By on February 21, 2009

It’s a bright Thursday morning on Interstate 95. I’m hammering my black Phaeton down the left lane at an indicated one hundred and twenty-three miles per hour. In the back seat, my brother and sister-in-law are sound asleep. Next to me, my wife idly flips through the pages of a month-old magazine. “I think the Wilderness Lodge is the worst hotel at Disney… of the acceptable ones, you know,” she says. Before I can respond I notice that we’re closing in on what looks like a high-speed multiple-car freeway accident. In progress.

There are five lanes. The middle three are occupied by a tractor-trailer which is slewing sideways in true action-movie fashion. The right lane is unreachable at my current closing speed, so I dismiss it. The left lane and most of the shoulder is filled with cars swerving left and right before colliding into the mass of stopped traffic. The “pop-pop-pop” of the hits arrive through the double-pane glass just a moment after I see each set of rear wheels leave the ground upon impact.

With a solid shove of the left foot, I’ve engaged the ABS and there’s a scream from behind me as my sister-in-law is simultaneously awoken by the sudden deceleration and choked by her safety belt. Down to 70mph or so, foot off the brake, and now we’re in the thick of things. I choose to drop two wheels off the left shoulder and thread the gap. There’s a solid SLAM that fills the cabin as the tractor-trailer finally makes contact with something.

A blue Buick LeSabre ejects itself from the mess backwards and crosses our path in an eyeblink. The driver’s mouth is open; his hands are off the wheel. In a flash he’s upside-down and tumbling across the grassy median. Back on the throttle to lift the nose, climb the shoulder. I pick up the phone to call 911 and report what’s just happened.

This incident was the masturbatory fantasy of every “driver training” and “active safety” advocate: a mildly skilled vehicle operator avoids a deadly accident in a [conveniently European] sedan while SUVs drive mindlessly into a steaming pile. A couple of problems with the scenario…

First, my car, passengers, and cargo totaled well over 6000 pounds. The only inputs I applied were hard braking and slow steering. I could have done the same thing in an Escalade. The second is that it wasn’t skill that got me through; it was luck. I happened to find the empty spot, but that spot wasn’t empty a moment before and it wasn’t empty a moment afterwards. Only timing and the hand of Chance/Fate/insert your chosen Deity saved me from hitting stopped cars at seventy miles per hour. Had I closed my eyes and slammed the brakes, I might have made it through just as well.

There is no convincing evidence that skill-based driver training reduces automotive-related fatalities in this or any other country. While a recent IIHS study claims that mandatory ESC will reduce fatalities, the biggest benefit appears to come from reducing the risk of oscillation-based rollovers. Put it another way: if the reaction of every driver in this country to a potential accident were to simply stand on the brakes and prepare for impact, fatalities might well be reduced.

The Active Steering now available in BMW and Audi products recognizes this. When a panicky driver saws at the wheel, Active Steering drastically reduces the size of the input, thus ensuring that the car hits nose-first rather than with a far less well-protected door or B-pillar. Nor is this technology aimed exclusively at bumbling untrained Americans; the oh-so-superior European market apparently orders it as often as we do.

No amount of stricter licensing, pre-license training, or post-license testing can adequately prepare the average person for the wide variety of dangerous situations he or she is likely to face in a lifetime of driving, nor can a few open-lapping days or skidpad sessions significantly increase a driver’s readiness to cope with an on-road challenge which may happen years or decades afterwards.

If training doesn’t save lives, what does? Drive less, drive slower, drive sober, take the bus, ride the train. But if you must drive, don’t kid yourself that being a racer, autocrosser, or self-proclaimed “good driver” will save you. Had I been unlucky that sunny day in Florida, I had the comfort of knowing that I, and my family, would have met that impact in a 5200-pound, multiple-airbag, comprehensively crash-engineered premium automobile—precisely the type of car derided by others as a “rolling padded cell.”

When your family’s life in on the line, it won’t be the reflexes of the moment that decide who lives and dies. Instead, it will be that dimly remembered moment of purchase, months or years previous.

[Ed.’s Note: If you disagree with Mr. Baruth’s views, we extend to you an invitation for a counterpoint editorial. Please keep it to fewer than 800 words and keep it professional. If we receive more than one article, we will condense the most salient points into one article. Send it to editttac@gmail.com, sil vous plait. Carry on.]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

168 Comments on “Editorial: The Truth About Driver Training and the Myth of Active Safety...”


  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Wait…. You were doing 123 mph, narrowly avoided dying, and determined that it wasn’t skill that saved your life? OBVIOUSLY, you were doing 123 mph!!

    Part of skill is knowing the speed required for a given road condition. Then again, 123 mph is a speed suitable for a racetrack or possibly uncongested German Autobahn, not a busy 5-lane American highway. Had you been doing the speed limit or slightly over, your driver skill WOULD have helped you rather than blind luck, because you would’ve been braking from a sensible speed.

    I’m one of the biggest critics of current speed limit laws, the limits are entirely too low and in some cases absolutely absurd. But 123 mph in a, what, 70 mph zone? That’s reckless endangerement.

    I am most DEFINITELY one of “those people” who would argue to the ends of the earth that driver training makes you a safer driver. Studies show 96% of all accidents are due to driver error. Training reduces errors. It’s THAT simple.

    And for the record, I’m now 11 years without a single ticket or accident, with a proper driver training course, winter driving course, and several years as a stockcar racer under my belt.

    I can’t believe you’re discussing how ESC and ABS saved your family’s lives when you were doing twice the posted speed limit. Am I missing something here?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Jack, I’m glad you’re safe, but WOW, this is a complete pile of unscientific nonsense.

    RF, why is this appearing?

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    ???

  • avatar
    MMH

    Couldn’t agree with tigeraid more. The title of this article could reasonably read, “I drive like an a-hole and only blind luck saved me from toasting my own family.”

    @ Jack: I’ve enjoyed several of your articles for TTAC, but this is way, way off base.

    @ RF: I’ll be done clicking-through on Baruth pieces for a while.

  • avatar
    TEW

    That is why you say oh God. I have to disagree with you only because I nearly killed myself in a spining on ice going 65 MPh. My father taught me how to control a car in a spin and I credit that with saving my life. If anything with only the drivers ed course that I received I would be dead.

  • avatar
    dejalma

    And if you hadn’t survived and the story was “Jack Baruth dies in auto accident” I would say you got what you deserved. And, in the process of killing yourself you happened to kill or maim anyone in the pileup you hit, I would hope that they or their survivors sued your estate for every dime that you had.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Huh? Is this real or fiction?

    And I agree: RF, why is this appearing?

    If you encountered the wrong person, if someone did 123 MPH and harmed their family, there would be ‘roadside justice.’

  • avatar
    roamer

    This doesn’t read like an editorial, or like anything else I’ve ever read at TTAC. This reads like a troll.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    There’s a time and a place for everything, including 123 mph driving.

    Next to the Cross Bronx Expressway, I-95 in Florida is probably the worst place possible on a limited access highway.

  • avatar
    e36

    123mph with a 6000lbs car is the recipe for death. Escape death=Final destination

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Jack Baruth:
    There is no convincing evidence that skill-based driver training reduces automotive-related fatalities

    then…

    if the reaction of every driver in this country to a potential accident were to simply stand on the brakes and prepare for impact, fatalities might well be reduced.

    Assuming arguendo that your claim is true … why not just make the training to “simply stand on the brakes and prepare for impact”?

    In fact, I very vividly remember learning “Stomp, Stay, Steer” in Driver’s Ed for how to safely panic-stop a car with ABS.

    Jack Baruth:
    No amount of stricter licensing, pre-license training, or post-license testing can adequately prepare the average person

    I think this is false, and you seem to undercut this claim yourself when you say:

    Drive less, drive slower, drive sober,
    I took Driver’s Ed in high school about ten years ago, and that’s exactly what we covered. We also discussed the importance of wearing seatbelts, which unequivocally save lives.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    this is the problem with speed. i put to you that if you had been going 60 or 65, the result might have been diferent.

    Assuming that your reaction time is always at its best- it rarely is, I nearly rearended someone because i was swatting a mosquito – the only other important variable is distance, which is eaten up by speed.

    I understand that it is difficult to keep to a reasonable speed. the car i drive is perfectly happy at 130 mph, as is yout VW. But, as Scotty famously said, “Ya canna break the laws of physics”.

    The other serious problem with excessive speed on public roads(and 123 mph IS exessive), is that other drivers on the road occasionally come out of their somnobulance and will not be be expecting you to be there. They might, for instance, change lanes for no reason, with no warning, without looking. Happens all the time. I prefer to give the knuckleheaded drivers as much room as possible so they dont hit ME.

    My guess is that you drove slower for a little while for a few days and noticed more about the road environment. This is your brain telling you something. Are you listening?

  • avatar

    Actually, what saved him was the pile of electronics in the Phaeton (56 computers on 3 CAN buses) right when the left wheels left the shoulder. A Phaeton is unfazed by that. The Escalade probably would have rolled over several times.

    I’ve driven the same car at 200 mp/h down the Autobahn, courtesy of someone at VW who took the 250 km/h limitation out of the computer. But I was alone, and it was a stretch of the Autobahn without speed limit.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I believe this was intended as an editorial that common sense saves more lives than technology or advanced driver training. The latter have more to do with corporate marketing and personal ego than anything else, and may actually promote risk-taking.

    Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt would probably still be alive today if they had never learned how to race and simply stuck to driving Corollas at 50mph.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    don1967:

    yes, drive as fast as u can on a track. If you crash, you wil not endanger others. Driving too fast on a public road is dangerous and irresponsable.

    PS, i know its fun to drive fast. Driving at 110 on the NJTP is an almost mystical experience. Nevertheless it is wildly dangerous, and puts yourself and others at grave risk.

  • avatar
    autoemployeefornow

    Hey Jack your experience happens at a Nascar race every week. Cars driven at high speed come up on an accident and some get through and some don’t. Since we can assume most of the drivers have the same skill set I would think that luck determines who crashes and who gets through unharmed. You were lucky.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack – driver training is not about sharpening reflexes – its about judgement. I am very happy that you are safe but you clearly need more driver training as doing 123 MPH on any Florida highway shows not only a remarkable lack of judgement on your part but also a a certain amount of distain for the safety your fellow motorists.

    To address your tirade against active safety, let me give you some facts:

    In 1937 the rate of road fatalities was 14 per million miles driven, in 1969 is was 5.18 and in 2006 it was 1.42 (which was a 0.2 improvement over 2005).

    The truth about active safety is that its clearly doing its job.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Huh?

    I agree with previous posters, why was this article published? The concept that driver training has no effect on an individual’s ability to avoid an accident is patently untrue.

    I have taken two BMW driver training courses and can attest to the fact that the info and techniques I learned improved my driving skill. One important aspect is “feeling” the dynamics of the car and understanding the effects of various inputs. Like riding a bike, the techniques are not forgotten (as the article states) but become an integral part of your driving style.

    Two weeks ago, I encountered an out-of-control car on a snow-covered two lane road. The car was skidding sideways towards me from the from the oncoming lane. If I had simply hammered the brakes, there would have been a collision, ABS or not. I accelerated gently, moved over onto the shoulder and missed the car by a few inches. Without driver training I would not have had the ability OR CONFIDENCE to carry out such a counter-intuitive manouver.

    To imply that a driver is basically a passenger in an airbag-equipped cocoon is not only false but a highly dangerous concept.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    C’mon guys, give RF a break. The guy needs some sleep & family time! Plus, anything other than a GM-hate-rant is a welcome change around here.

    The article was dumb though. 123mph on I-95. And then you talk (lecture) about safety? Really?

  • avatar

    One of the most simple and most effective techniques in driver training can be trained right here:

    If you come up to an accident, don’t look at the accident. Don’t look at what you are trying to avoid. Look for the empty space and keep your eyes on it. You will subconsciously steer there. If you fixate your eyes on what you are trying to avoid, you will most likely hit it.

  • avatar
    vassilis

    I agree with Mr. Baruth. Most of driver training courses fail to simulate real life situations. Main benefit is better judgement but, that fades as time goes by.

    On one occassion I remember most of the participants where hesitating to simply “stay” on the brake with ABS.

    Of all the Active Safety features perhaps the most important is ESP on big commercial vehicles.
    Accidents on European roads involving buses and coaches are less than with… airplanes during the last decade or so.

    First time I drove a BMW with Active Steering, I thought it offers nothing just destroys the feedback.
    When I was doing slaloms at an old soviet airport in Germany with almost double the speed compared to that of an identical car without active steering and with half the effort needed, I had to re consider. Of course, the steering did not have a great input-who cares when it can save lives?

    If you can,contact you local BMW dealer, arrange for a couple of 3-series (one with Active Steering and one without) and try the following: At an empty parking lot with ice or snow accelerate (first without Active Steering) up to 60 miles per hour. Then hit the brakes without holding the steering wheel. Repeat with the one equipped with Active Steering. Even on a just wet surface Active Steering is doing an incredible “job”. It keeps the vehicle straight even without hands!

    Yes, I agree, it is the purchase that is important, and the manufacturers SHOULD assume that we are unable to perform WRC tricks.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Wow!

    As quoted earlier and paraphrased here – ‘You canna beat Newton.’

    But, a Phaeton with 56 computers and better physics (lower CG, lower profile tires…) sure as hell gives you a better chance to survive than a high, rolly Escalade or ML55AMG – regardless of the number of computers involved…so I’ll take the active safety bit – along with sensible general physics of the vehicle (i.e.: non-SUV)

    Of course, in the “all it takes is money” department – an asshole driver with 56 onboard computers is still…an asshole driver.

    Stay the hell out of RI, Jack. I got a kid to raise!

  • avatar
    kipling

    Maybe the argument is that someone doing patently unsafe driving conditions (123 in a 70 mph zone?) can still get out a crash through dumb luck.

    I’m imagining the next part of the story: When the police arrived, I told the officer at the scene about the accident. “I was driving 120 mph or so down the highway when I saw the trailer starting to jackknife…”

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    The reports I’ve read about ESC show a 10%-30% reduction in single car accidents with Mercedes and Toyotas. Any others.

    The real-world ABS data that caught my eye was several years back comparing GM cars with and without ABS -no difference in accident rates. More driver training needed to take full advantage of ABS was the conclusion.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The second is that it wasn’t skill that got me through; it was luck.

    An hones man is rare. An honest piston head even rarer.

    Thanks.

  • avatar

    It may be a pipe dream but to me the answer seems to be training in the vehicle you purchase. A Chevy express van will act differently then a Mazda 3 in a panic situation.

    Learning how your car handles in an emergency is the important part. Car makers should offer this training as a paid premium option at purchase.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    # Bertel Schmitt :
    February 21st, 2009 at 10:23 am

    “One of the most simple and most effective techniques in driver training can be trained right here:

    If you come up to an accident, don’t look at the accident. Don’t look at what you are trying to avoid. Look for the empty space and keep your eyes on it. You will subconsciously steer there. If you fixate your eyes on what you are trying to avoid, you will most likely hit it.”

    That’s true. I learned that reading a mountain bike magazine years ago. It works avoiding rocks in the woods, and it translates perfectly to cars.

    Also, some driver training in slide/skid control would go a long way to saving lives in the winter. I know that, for me personally, doing pickup truck donuts and powerslides in snowy parking lots has saved my bacon at speed at least twice.

  • avatar
    jaje

    The second sentence (123mph) says it all and completely discredits any advice you can give us and say that high performance trained drivers would not have been better off.

    You have no standing to criticize those of us who race or autox when you drive so completely recklessly (50mph+ over the posted speed limit) with your family in the car. It was plain dumb you were going so fast and plain dumb luck you even survived.

    What is incredulous is that you seem to feel more knowledgeable by saying that advanced driver training would have not helped one bit in that scenario. First off, I race and instruct high performance driving and my training would never have let me drive that fast with my family in the car on any public road. Second, my racing and instructing experience teaches me that anything can happen whether you are on a race track and even worst…on a public road (such as a pile up)…and driving that fast is not only completely dangerous, but also illegal, dumb and did I say dangerous.

    I think you missed two major points in this supposed “editorial”. Did you analyze why there was a pile up in the first place? I’ll bet it was b/c of unskilled drivers driving too fast. Second – did you know that one of the first concepts we teach students at speed is to limit the 3 factors of input in a car (brakes, gas, steer)…if you do one at 100% you can’t do the others. That means hard brake with little to no other inputs and slow steering input when you are going so fast are the tenets of advanced high performance driving. I’ll stop now as the irony is killing me.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Seriously, I don’t see how this “article” is anything other than a blatant troll job not worthy of rebuttal.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “If you come up to an accident, don’t look at the accident. Don’t look at what you are trying to avoid. Look for the empty space and keep your eyes on it.”

    Very true. I did a group exercise at a seminar years ago where about a hundred people were first asked to simply mill about in tight quarters. It looked like bumper cars at first. Then we were told to keep walking, but always focus on the empty space ahead of yourself and walk into it while ignoring the people and obstacles. You would be amazed at the rapid smooth and yet quasi-random flow of people which ensued. Hard to get if you haven’t done it, but a revelation if you have. Later in life I traveled to Japan on business quite a lot. The lessons of that exercise allowed me to cruise through Shinjuku train station in Tokyo at rush hour as fast as a native.

    Jack’s article brings up another point: Many of the advocates of better safety through better training are from the old Car & Driver school of thought. C&D used to advocate higher speed limits for drivers with high performance drivers training, the idea being that their Best & Brightest readers would be allowed to drive faster thanks to a weekend at Bondurant. Get your high speed thrills on the racetrack, not on the roads you share with the rest of us. Alright, now I will wait for the show-me-more-data Greek chorus. (Oddly enough, that chorus also is generally against the gov’t gathering ever more data on people!)

  • avatar

    As always, thanks to everyone for reading and responding.

    The purpose of the opening story was fairly simple: I wanted to “innoculate” the discussion from tales of skill-based, accident-avoidance derring-do by plucking one of the most outrageous, albeit factually correct, tales from my personal quiver and throwing it up for your amusement/horror. In other words: You think you drove out of a crazy situation? Well, beat this one! :)

    Typically, when we discuss the impact of driver training on accident and fatality rate, the immediate response from some percentage of the participants is going to be to talk about how their personal awesomeness and skill kept them from having an accident. What I would suggest in response is that the more training you have, the faster you tend to be going when you have the accident.

    And while it’s not covered in the article (800 WORDZ YO) there’s some evidence to suggest that ESC simply “trains” people to enter dangerous situations at a higher rate of speed.

    The fact remains that if you are traveling at an appropriate rate of speed for road conditions and keeping your awareness up — neither of which I would consider “skill training” — then you’re unlikely to be involved in a single-vehicle accident, and you’re likely to come off reasonably well in a multi-car accident.

    Now you guys can return to picking the flesh off my bones… For what it’s worth, RF and I personally disagree on nearly everything in the automotive world, from the viability of the Big 2.8 to appropriate conduct in traffic. It says a lot about the guy that he publishes me regardless. And I would suggest that his choice of the Jorg Haider “Phaeton death car” — the only Phaeton in which I am aware of a fatality occurring — represents his sotto voce comment on the topic.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The real-world ABS data that caught my eye was several years back comparing GM cars with and without ABS -no difference in accident rates. More driver training needed to take full advantage of ABS was the conclusion.…

    The driver is a big part of the equation, no doubt. Back in the day, 2 door Dodge Shadows had four times the rollover rate compared to 4 door variants. Kids bought the 2 doors. Training is most certainly helpful. But as speeds get faster, reaction time can’t keep up with the increased velocity. So, it seems that the faster you go, the more dumb (yeah, that word certainly applies here) luck comes into play.

    I have no problem with speed, but please be more selective where you choose to do this. Heavily traveled interstates like I-95 is not the place for that kind of speed.

  • avatar
    doug

    The “pop-pop-pop” of the hits arrive through the double-pane glass just a moment after I see each set of rear wheels leave the ground upon impact.

    I didn’t think cars had double-pane glass.

  • avatar
    mel23

    And what did your passengers have to say about their near-death experience? Did they congratulate you or your wonderful skill, or raise some serious hell concerning your juvenile behavior?

  • avatar
    Jared

    Let me get this straight. You were driving 123 mph, about 60 mph above the speed limit, on a busy highway and you have the gall to lecture us about driving safety?

    I95 is not the Autobahn.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Is Hulk Hogan’s son available to write editorials?

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Most insurance companies give discounts for driver training. Is the article saying:

    a) Insurance companies like giving discounts for no apparent reason.
    b) Mr. Baruth has some statistical info that the insurance companies don’t have.
    c) Mr. Baruth has some magical insights unknown to the insurance community.
    d) Mr. Baruth is likes to spout junk to elicit a response.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Jack? Do you still drive that fast or did you learn something from the experience?

    My corollary to Einstein’s definition of insanity is “keep doing the same thing and always expect the same result.” The world is a totally random place.

    So, if you keep driving 50+ mph over the limit and expect that you and your family will always emerge sans toe tags, you prove my corollary.

    Glad your families safe. Like one of Stephen King’s characters once opined, “Go out alone, you’re a hero. Take someone with you, and you’re dog shit.”

    The ironic part of Jack’s piece is, he’s right, and he’s wrong. The purpose of driver training is not only so that you will keep yourself safe, it is so, hopefully, you will drive in accordance with rules and common sense (you must have missed that class, Jack) and thereby keep OTHERS safe. Avoidance and PREVENTION of panic situations, not skill in dealing with them when they happen.

    I formerly was one of those people who drove a capable, well-maintained car, and believed it was my Deity-given right to drive in excess of three-digit speeds on the highway, because I was young, well-conditioned, possessed the right equipment and have superior vision and reflexes, and dammit, my time is important. After repeated near misses, (not nearly as hairy as Jack describes, all caused by the OTHER idiot, I thought) and witnessing a few horrific crashes caused by excessive speed, I realized that I wasn’t just endangering myself or my passengers: Joe family man was headed home from work, looking forward to an evening with his kids. If someone pulled in front of me, I take them out, chaos theory and random physics take over and suddenly Joe AND his family is collateral damage of my unwillingness to be reasonable.

    Driver training that emphasises driving at prudent speeds for all road conditions, traffic densities and vehicle capabilities, emphasizing prevention of “crisis stop or panic steer” situations, and showing that variations in speed between the slowest and fastest drivers on any road, would do more to save lives in this country than all the nannies, air bags, computers, stacked on top of each other.

    My wife now occasionally tells me she doesn’t like to ride in the car with me, that I drive too slow (usually 5 mph below posted speed limits….I think that is a good compromise, and appropriately slower in weather…), to which I reply, “We’ll get there. Safe and sound.”

  • avatar

    Hi Jared,

    Thanks for using the word “lecture” because it brings up something important; I’m not here to lecture anybody. The great thing about TTAC and other online car sites is that it allows the readers to respond.

    The days of a writer “lecturing” his audience, safe in the knowledge that it was more or less a one-way channel, are over. Your comments are as important, permanent, and relevant as my original column. I’m not here to lecture you; instead, we are here to discuss, and I happened to start (or continue) this discussion.

    @Mike S:

    If I can, I’d like to suggest something. People who are interested in safety tend to do stuff like driver training, so the insurance companies are interested in retaining those customers.

    And “driver training” in the insurance company sense doesn’t always mean what we think it does. I know I didn’t get a discount for going to comp school!

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    Advanced driver training is not the same as race training. It is better and more often referred to as “Defensive Driver Training.” Much of that course will teach you to leave an appropriate buffer in front of you, something of the laws of physics, to watch for possible pending emergencies and NOT to drive at 123mph on public highways. This contributor is a thoughtless fool.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Jack – “People who are interested in safety tend to do stuff like driver training, so the insurance companies are interested in retaining those”

    Insurance companies give discounts for anti-theft and tracking devices because they reduce the number of actual vehicle losses not because owners are INTERESTED in not having their cars stolen.

    Insurance companies are interested in profits. A reduction in accidents equals an increase in profits therefore insurance companies want to reduce accidents. Ergo discounts for driver training MUST mean that the insurance industry sees a direct correlation with less accidents.

    Jack – “And “driver training” in the insurance company sense doesn’t always mean what we think it does. I know I didn’t get a discount for going to comp school!”

    In my case BMW training #1 = insurance discount, #2 = additional discount, comp training = zippo discount. I guess comp training isn’t viewed as being safety related.

  • avatar

    This anecdotal evidence is hardly evidence of anything.

    Also another thing to think about is the that the rubber on SUVs is usually not meant for speeds that the Phaeton rubber is capable of. Not that you should have been in that situation in the first place, but if I was, I would want to be in the car with capable tires for the speed I was traveling.

    Also…
    Escalade 60-0 – 145 feet
    Phaeton 60-0 – 125 feet
    Cayman S 60-0 – 105 feet

    You gonna tell me that this measure of “active safety” doesn’t mean anything out there on the highway?

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    OT, but BTW…..RF, what is with all the French today? Is it in honor of the fact that we are now a socialist nation on par with the bleu, blanc et rouge?

  • avatar

    While I abhor your actions on the highway, I agree with your point. Well at least now I can understand why you consider Hyundai simply a purveyor of crappy little cars in a prior editorial. Hopefully you’ll understand that most of us will never be driving cars that are comparable to the Phaeton.

  • avatar

    @Mike S:

    “A reduction in accidents equals an increase in profits therefore insurance companies want to reduce accidents. Ergo discounts for driver training MUST mean that the insurance industry sees a direct correlation with less accidents.”

    Let’s assume for a moment that drivers who have participated in driver training have a lower accident rate than those who have not. As you pointed out above, it’s tough to get access to those numbers, and it’s even tougher to distinguish between BMW Driver Training and stuff like what the Institute for Advanced Motorists does.

    But even if we can “prove” that, we’d have to prove further that those same drivers are safer after training than before.

    In other words, is the “trained” driver safer because of his training, or is he safer because he is the type of alert, concerned individual who would do something like purchase driver training?

    I’d be willing to bet real money on the “fact” that people who always use condoms also have a lower accident rate. Why? They’re careful people. The same goes for those people who put indoor helmets on their children. Careful people tend to be careful.

    From your perspective, which of your three BMW schools do you feel was most helpful to your experience as a street driver?

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    If it wasn’t for driver training, I would have run into a moose last Friday.
    I was driving at 90km/h, late afternoon, snow on road, snowbanks.
    Car about fifty meters in front of me.
    Moose crashes through snowbank on left, having been hidden by trees. He’s headed for the space between the car in front and myself.

    Instinctive reaction: to brake.

    If I had done that, I would have let the moose get in front of me, but it wouldn’t have been able to cross the road before I struck it, at little under 90km/h, given the road condition. I would be lucky if it ended up in the passenger seat.

    Driver training kicked, in, I downshifted, accelerated, and managed to just race past the moose. Was surprised it didn’t strike the rear of the car, its muzzle was so close I could have touched it with my hand if the window had been open.

  • avatar
    shabster

    Mr. Farago’s pulling our legs. The editorial is a spoof.

    It’s a great way to get some interesting feedback.

    I hope nobody takes it seriously.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    @carguy: “In 1937 the rate of road fatalities was 14 per million miles driven, in 1969 is was 5.18 and in 2006 it was 1.42 (which was a 0.2 improvement over 2005).”

    And modern medicine, and life flight, and seat belts, and crumple zones, and crash test dummies, and …

  • avatar
    fahrkultur

    Interesting…. Driving 123mph on an interstate. That difference in real speed / permitted speed would have thrown you in prison in France. You can do 123mph on the Autobahn BUT you have to be aware of the tendency of many Germans to switch to the left lane unexpectedly. Expect even less drivers’ attention on an interstate…
    The Phaeton (a fantastic car) cannot help you in all difficult situations, just google “Haider” “accident”.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t think Jack is advocating no driver’s training at all.

    He’s just saying that the idea (popular in auto enthusiast circles) that every accident is avoidable by taking advanced driver’s training courses, autocrossing, and having a manual transmission is false.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    Jack Baruth :
    What I would suggest in response is that the more training you have, the faster you tend to be going when you have the accident.

    This is conjecture. A few polls, even informal, would lend credence. I haven’t seen any. I have ridden with a fighter pilot in a vehicle who was quite conservative. His speed during his daily job easily exceeded any force and velocity possible in an automobile. He didn’t feel the need to speed in that arena. Perhaps he had plenty of that during the workday. You could argue both ways. I’m sure that there are those who feel the need for speed (cue Top Gun) and carry that over into everything, including wheeling a shopping cart around Publix.

    I have been driven around Road Atlanta in a C6 by Johnny O’Connell. He commented that he rarely exceeds 10 MPH over the speed limit on the road due to the unpredictable nature of things (people) and the lack of race car safety equivalence.

    I think that it’s pretty clear the benefit of electronic systems, particularly ABS and ESC, have had. In SUVs, even more so with ESC due to rollovers. Driver safety training could have benefits in letting people experience the envelope in vehicle’s handling that they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to do otherwise.

    If they learned some insight into balance with regard to braking, steering, etc., it may benefit them in the real world. Awareness of the dynamics of handling and driving techniques don’t automatically make them want to drive faster on the road. Will some of them? Sure, just like some people felt/feel immune to danger since they have airbags or an SUV.

    I have seen the effects of people leaving an NHRA or a ALMS race where they seem to be hyped up and want to drive faster. Is it a temporary effect of the Budweiser (Peroni for ALMS ;-))? Maybe. Does it last? Not that I’ve seen.

    Anyhow, regarding the 123 MPH blast… I can understand something like that on a pretty clear, straight stretch of highway where you can see a mile ahead and there are no vehicles around. I have done it. There is one major difference though – I was alone. In your case, the highway was not clear and you were obviously not alone.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I think this article is a pretty good and interesting way of saying, with 800 words, something that Tom Vanderbilt did in his 300-word tome:

    Better drivers drive riskier. Better cars allow you to drive riskier. Therefore, neither a better car, nor a better driver a safe drive maketh.

    You travel safer when you slow down, and concentrate on the road. Everything else is bull shit. And as I might add, auto industry propaganda not backed up by empirics.

  • avatar
    DerKenner

    registered this account so i could register my disgust with this tripe. unscientific hyperbole like this belongs on a forum of some type, not on a website which includes in its title “truth”. i know that this is a “cool” and “hip” website with “awesome” curses and desperate slang (“true dat” eh farago?), but this is certainly beyond defensible. baruth should cut his license in half and go buy a tricycle.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack you write:

    “There is no convincing evidence that skill-based driver training reduces automotive-related fatalities in this or any other country.”

    “Let’s assume for a moment that drivers who have participated in driver training have a lower accident rate than those who have not. As you pointed out above, it’s tough to get access to those numbers…”

    “If I can, I’d like to suggest something. People who are interested in safety tend to do stuff like driver training, so the insurance companies are interested in retaining those customers.”

    I’m not quite sure I can reconcile those three statements. In the first it is inferred that an extensive review of existing literature has been made which have proven to be inconclusive. The phrase “or any other country” seemed to suggest an exhaustive search.

    The second statement goes on to say that there is no such data available to you or us and in the absence of such evidence your editorial makes the case that there is no relationship between driver courses and accident rates.

    And the third suggests that safe drivers (who have less accidents) are drawn to defensive driver courses which would suggest that any such study would have shown that drivers who voluntarily sign up for defensive driving courses do in fact have less accidents (although the cause and effect may not be clear). A conclusion that insurance companies agree with and back up with rebates.

    I’m not sure that this is enough to draw the strong worded conclusion that you have about the value of defensive driver training.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Jack – “From your perspective, which of your three BMW schools do you feel was most helpful to your experience as a street driver?”

    #1 without a doubt. Participants are taught basics such as seating position, mirrors, inducing and controlling oversteer/understeer etc. But the main thing was getting a “feel” for the dynamics of a car under a variety of high speed conditions. This allows you to recognize and anticipate where the vehicle limits are.

    #2 Was a more intensive #1 with controlled oversteer 360’s (steering with the throttle) and several autocross laps in an M3. Entertaining stuff but not entirely applicable to the street (unless I suddenly decided to go mad on a crowded interstate). Comp was just a track blast in an M3 with no relevance to street driving as I’m sure you know.

    Jack – “In other words, is the “trained” driver safer because of his training, or is he safer because he is the type of alert, concerned individual who would do something like purchase driver training?”

    Wow you’re REALLY stretching now. So, under your premise the very fact that I would want attend a driving school is sufficient to make me a safer driver. Maybe the next time I renew my insurance I’ll tell them that I desperately want to attend the best driving school in the World and they’ll give me the World’s best discount.

    Surely you’ll agree that avoidable collisions are prevented by physical actions and reactions, not by good intentions (I want to avoid an accident therefore I will), not by karma or the phase of the moon.

    Ok, so please admit that this was a spoof. It filled a few idle moments but time to ‘fess up.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Wardrobe malfunction…

  • avatar
    Jimal

    It seems that the conditions were good for driving 120+ MPH right up to the point where they weren’t. Mr. Baruth’s opinion piece seems to be based mainly on the fact that he and his passengers survived a rather serious sounding accident in spite of his poor judgement.

    No where on a public road in the U.S. is driving an indicated 123 MPH (probably 116-118, since all VW speedos read high) using good judgement or an example of good driving skill. Not when the rest of traffic was probably running 75-80 MPH.

    Anything after the second sentence in this piece is instantly discounted.

  • avatar
    MagMax

    Good lord, man; 123 mph on I95? That’s like driving 75 km/h on the streets of Vancouver! You’re taking your life and that of any number of other incompetent drivers into your hands at those speeds, in those locations. A Phaeton won’t save you from an idiot, especially when he’s behind the wheel of that same Phaeton.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    In my opinion, the anecdote that leads the piece is distracting. But that doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Baruth is correct.

    There really is no proof that driver training and licensing standards correlate with overall accident and fatality rates. You can look for the correlation, but you won’t find it. One simply can’t look at the data and reach a different conclusion.

    The point here is that recklessness and accident-prone conduct are functions of behavior, not training. If you drive badly, it’s probably not because you don’t know how to drive well, but because you don’t want to.

    Safe driving in the real world has far more to do with the ability to play nicely with others than it does with motor skills. If you make risky, aggressive moves, or if you focus selfishly on your own wants instead of going with the flow, then it’s inevitable that your number will eventually come up.

    I’m sure that there are individual instances when training does help. I’m all in favor of drivers having more training, so that they can cope with those few instances when it does matter.

    But on the whole, it means very little and doesn’t do squat to change the statistical results. If you’re wasted, it won’t matter that you’re well trained. If you’re tailgating, it won’t matter. If you are driving too fast or slowly for conditions, it won’t matter. If you’ve decided to play with your iPod instead of minding the road, it won’t matter.

    If training led to better choices being made, then the posters here would have a point. But most of the time, bad choices are being made because those who are making the bad choices are indifferent to the risks, or believe themselves to be exempt from the risk pool. Some combination of arrogance and apathy causes the problem.

    In some cases, training may actually backfire. Training doesn’t do anything to change the laws of physics or social interaction. The collisions come from the failure to leave room for error, and if one believes himself to have higher tolerances for error, then it’s a matter of time before that guy screws up.

  • avatar
    postjosh

    wow, this editorial generated a lot of bile feedback!

    two things:

    1) jack, if you had been driving slower you would have had more time to do an evasive maneuver. the odds of having an escape route would have been the same. you just would have had more time to find the hole.

    2) the phaeton gave you some significant handling adavantages. i once drove a mid 70’s grand prix (rwd) off a two lane highway onto a soft shoulder at about 75 mph. i actually peeled a tire off the rim doing it.

    another thing. i completely agree that “it will be that dimly remembered moment of purchase” that may ultimately save your life. many of members of my extended family are far wealthier than i am and consider themselves to be sensible people. they tend to drive fwd japanese econoboxes. i drive a 4wd volvo. anyone who can afford a safe car and buys a marginally handling econobox isn’t sensible in my book.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I think that when I read the poster was driving 123mph in a 6000 pound car with his family in tow, my brain shut off. I will no longer read anything by Jack Baruth. I can’t really respect anyone who does that.

  • avatar
    Qwerty

    I am a long time cycling enthusiasts, and I have been riding for a very long time. I will make a–perhaps dubious–extrapolation of my cycling experience to driving.

    I have never been hit by a car. I attribute this to acute paranoia. If I am hit by a car while driving, I will probably just suffer a little financial hardship. If I get hit by a car while cycling, I have a very good chance to suffer serious bodily harm. I watch for potential dangers all the time. I am continuously thinking about things that could happen and then preparing for or avoiding them before they happen. For example, riding by cars parked on the side of the road causes me to give them a wide berth an prepare to swing even wider because someone might open a door. Seeing someone’s head in a parked car causes me to give them an even wider berth.

    I think I am pretty good at avoiding potential accidents because I have never been hit by a car, but I have been involved in numerous types of non-car cycling accidents, most of which involve riding in groups while racing or training. In pretty much every case the result came down to luck. Things happen so quickly that there is no time to think. In many cases you are on the ground before you know what happened, and I mean that quite literally. You are riding along and then you find yourself on the ground; it is like a small chunk of time containing the actual incident has been cut out of your memory. In other cases you have a chance to do something, but there is no time to analyze the options. You may do something and later attribute your avoidance of a crash to your skill and catlike reflexes, but the honest assessment is that you were just lucky.

    So I will conclude that defensive driving reduces the chance of getting in an accident, but once an accident occurs you are better off being born lucky than being born with the name Michael Schumacher.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    So luck – and not driver skill – saved someone driving at 123 MPH towards a pileup. I can buy into that theory. But I’d humbly suggest that recovering from power-on oversteer on wet pavement at 50 MPH in a 6000 lb pickup truck is all about skill – the same skills that allow me to muscle a big powerful RWD sedan around an autocross course.

    For those of us that encounter foul weather on a regular basis, there is absolutely no substitute for skill. I refuse to accept that luck has been at the root of every skid I’ve recovered from while driving through some of the worst weather that this continent can offer, and would be insulted by anyone who would insinuate otherwise.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Pch101 “There really is no proof that driver training and licensing standards correlate with overall accident and fatality rates. You can look for the correlation, but you won’t find it. One simply can’t look at the data and reach a different conclusion.”

    Oh no, someone who actually agrees!

    You can’t find a correlation in the data? Exactly which data are you looking at? I don’t have any data so I’d be interested in yours.

    Taking your point to its logical conclusion, we could remove all forms of driver training and licensing without seeing any effect on accident rates. Yikes!

    Speaking with others who have taken similar driver training courses, I would say that the training has exactly the opposite result of overconfidence that you speculate. I certainly am more careful and concentrate on the “what if” scenarios while driving much more than I did before.

    To re-iterate, a learner driver who takes a recognized training program gets an insurance discount. A licenced driver who takes an advanced or defensive driving course gets an insurance discount.

    The firms who are giving these discounts are profit-driven organizations who are very, very careful with their money. So why are they awarding discounts based on driver training? Clearly, insurance companies see more in the data than you. The difference is that they have expert statisticians who are betting real money on what the data is telling them. You are betting a few keystrokes on a computer.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    there is absolutely no substitute for skill.

    Actually, there is. Good judgment trumps skill on a public highway.

    The safest driver is the driver who doesn’t do stupid things in the first place. That means driving below one’s limits and driving defensively, so that there is room for error.

    Most street driving is just not that difficult. People create their own problems when they overdrive their brakes or their vision, use chemicals to impair their motor skills, or if they don’t bother paying attention. Every driving class on earth instructs drivers to avoid tailgating and excessive booze, but the lessons don’t help those who don’t want to listen.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You can’t find a correlation in the data?

    Researchers can’t find it, either. Study after study reaches the same conclusion — driver training doesn’t get results. You may not want to believe it, but the results are consistent.

    Taking your point to its logical conclusion, we could remove all forms of driver training and licensing without seeing any effect on accident rates.

    Studies already show this to be the case. The widespread elimination of high school training in the US has had no impact on accident rates.

    The training story is a myth not supported by research. Along with the elderly, freshly trained young drivers are the riskiest group on our highways.

    Young drivers drive badly not because of a lack of formal training or, for that matter, due to a lack of motor skills — they have better motor skills than older people — but because they feel immortal and make bad choices due to their apathy toward risk. If you want to lower accident rates, graduated licensing and raising the driving age would be far more effective.

  • avatar
    DrBeets

    I’m just really glad the Phaeton’s ok.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Pch101: Good judgment trumps skill on a public highway.

    The safest driver is the driver who doesn’t do stupid things in the first place. That means driving below one’s limits and driving defensively, so that there is room for error.

    Most street driving is just not that difficult. People create their own problems when they overdrive their brakes or their vision, use chemicals to impair their motor skills, or if they don’t bother paying attention. Every driving class on earth instructs drivers to avoid tailgating and excessive booze, but the lessons don’t help those who don’t want to listen.

    Agreed, but sometimes even the most thoughtful, defensive driver can be put into a situation where they have to make a quick decision to avoid disaster. An advantage of advanced driver training is that you can practice skills like skid and slide recovery or an emergency lane change in a controlled environment so that if/when a situation unfolds in front of you (and if you drive long enough it is is bound to happen) you know what to do or not do and what to expect when you do it.

    Heck, simply looking further down the road solves most problems, such as tailgating and the rear-end collisions that occur when a driver has low eyes.

  • avatar
    carsinamerica

    First of all, driver training is important. Training and experience overrides instinct. Instinct, in this circumstance, would have been snapping the wheel in a panic. That is exactly what happens to young, inexperienced drivers when they hit a soft shoulder (or slush), and it leads to crippling or fatal accidents. Deliberate responses, slow steering inputs, and focus on finding a hole are all traits of proper driver training, and are accident-reduction techniques. Not enough time is spend in the USA on simulating inclement or accident conditions in a controlled setting, and textbook definitions of the proper course of action are insufficient. You are *told* how to respond to a skid, but it is not demonstrated with you behind the wheel. More behind-the-wheel training makes inexperienced drivers more prepared. If Mr. Baruth believes otherwise, then he must show statistical correlation, rather than unscientific anecdotes.

    More to the point, though, I am utterly disgusted by this article. It’s bad enough that Mr. Baruth obviously thinks that the burden of obeying the law applies to lesser mortals than he; it’s much worse that he was willing to endanger his family by this behavior. If luck were truly all that kept him from a crash, then he is driving dangerously. Even more disgusting is the disregard for what he and his precious Phaeton (that “5200-pound, multiple-airbag, comprehensively crash-engineered premium automobile,” as he phrases it) would do to anyone unfortunate enough to blunder into his path. While he would be protected with the better part of a dozen airbags, massive construction, and a greater mass, a typical compact or midsize US-market sedan would fare much worse. Had he rear-ended someone at such speeds, Mr. Baruth would in all likelihood be a killer, and rightfully sent to prison. His disregard for those around him, and the inherent risks he posed by driving on American public roads at such a speed (not only in road engineering, but in the expectations of other drivers), is despicable.

    I’m extremely disappointed that Mr. Farago felt the need to give Mr. Baruth’s bloviation a forum. I, too, will ignore any piece with a Baruth byline.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    God smiled, repealed Darwin’s Law for an instant, and allowed an individual to survive his own poor judgement.

  • avatar
    Lee

    I hope you get a ticket from the Florida PD for admitting to blatant stupidity.

    This is akin to doing same and capturing it on video then posting it on Youtube.

    Speed doesn’t kill. Impact does.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Pch101 said it so well that I don’t have to add much. And Mr. Baruth is largely correct, although I certainly don’t condone driving at 123 mph on a busy US interstate — that’s madness.

    It’s attitude more than knowledge that counts in driving. Sure there are some truly clueless or incompetent drivers out there, but my guess is their numbers are small in comparison to those whose number one priority is ME ME ME, so get out of my way or let me alone in the left lane while I yak on my cell phone!

    Insurance companies do give discounts for those who take driver improvement courses voluntarily. But I have to agree that it’s only because people who are more careful and interested in safe driving in the first place bother with taking such courses.

    Oh, and my wife would have saved a grand total of $7 annually if she had signed up for the AARP course!

  • avatar

    @Lee:

    In that case, they’ll also have to go back and cite David E. Davis Jr for doing 170mph in a 993 Turbo and passing a motorhome on a two-lane road at that speed, and subsequently describing it in Automobile. :)

    As it so happened, I was on the other side of this discussion awhile ago in a conversation with Alex Roy regarding his “record run” across the country. I told him that I thought he was glorifying dangerous driving, and that while nearly every “gearhead” I know is occasionally guilty of a triple-digit run, it doesn’t do to discuss it in a positive manner, lest other people follow your lead. Perhaps I was not adequately self-condemnatory in the first few paragraphs.

    At least I can rest easy on the last part of that concern; judging by the B&B’s response so far, I don’t think I have inspired any of you to floor your Camrys to escape velocity on the local four-lane.

  • avatar
    stuki

    For what it’s worth (probably not much anymore, with all the safety systems on board new cars), driver skill training seem to have highly beneficial effects for motorcyclists. But bikes are anyway more technically difficult to master.

    As well, there are certainly specific ‘tricks’, that when learned, practiced and internalized reduce risk, even in cars. ‘Aiming for the ass’ when a large animal crosses the road in front of you is one. I believe they drill this in Scandinavia as part of their rather intensive (and expensive) pre license training. As well, simply hitting smaller animals and birds without flinching if they come up surprisingly. I know of at least one bicyclist hit hard by someone swerving to avoid a cat. Talk about having your priorities backwards.

    Other than a few tricks like that, buying a new, dynamically sound, car with as much safety wizardry as possible is probably the best thing one can do. And then practice stomping on the brakes hard and early. ABS has rendered any more sophisticated braking technique obsolete for emergency use.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’m not going to add to the, “you shouldn’t have been doing 123″ crowd here, b/c it’s obvious and impossible for you not to know that in the first place.

    I will say respond to the idea that driver education dosen’t stop accidents by pointing out that people who seek out track time and non mandatory education are likely to be aggresive drivers in the first place. Also, I’d bet the most interested students in the mandatory courses are people who will most likely find themselves speeding and sliding around on purpose. They (we) use that education all the time to avoid crashing. Since none of us drives fast because we’re good at it I think there’s a good case to be made for whatever education we get. The cows in Camrys just aren’t going to care or remember anyway, whatever the education requirement.

    Your experience pretty obviously stopped you from panic braking with two wheels on the shoulder, and sure, luck gave you the window through traffic, but I know many people who would’ve done just that and died on a tree. Ultimately I’d say that the same jackass tendencies that got you into that situation also, years earlier, provided you with the motivation to find, and retain, the means to deal with it.

    I do agree that passive safety is probably a higher return investment statistically though, but only because educating the general population would require yearly, difficult, tests to make them retain anything. The low-hanging education fruit have already been picked.

  • avatar
    Lee

    @JB.

    AS they should.

    But just because somebody else irresponsibly ignores the law doesn’t justify you doing same.

  • avatar

    @Lee,

    Serious question here… Have I said anything, either in the article or in the later discussion, to indicate that I wanted to defend or justify this particular scenario? Keep in mind, I didn’t tell the story to impress people with my ability to avoid accidents… quite the opposite, in fact.

    Some major percentage of TTACers read this article as a paean to irresponsibility, when in fact I wanted to make the point that no amount of “driver training” will put you in a position where you can speed with impunity. What could I have done to better communicate this to you, the reader?

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    @Jack Baruth:

    You communicated more in your second sentence than you did in the rest of the article, to a significant portion of the readership. If you had substituted a more abstract construction of your actual speed, your salient points might have had more of a chance.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    @Jack Baruth

    This answer by you during the live chat to Robert’s question of why you were driving so fast:

    “Oh, there’s no justification for it, other than the sheer arrogant pleasure of being able to do it, and of course, being in a hurry.”

    Is more damning than any subsequent backpedaling the backlash to your story has caused.

  • avatar
    grueller

    I agree with you that the average driver’s ed course probably doesn’t make us better drivers, but if defensive driving courses provided us with a better understanding of physics I think we would tend to be at least more risk adverse, and safer, if not better drivers.

    I totally disagree with the idea of adding mass to improve safety. Although seemingly logical from a selfish perspective, in the end its a zero sum game.

    Although I have no data, it makes sense (as in horses) to me that there would be a causal correlation between higher impact energies (heavier vehicles traveling faster) and increased fatalities per million miles. So, in general, I would prefer that people would choose Rabbits over Phaetons :)

  • avatar

    @Jimal:

    So much for being honest, I suppose. Next time I’ll copypasta Alex Roy’s various justifications for speeding on public roads — the “trained driver” schtick, the bit where we talk about the Autobahn, some Yates-esque ranting about the police state. The only problem is that I don’t believe in any of them. There’s no justification for speeding, other than to amuse yourself or save time.

    Oh well. Writing for TTAC has been an education about what people take out of articles. A few back, it was one sentence — “relatively cheap, crappy cars” — that caused people to ignore the rest of it. This time it was a number.

    Maybe Robert will let me sneak the phrase “I strangled a Labrador puppy” into the middle of my next diatribe.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    No insult to the author intended, but the supposed connection of someone driving in a completely inappropriate manner for the given situation and driver training being ineffective is just absurd.

    I mostly ride a motorcycle to haul my butt around Los Angeles and before I started riding, I was urged by anyone and everyone to take the MSF safety course.

    During my research of said course, I stumbled upon the ironically-named Hurt Report, published in 1981 (but still considered valid by most).

    http://www.clarity.net/~adam/hurt-report.html

    The Hurt Report found, in addition to many other findings that: “The motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training; 92% were self-taught or learned from family or friends. Motorcycle rider training experience reduces accident involvement and is related to reduced injuries in the event of accidents. ”

    Riders with basic training beforehand are vastly under-represented in accidents.

    As a simple testament to this, I learned in my MSF course that when coming to a stop I should leave the bike in gear, hand on the clutch, watching my mirror until the car behind me comes to a complete stop as well.

    Just a few months into my riding career, I was stopped at a red light on Wilshire Blvd. just off the 10 freeway (for those unaware, this is a massive corridor). I was the first to stop at the intersection of Wilshire/Gayley, and I was making a habit of what I learned in my rider training. Watching my mirror, a maroon Corolla was hurdling towards me much faster than someone would if they realized they needed to stop. At some point my brain determined that this car was going to hit me, hard, and I let out the clutch and lurched as far forward through the crosswalk as I could go before running into cross traffic. The clueless driver realized that the light was red and came to a full tire-screeching stop just tapping my back tire, but I was able to keep the bike upright. She had been applying makeup with the visor down, which was blocking her view of the traffic signals.

    That training bought me the extra fifteen feet of space I needed to prevent becoming launched into 45 MPH cross traffic by a generic Japanese shitbox. It wasn’t luck, or God, or any such nonsense. Proper training saved my life. The natural inclination when stopping is to kick the gearbox up into neutral and let off the clutch to avoid tiring your hand. But I didn’t do that because I had been taught otherwise.

    Teaching new drivers basic safety tools (lots of space, proper mirror usage, simple vehicle maintenance principles) is enough to prevent accidents or reduce the severity of the unavoidable ones. Perhaps if someone had hammered the concept of driving at a speed appropriate for a given circumstance into the author’s head, his brakes would have had a hell of a lot more capacity to turn forward momentum into heat thereby buying him a whole lot more time to deal with an unanticipated situation.

  • avatar

    Go with Puggle puppy. It helped the New York Post sell a lot of newspapers before a political cartoon nearly shut them down. On second thought Jack, that could be a swell idea- a cartoon depiction of the event to raise more eyebrows.

  • avatar

    In other words, is the “trained” driver safer because of his training, or is he safer because he is the type of alert, concerned individual who would do something like purchase driver training?

    prbably both

  • avatar
    DearS

    I agree that sometimes training can have someone doing a move they think will work but actually makes things worse. Its happened to me about as many times as the move “does” work. Luck can really be a big part of accidents. Trying to be a good driver is risky. Basic and little moves, like slowing down, are “often” the best choice, IMO. Speeding up or dodging can be helpful, although hitting something at a higher speed or from a bad angle is not fun. I’m only 24, and I’ve been in atleast 5 accidents and a bunch of almost accidents. From my fault to not my fault. I tried a different approaches. Sometimes active works, sometimes passive works. Sometimes its hard to tell, and other times its a combo that works, doesn’t or helps. Its not and black and white thing, its in the Grey area. I usually try go with the flow of the car and my gut. Worked ok overall so far. Only about 2 grand in damages paid. Also I’m glad I took the risks I took and also matured like I have. I’m glad I was in the accidents I was in. I love driving more than ever.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @Jack Baruth:

    Just be glad your story has you doing 123 in a Phaeton. If you had been driving something like a Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab you probably would have been transformed in most people’s minds into a mythical representation of all bad driving.

  • avatar

    I in no way condone or approve of what Jack did but virtually everyone has done something illegal immoral or asinine for whatever reason at one time. All he has done is simply to have been honest and posted his actions with his name attached. However this mere mortal still has to ask. Would not virtually every 20,000 dollar or less car be crap to you Jack?

  • avatar
    Lee

    @ JB

    Serious question here… Have I said anything, either in the article or in the later discussion, to indicate that I wanted to defend or justify this particular scenario? Keep in mind, I didn’t tell the story to impress people with my ability to avoid accidents… quite the opposite, in fact.

    Your previous reply to my comment alluded to some justification of your actions.

    I would propose that such “padded cells on wheels” are sometimes necessary to protect the consequences of a drivers actions who suddenly thinks he has superior driving skills purely because of the car he is driving.

    Training, plus common sense and awareness have got to count for something no?

  • avatar
    buickgrandnational

    This article is it. Done with this site. As our President once said years ago, L A T E R S.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    I tend to think those advocating driver training are being a little bit idealistic.

    Sure they impart sage advice and probably give an appreciation for vehicle dynamic to those who might not otherwise experience them but like any form of edumacation, I suspect their effectiveness varies greatly depending on the tutor, pupils and curriculum.

    They are costly too. The reality of situation is that you’d be better up spending the $$$ on a safer car with ESC and only then start thinking about driver training if you want. There is a danger that a driver training course could be an opportunity cost for passive safety features that are much less variable than a skill set vaguely remembered from a one day course.

  • avatar
    JJ

    And what did your passengers have to say about their near-death experience?

    Near-life experience…

    I think the problem could also be using mph instead of kph. Here in the Netherlands, the highway limit is 120kph (=75mph), but if you’re doing 160kph (100mph) you are subjectively thinking oh I’m already doing 40 over the limit, I shouldn’t go much faster, while in miles this would only be 25 over the limit…Especially when you’re driving a high performance car the sensation of speed is mainly determined by what you read on the tacho.

    Also, here in the Netherlands if you do 50+ kph over the limit and get caught you lose your license for anything between a week and indefinitely (rarely) depending on your previous indiscretions.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The push for more training brings two point up:

    1. The “compensating behavior” effect. If you feel that your skill set (or equipment for that matter) is better, you are likely to drive in a manner that you might not have before. As a simplistic example, the owner of an SUV goes out in a snow storm because his new SUV has 4WD. Or you have recently graduated from a performance school and now like to test the point where your car begins to exhibit controlled oversteer on an entrance ramp (totally guilty here). Knowing that your car has (fill in the blank here) will cause many to drive more “aggressively.” Those who are overly cautious will not likely succumb to this type of behavior. Why did the Volvo 240 have such a great safety record? Sure it was built with safety in mind, but is was bought by people who were safety conscious and risk adverse. Put these people in a ‘Vette and (if you could prevent them from actually realizing what a joy driving is) you would see ‘Vette fatalities drop like a stone. The insurance industry doesn’t give discounts for these type of courses because they think that too many people will feel empowered to drive “recklessly.” All the insurance industry cares about is profit and loss. They don’t care about accidents per miles driven. If they did, seniors would pay as much as male teens. They only care about how many claims you made in the recent past. So 15 years of zero claims is completely offset by a few claims in the last three years.

    2. The courses that are offered are woefully lacking. The insurance discount course that I took (required by work in order to use any of their vehicles) actually told me that if I begin to lose control and spin out, first on the to-do list is to switch on the hazard lights! Any wonder why there is such disdain for extra education?

    Slightly off topic but relevant since were are talking about insurance companies: Google “insurance score.” See how the profiteers look at your credit, your auto insurance, gun ownership, etc to determine your likelihood to file a homeowners’ claim. Disgraceful.

  • avatar
    zbladejr

    here’s another story…..

    There was this kid, he was about 19, doing 110 on a completely empty highway in Europe in the dark. All of the sudden he saw a deer in headlights….no time to slow down…nothing….just ‘slam’ and the hood is in the window….car is sliding….clutch engaged…..car is slowed down. Kid pulls over to side of road and starts shaking a bit. No-one comes by for a couple of minutes. Car is totaled. Kid is lucky. End of story.

    Only difference in stories is single driver, empty highway.

    There is no point. Everyone knows of or has been involved in an accident caused or gotten into due to some irresponsible behavior. Then it’s time to reflect….’good thing I didn’t tug the wheel to avoid that deer’….or….’good thing I found that gap… on the shoulder’.

    All dribble. The story should read: ‘Drive 123 on i95 and you’d better wish for luck to survive an accident’.

    Jack is clearly an irresponsible, arrogant man. Who else would do that on one of our highways with family in car?

    And yes, safety training and safety features in cars save lives – they may have saved 4 in Jack’s car.

    I don’t think anyone said this yet: Had Jack been driving at say 80 for the 5 minutes prior to the accident, he would have gotten there when it was over – no drama, no need for useless article to rid yourself of the guilt you feel by doing one of the stupidest things a human can do – putting others’ lives at risk without their knowledge and in a situation they can do nothing about.

    You, sir, are very lucky. Donate some money to a good cause.

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    Mr. Baruth,

    Exactly what qualifies you to make the assumptions you make in your article?

    What type of driver training have you participated in?

    How many drivers have you trained over how many years ?

    How many accidents and near accidents have you dissected and studied in explicit detail?

    How much time have you spent studying subjects that are integral to driver training – such as the science of vehicle dynamics and human physiological responses to stress?

    As someone who:

    a) is a professional driving instructor engaged in training professional drivers from around the world (who, coincidentally, are far more likely to face life threatening situations than the average driver) to avoid behind-the-wheel emergencies

    b) conducts training programs that are sought after by those driving in “at-risk” environments or situations simply because they know others who have used the skills they gained in training and lived to talk about it

    c) has dedicated, and continues to dedicate, an inordinate amount of time and energy to dissecting case studies and accident reports to determine the contributing mechanical, human and environmental factors

    d) is a serious student of the science of vehicle dynamics and human physological responses to stress

    I find your article to be a monumentally offensive display of ignorance and arrogance. In other words, my friend, it is pure bullshit! And I believe the driving public would be a whole lot better off if inexperienced, untrained amateurs such as yourself would place a caveat in the heading of any article they write declaring something to the effect that ” I am offering an uninformed, subjective opinion based on nothing more than the fact that I am awake, bored and sitting at my computer”. That way, if they ignore the facts and take the path you suggest – simply hope for good luck regardless of the situation – they will have made an informed decision and, no matter how tragic the outcome, they will have no one other than themsleves and whatever inexperienced amateur they chose to listen to.

    With All Due Respect,

    Joe Autera

    President & CEO

    Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamics Institute

    http://www.vehicledynamics.net

    jautera@vehicledynamics.net

    P.S. RF (presuming you are the editor of the blog) I will be submitting a rebuttal article later this week. One which, unlike Mr. Baruth’s piece of tripe, will provide objective information that demonstartes how properly designed and conducted driver training does, in fact, improve any drivers ability to recognize and avoid behind-the-wheel emergencies, no matter what vehicle they happen to be driving. It will be based on 37 years of experience gained by myself and others and, more importantly, the objective feedback received by literally tens of thousands of drivers who have completed our programs.

    I would submit one today, but unlike the armchair quarterback who led us down this path, we have just spent the last two weeks conducting training programs and need some time to catch up.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I am a strong believer in any extra driver training that will get you behind the wheel and exploring a car’s limits. Having participated in defensive and performance driving schools I can tell you that, at least for me, what I learned slowed me down a bit and made me a much more defensive driver.

    After going through the various exercises and picking up some much needed practice (and learning how more than once I was relying on luck and not on skill/experience) I started to realize that most everyone on the roads I drive on haven’t had the benefit of such training. If that realization doesn’t make you a safer, more defensive driver, no amount of electronic gee-gaws are going to save you.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I started to realize that most everyone on the roads I drive on haven’t had the benefit of such training. If that realization doesn’t make you a safer, more defensive driver, no amount of electronic gee-gaws are going to save you.

    Statistically, that’s not correct. Accident rates have fallen as technology has improved. Driving is a much safer activity than it once was because cars are designed to reduce the impact of crashes and electronics reduce the likelihood of mistakes becoming accidents and deaths.

    Overall, driver training does little good because it doesn’t modify behavior. Studies consistently show that the driver training effect is brief at best, because people will revert to their personalities, rather than their instruction.

    The author is well trained and good on a track, but that didn’t prevent him from using horrendous judgment by choosing to drive at a speed that was not safe for conditions. While the specifics of his anecdote are distracting and a bit over the top, the core of the problem — someone who does things that he knows that he shouldn’t be doing, but opts to do them anyway — is a common thread among most collisions.

    And I do hope that this doesn’t become an inspiration for advertorials written by driving schools trying to market their services. I’m familiar with the arguments in favor of driver training, but they can’t contradict the research on the subject.

    Driving is an activity that incorporates human behavior and emotion to such a great degree that education just can’t undo the negatives. Driving schools are not equipped to re-engineer personalities, and until they are, they aren’t going to accomplish very much.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Spot on Joe Autera

  • avatar
    tedward

    Pch101

    I’m with you on this one, driver personality is the key determining factor in behaviour, not penalties or training. Not that they don’t influence people, it’s just far below personality in impact (more to the point, personality is constantly a factor). In my experience driver’s who are uninterested and distracted often only wake up to this fact after being nearly killed in accidents, the same applies to road ragers and tailgaiters. All of them heard the safety speeches long before engaging in their bad behaviour.

    Everyone

    As to everyone moralizing about the 123mph speeds in the story…why? People are starting to sound like puritanical internet tough guys, and frankly that’s not impressive at all. You’ve all been reckless and have good friends and family who’ve done the same.

    Criticizing this article for providing an honestly embarassing anecdote that links to a fairly debatable discussion on modifying dangerous behaviour seems more like an avoidance tactic. Now you don’t have to deal with the argument that OUR sacred cow of driver training might not have the legs we all (at this site) obviously attribute to it in every comment thread it comes up in. I want to thank the author for contradicting an unexamined assumption of mine. I’ll wait for a thorough analysis before I make up my mind now, instead of just assuming, as I was, that drivers ed. does the same thing for others as it did for my car nut friends and myself.

    Also I’d like to add that rural drivers would probably all benefit from drivers ed to a greater extent than average drivers. Understeer/Oversteer and skid control are to going to happen on poor B-roads regardless of driver behaviour.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Bragging about nearly killing his passengers and others nearby justifies a moral judgement.

    High speeds on empty roads is one thing, I-95 traffic is quite another.

    The only “tough guy” posturing is coming from his defenders.

  • avatar
    tedward

    grueller
    “there would be a causal correlation between higher impact energies (heavier vehicles traveling faster) and increased fatalities per million miles”

    yeah I see the point here, but the increased mass is being directed to crumple zones and airbags, both of which act to increase the amount of time that vehicle/driver mass spends slowing down. They must be doing this well enough that the additional inertia engendered by their mass is counteracted (and then some) by their effect, or vehicle crashworthiness in testing would not keep improving. If you’re driving a Mk1 GTI this dosen’t help you in your collison with the Phaeton though.

    I do agree with you that at some point the extra mass is not safer, such as in fullsized SUV’s, where it is not invested in passive or active safety, but instead in increasing the overall size of the vehicle, height especially. But as much as I hate the trend of growing sedan and hatch footprints from a fun-seeker’s point of view, these vehicles are largely gaining extra mass to increase length and width, and are correspondingly fitting bigger tires in the process, traits which make them more stable and safe to the average driver in the average situation (dodging through the accident is an outlier solution during crisis to say the least). Any additional mass is probably hell on pedestrian safety on the other hand, so drive everywhere from now on.

  • avatar
    Khutuck

    I’ll probably repeat the posts above. First of all, I’m primarily a motorcycle user, but I also use cars. I believe 2-wheel experience made me a better 4-wheel driver. How?

    Using a bike reminds you to never, ever have an accident at all costs. This comes with driving more carefully and slower! You may be Schumacher or Rossi, but even the perfectly skilled biker/driver cannot escape an obstacle at 120MPH; while the worst driver may avoid the same thing at 60MPH. I’ve learned this from Honda biker trainers. When you absorb this idea and make it a part of your instincts, you unconsciously use your car more defansively and smarter.

    But still, there are certain times you cannot avoid an accident. Driving slower helps you here, too. To hit something with 60MPH is clearly more dangerous than hitting with 30MPH.

    Appropriate driver education will teach you when to go at 120MPH, and when 30MPH. I dont say never drive fast, I had seen 180MPH figure a few times, but I was always on a highway with 1 car per mile traffic density, and generally time was around 4am. Drive as fast as you/your car can when you are the only one on the road, but this is often not the case. Arriving 10 minutes late to where you want is better than arriving a hospital or morgue early.

  • avatar
    tedward

    rmwill

    Was I being a tough guy? I don’t disagree with the moral judgement being made, it’s just nothing new under the sun once the first 5 or so have been posted. I’m dissapointed that the other points (which I happen to be interested in) made are being underaddressed by the comments, as the author’s shootin-from-the-hip style could certainly use a little statistical fleshing out, something which commenters engage in with glee on other posts.

  • avatar
    Fritz

    What I learned from this article is that race drivers are less likely to benefit from driver training due to their risk seeking nature. Whether that is due to their discounting risk or discounting the value of their or other peoples lives and property is an interesting question.

    Great article Baruth. You got plenty of people thinking about an important subject. Your anecdote is powerful and illustrative. Thanks.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    I applaud Joe Autera’s comment and look forward to his rebuttal article.

    The idea that driver training won’t make for better drivers flies in the face of our experience in every other endeavor in life, where more training makes for better pilots, violinists, and basketball players.

    The problem is not driver training, it is the utter lack of driver training beyond the basics taught by high school guidance counselors.

    Finally, a personal anecdote. I was riding my motorcycle down a major West L.A. street yesterday (Florence Ave.). There were three traffic lanes, I was in the left lane.

    The ‘cager’ in front of me was going a little too slowly, so I started to move over to the middle lane.

    I don’t know if I saw a flicker of movement, or heard the engine roar, or recognized the tire hum, or what bit of information informed me. But I knew that a car was coming out of the right lane to fill that space in the middle lane, and there was.

    That was not luck, it was situational awareness honed by years of paying attention while driving/riding.

    I wonder if our accident injury/fatality rate would be lower if we had spent all of the money on airbags/ESC/ABS/etc. on real driver training over the years.

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    PCH101,

    Again, I will ask the core questions:

    Exactly what qualifies you, other than reciting the conclusions of some tests regarding driver training, to make the broad and definitive statements you make in your post?

    Did you particpate in the conduct of those tests? Are you fully aware of the parameters of those tests, the size and demograhics of the smaple group or groups? The analytical models applied? Who sponsored or funded the studies? What driver training model was being studied?

    What type of driver training have you conducted or participated in?

    How many drivers have you trained over how many years ?

    How many accidents and near accidents have you dissected and studied in explicit detail?

    How much time have you spent studying subjects that are integral to driver training – such as the science of vehicle dynamics and human physiological responses to stress?

    There have been tests (beyond the oft quoted, well worn NHTSA Accident Avioidance Skill Training & Performance Testing study conducted in 1976) that have shown that there are long term positive results to be had through certain types of experiential driver training; tests conducted by insurance companies no less. Like the study commissioned and conducted by the Cooperative Insurance Companies, Middlebury Vermont which showed that the accident rates among drivers who had particpated in an experiential driver training program which had a basis in applied vehicle dynamics was, over the course of the three years following the training, 36%. For that same period of time, the accident rate for the sample group who had not particpated in the program was a staggering 97%.

    The point being that we could sit here and toss statistics at each other all day, month, or year long. We could argue either for or against the viewpoint of a lobbying group for auto insurers in California – whose public position on behalf of its constituents is not that driver training doesn’t reduce accident rates, but rather that NONE of the studies conducted (regardless of who funded the study or what the findings were) involved a large enough sample group to reach a definitive conclusion as to whether training works or not. We can debate from here to kingdom come the anecdotal evidence and empirical data collected by entities that have embraced driver training programs that indicates real world concerns ranging from workplace death rates, lost time for employees, vehicle repair expenses decrease due to a reduction in accident rates. It is all a matter of perspective. However, to dismiss out-of-hand any and all driver training as being ineffective flies in the face of logic.

    Could it be that some forms of driver training work well and that others don’t work at all? Could it be that the cornerstone of driver training in this country (basic drivers ed) is weak or irrelevant to emergency situations? That some instructors are less than optimally qualified to impart critical information to the “average” driver, or any driver for that matter? That teaching techniques like Threshold Braking in ABS equipped cars or lines/apexes to drivers who have to deal with bi-directional traffic is, at the very least, counterproductive? Or, at worst, downright dangerous?

    As for your concern over “advertorials” for driving schools, please note that:

    a) I have not and will not mention our company in the body of my posts or the article, nor have I or will I sing the praises of our particular approach to driver training. Quite frankly, I really don’t have to in order to present my position – math, science and a little sense of humor allows for that.

    a) no one hear is likely to have heard of our company prior to my post. You know why that is? We don’t really advertise here, or anywhere else for that matter. Our clients know where to find us – and no offense intended, but it ain’t here.

    b) few, if anyone here, qualifies to particpate in any of the programs we offer (with one notable exception)

    c) the only interest I have is providing an objective, informative perspective, based on generally accepted best practices and scientific data that presents ACCURATE information – as opposed to baseless opinion or the regurgitation of stilted, dated or third hand information – on what can be accomplished with certain forms of driver training, as well as what can not.

    d) I post under my given name and write articles not to engineer some financial gain or receive recognition but rather to ensure that the basis for my position on the subject is fully understood; that it comes not from a study I read once upon a time, but from first hand experience conducting studies to fully understand the causes and outcomes of behind-the-wheel emergencies, gathering and analyzing empirical data during the conduct of extensive testing related to driver and vehicle performance under stress, conductintg tests aimed at proving or dis-proving training design and development theory as it applies to driver training and, of course, from the thousands of hours spent not in an armchair sipping a cold frosty beer, but working with drivers to improve their ability to understand the root causes of life threatening behind-the-wheel-emergencies, develop behaviors that address those root causes along with the knowledge, skill and ability required to respond appropriately in those situations.

    Having said all of that, again I ask just one simple question. What qualifies you, PCH101, to make the ascertion driver training is, by and large, ineffective? For all I know you may be well qualified indeed. In which, case I hope to have one of the most engaging, educational discussions on the validity of driver training that the web has ever seen. Or, perhaps, you are making a statement that has no basis in personal experience or professional knowledge, in which case I trust you’ll find the forthcoming article informative, regardless of whether you agree with it’s conclusions or not.

    Respectfully,

    Joe Autera

    President & CEO

    Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamics Institute
    http://www.vehicledynamics.net
    jautera@vehicledynamics.net

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Upon reflection, I suspect that motorcyclists are a large percentage of those who have great issue with the drivers action, and his subsequent commentary.

    I know that it made me recoil when I was reading the original post.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The idea that driver training won’t make for better drivers flies in the face of our experience in every other endeavor in life, where more training makes for better pilots, violinists, and basketball players.

    There is no comparison whatsoever.

    The point is that bad driving is often enjoyable for or the preference of the person doing it. High speed runs in inappropriate places are fun and ego-affirming for the person doing it at the time, as it was for Mr. Baruth in his unfortunate example. Playing with an iPod when one is bored with driving reflects the preferences of the person who makes the bad choice. Tailgating pleases and soothes the nerves of the person who thinks that he’s getting somewhere more quickly because he has left no gap between the front of his car and the rear of yours.

    Driving “well” (playing nicely with others) not only doesn’t take much technical skill or physical agility, but doing it may fly in the face of one’s personality or personal goals. It helps to explain why young males tend to be the worst of the bunch, despite having very good motor skills, because the skills aren’t the issue.

    Enthusiasts would like to believe that driving is some difficult challenge that reflects their talents. In reality, driving on a track may be a sport, but driving on the street is a social skill that is done more poorly by those who are anti-social.

    Perhaps what we need is personality training; if you could somehow teach people to be more considerate, less self-centered and less egocentric behind the wheel, then you’d get lower accident rates.

    What type of driver training have you conducted or participated in?

    I can see where this is going. Well, Mr. Farago never bolted together Pontiacs on a GM assembly line, but that doesn’t disqualify him from providing a better analysis of GM’s problems than 99% of the people who work there.

    I know BS when I smell it, and I’ve read numerous academic studies on the subject which uniformly reject the training thesis. Given that posting a lot of links will put this into the spam filter, I’ll provide just one that makes the point quite succinctly that appeared in the British Medical Journal:
    ________

    Virtually all educational and training programmes aimed at adults that have been evaluated show no evidence of effectiveness. Driver education or training programmes have not been found to reduce motor vehicle crashes, but they still are widely advocated as essential safety programmes.7–9 Research shows driver education programmes can increase knowledge, but this rarely results in appropriate behaviour change. Similarly, driver training programmes have not been shown to reduce crashes. They may be useful for teaching beginning drivers, and in some cases they may improve driving skills, but better skills do not automatically lead to fewer crashes.10 Some advanced driver training programmes have even been shown to make things worse. For example, programmes that taught skid control, off-road recovery, and other emergency measures produced drivers with higher crash rates than drivers who did not take the course.8 Comprehensive reviews of driver and motorcycle training programmes have found no studies showing any crash reductions due to the training.11 Yet blind faith in the education and training of road users continues in many quarters.

    The belief that increasing motorists’ or other road users’ knowledge or skills will produce fewer crashes reflects a naïve view of human behaviour. Most motorists and other road users acknowledge that serious risk taking and other behaviour problems are prevalent among drivers, but few people will admit that they may be part of this problem. Surveys of drivers’ self ratings of their skills show that virtually no motorists believe their own skills are below average. So motorists agree that there are many “bad” drivers, but virtually all believe that the “bad” drivers are someone else. For example, drivers in motorised countries know that ignoring stop signs and running red lights are inappropriate behaviours, yet these obviously unsafe actions are common in the United States and are leading causes of crashes.12 Similarly, all motorists know that driving after consuming alcohol increases the risk of crashing, but billions of trips are taken each year by alcohol impaired drivers worldwide.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1123097#B7

    You should note that the study above cites other studies that show the ineffectiveness of driver education, so the statement above is supported through other academic research. It’s well understood among researchers that driver training doesn’t pass muster.

    In addition, if you simply compare fatality data across countries, you can see that there is no correlation of any sort between training regimes and those rates. The US and Canada, with their fairly modest training, do worse than some countries with stricter training, and better than others, nor did they get worse when they began reducing their use of it. Adding training or taking it away doesn’t make any difference.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    @Jack – interesting article; it’s given me pause for thought today, which is refreshing. A quick question – does situational awareness come under your definition of driver training, or is it just personality based? (Or perhaps the question is – can someone be taught to pay attention – which goes to the heart of Pch101’s posts as well).

    While I’m eager to read Joe’s upcoming article, Pch101 and Jack’s thoughts seem to align more closely with my own, other then a certain unease about the vehicular arms race. (As an aside, I took a driver training course more then a dozen years ago; the only motivation was a 10% reduction in insurance)

    Perhaps the best safety lesson, I learned from my father who summed it up in two simple words “be predictable” (and obviously there are quite a few things that need to occur to make this happen). My addition to that thought, is keep your car well maintained and suited to your driving conditions (I’m Canadian and the lack of snow tires on most vehicles in the winter drive’s me crazy!).

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    Jack Baruth :
    February 21st, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    ..I wanted to make the point that no amount of “driver training” will put you in a position where you can speed with impunity. What could I have done to better communicate this to you, the reader?

    If I may suggest, Mr. Baruth, if you want the reader to understand that exceedingly valid point, you may be best served by coming right out and saying that in the article; poerhaps in the first paragraph. And then provide proof of that thesis through hard data, using your scenario as a teaching example as opposed to a red herring.

    By and large, that statement you eluded to has been demonstrated through both empirical data and anecdotal evidence, driving “over one’s head” – at a speed that is beyond both the driver and vehicles performance capability – is indeed a behavioral issue, with the behavior often being borne from a lack of recognition of the risks associated with the behavior (e.g.the teenage driver’s perceived invincibility). According to a study conducted by AAA, 85% of drivers killed in accidents in this country during the study timeline had never had an accident before. The study points to this fact in concluding that the drivers, through a lack of experience with regard to the risks associated with certain behaviors, may very well have lacked the skill set needed to assess the inherent risk created by their action and/or the environment they are acting in. As to how this fits into the current debate, I present Webster’s definition for training. Training: activity leading to skilled behavior .

    Keeping in mind that not all training programs have been studied, not all studies have been conducted by unbiased or objective third parties and not all of those studies have reached a definitive conclusion that any and all driver training is wholly ineffective – the fact that some training programs fail to produce the desired result does not mean that ALL training is ineffective(to your valid point, Mr. Baruch, that just because you are a racer or autocrosser doesn’t necessarily mean you have the skills needed to deal effectively with a potential accident. Why? Because there is little if any correlation between an impressive lap time around a closed circuit and the dynamics of a potential accident).

    Could it be that certain aspects of some driver training work well and that others don’t work at all? Could it be that those programs studied lacked an iterative approach and, therefore, over the timefram of the study simply documented a forgone conlcusion; the respective sample groups’ skills degreded over time due to a lack of reinforcement? Could it be that the cornerstone of driver training in this country (basic drivers ed) is so weak or irrelevant to emergency situations that it simply does not provide a viable foundation for more applicable and parctical training? Or, perhaps, that many (as opposed to some) instructors are less than optimally qualified – or absolutely unqualified – to impart critical knowledