridge at infeasibly high speed, or I would surely have bottled out.

Anyway, I think experience improved my predictive powers – there comes a point where you are making allowance for the things that can happen because you’ve seen them happen before. Riding a motorcycle is good for that as well, and for several years I didn’t own a car, using two wheels exclusively. Because the chance of a car pulling out on you is relatively low already, and the chance of it actually injuring you if it does as a car driver is vanishingly small, it’s easy to rationally (and subconsciously) just discount it and then do the paperwork if it happens, while blaming the other driver… on a motorcycle, a car pulling out on you feels like a direct threat to life and limb so there’s a lot more incentive to develop that ability to predict and make allowances for it. But I have no clear answer for what stopped me from conducting experiments like the aformentioned Mk II Escort/hump back bridge one. Perhaps it really was just crossing the rubicon of age and brain development?

Ern Reeders
5 years ago

Jung said that adolescence doesn’t end until about 25. And since that insight we’ve found that the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop till around the mid 20s, and later for males than for females, and that’s the part of the brain involved in rational decision-making: weighing risks and benefits, coping with uncertainty, imagining consequences and so on. We should expect younger male drivers to be making poor decisions.

Duncan MacKillop
Duncan MacKillop
5 years ago
Reply to  Ern Reeders

If an undeveloped pre-frontal cortex is the result of millions of years of evolution then leaving it undeveloped must provide a sound survival advantage. That advantage is of course what we now understand as learning. In its undeveloped state learning is made so much easier and quicker simply because of the lack of impediments such as rational decision making etc.

Ern Reeders
5 years ago

That’s a specious teleology.
Our species can clearly afford a significant mortality & morbidity rate among young men & still spread.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Ern Reeders

I think you’re both right. Our species as a whole has to look at what’s best for the entire race, but now we’re focused on individual survival. Also, the best design of a human for eons ago is no longer the best design for a human in 2015.

Ern Reeders
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

If you accept that young drivers and riders will as a by-product of their cognitive development make poor decisions, then you have limited policy options. Banning them from public roads won’t wash. You could try a form of training that induces rigid rule following. You could wait for driverless cars to get sorted and mandate those. Or you could as with so many other public health responses work on harm minimisation. That’s already partly in place with rules about speed, blood alcohol, number of passengers carried and so on.

I favour offering opportunities to take risks in a safer environment like track days, 4WD and motocross parks and the like. I believe that the French used to have a bike track outside Paris for this purpose. Sliding across the grass when you’ve low-sided your bike is a sobering and vivid learning experience. It need not be crippling to you or to others.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Ern Reeders

Ern I agree that motorsports is a great way for people to get their thrills safely and am all for it. Do it myself too. So long as it is recognised that developing track skills does not make a safer road driver (or, there are better ways to spend time for road safety) then it’s all good.

Ern Reeders
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

I mean track days rather than comps Robert but either way. And I’d say they *may* make for a more skilled driver or rider. Thinking of my riding experience & that of my acquaintances, they have – through learning how very capable modern bikes are; how much you can ask of them when you get in the poo.
Maybe bikes are a special case as loss of grip at both ends usually means an off. Best to probe this limit in a safe environment.

Duncan MacKillop
Duncan MacKillop
5 years ago
Reply to  Ern Reeders

Evolution knows nothing of species as a species is the result of adaptation not a cause of it. The evolutionary imperative is the survival of the individual gene which means that the best adaped will survive and the least adapted will die out. The undeveloped pre-frontal cortex therefore is clearly to the benefit of survival as we’ve all had it/got it and we have most definitely survived!

Robert Pepper
5 years ago

Well it seemed to have been essential in the past…but evolution takes a little while to catch up with changing circumstances so could be it’s not necessary now and in the future humans will not have it, and instead grow stylus-shaped fingers so we can operate smartphones better…

Ern Reeders
5 years ago

And the appendix, and other vestigial organs?

As for the evolution of a species, random mutations through sexual reproduction occur prior to a change in the environment in which they confer an advantage. It’s not adaptation, it’s chance. Go back & read Darwin. The ‘selfish gene’ thesis doesn’t stand up.

Many humans indeed entire societies have not in fact survived and the survival of the human species is now moot – the final chapter of human evolution is yet to be written.

Ern Reeders
5 years ago

I gather that an analysis of nearly 50 years of UK crash data collected by police on a case by case basis showed that the major factor was being distracted or not paying attention.
In this context, road design & traffic rules that are aimed at engineering out driving challenges will be counter productive.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Ern Reeders

Ern that logic can also lead the the conclusion drivers were not managing risk properly. Everybody knows that taking your eye off the road is a risk…but we do it anyway.

Ern Reeders
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

Yes.
Life is a risk.

Spixy
Spixy
5 years ago

Thanks Robert I found this article very helpful. For myself I was able to pull out three key points I could use to help increase my driving awareness.
I made an acronym up “OAR” from your points which is simple easy to remember and could help in directing my mind on the right course.
Observation
Anticipation
Risk assessment
OAR, I drove 500km yesterday after reading you article and found it invaluable.
Thank you.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Spixy

That is brilliant Spixy….I shall quote that in future!!!

Colin Bamforth
Colin Bamforth
5 years ago

Well I have read this with an open mind and have now come to the unusual decision to type something.

What a load of Bollocks!

As a qualified driving instructor in NZ teaching emergency services advanced techniques I can verify that advanced courses have a huge advantage to the students. The course needs to be at the correct level for the students and target the needs of the student.

I use Roadcraft to base the learning on; this is internationally recognised as

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Colin Bamforth

Colin can you define ‘advanced courses’ please and the context.

If you are teaching emergency services then that would be to a competency and there would be refresher training as required. That is as distinct from the one-day courses where you just get a certificate of attendance. Hence the “may” in the title, and the discussion of different types of training and their objective.

Ern Reeders
5 years ago
Reply to  Colin Bamforth

The real test of effectiveness focuses on outcomes.
Do you follow up with your students in a systematic way the extent to which they handle risks better or reduce risk-taking?
As an aside, plenty of students in formal courses in general are there for extrinsic reasons and once they’ve jumped the hurdles they’re *finished* with all that.

Colin Bamforth
Colin Bamforth
5 years ago
Reply to  Ern Reeders

Yep follow up completed; some are a tick in a box but the skills taught do change driving styles by means of increased awareness. If you do not know you are unable to change.
If all advanced courses were so so inappropriate except for extrinsic reasons why have they been under increasing demand and development? I almost feel that your article is offensive towards the industry and the safety of drivers and ALL other road users.
I do not usually get involved in forums like this but this one has rattled my cage.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  Colin Bamforth

Colin please note the title does not say all advanced courses are a waste of time. To summarise in one sentence the premise is “focusing on car control and other mechanical skills is not as effective as focusing on attitude to risk, allied with observation and anticipation”.

I am also interested in disagreements from other driver trainers who are in the business of safety, for example reducing crash rates for corporates. So far, four have contacted me and all have said they agree 100% with the article. However, could be we’re all wrong and others are right, so let’s explore the opposing views.

If you would like to write a rebuttal please contact me. We welcome debate on Practical Motoring.

John Ristell
John Ristell
5 years ago

Great article Robert. The best research points to failures in the assumptions that underpin
the design of traditional training. The core assumption is that driver’s crash
because of a performance deficit. Therefore most driver training makes the
assumption, if drivers knew more, and could do more, they would crash less.

An example; about 1:5 crashes involves losing control on a bend. Driving
instructors therefore assume that ‘knowing’ more about the dangers of cornering
and ‘doing’ activities that help straighten-the-bend (improving performance),
will result in fewer crashes. The truth is that learning more in these areas
does not reduce the number or severity of crashes in bends. You could replace
the lesson on cornering, with virtually any other topic on a driver-training course
and you’d get the same result.

The reason is because drivers almost never crash because of a lack of
knowledge or skill. To design a course on the assumption that improved
knowledge and skill will reduce crashes is naive, because it fails to
understand the relationship between driver-skill and driver-motivation.

Note, that a driver’s attitude is different to a driver’s motivation. A
driver who feels strongly about careful driving (positive attitude) may still
rush to an important meeting (goal-oriented motivation).

The best evaluations of driver safety programs all point to ‘motivation’
as being the key to improving driver safety. In other words, it is the
individual’s willingness to take risks that is the principal reference point
for risk-taking behaviour. This is what motivates risk-taking, or
safety-seeking behaviour.

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[…] Why advanced driving courses don’t always make you a safer driver – A one-day training course is not enough, you need a lot more time than that and constant, constant practice there is a danger … raising people’s estimations of their hazard detection skills through hazard perception improvement interventions may … […]

SgtCarlMc
SgtCarlMc
3 years ago

The RACV are WRONG. No where in this article or overseas study show the statistics of Army Drivers. I would love to show you Mr Pepper a course that works, but I don’t have the authority to delve into the Army’s Records. By all accounts, think of this, in all the decades of the Australian Army in Australia, how many accidents have you heard from Army drivers, considering this group, by it’s very nature, would do more miles of driving than most civilian drivers would do in a lifetime. The last time I heard of an accident, was when a driver over-turned his vehicle killing another soldier. How many millions of kilometres have the Australian Army drivers drove since then, how many accidents after that last one. It is very rare when Army drivers have accidents, the Army School of Transport endeavours to train only the best.

Robert Pepper
3 years ago
Reply to  SgtCarlMc

Just saw this. I don’t understand your point. This is about civilian not military driving. I do not know how the ADF trains its driver so am not going to comment, but I can say that the UK military has (or had) some post-license training.

SgtCarlMc
SgtCarlMc
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

My point is, if every-one did an Army School of Transport course there would be fewer accidents, unfortunately this won’t happen any time soon. I did the course and I can say what they taught me shows on my driving record

Robert Pepper
3 years ago

Thanks Eddie. Never too late to talk about driving safety.

Tressna Martin
Tressna Martin
2 years ago

This is a great article Robert. Easy to read, simple but informative information.

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper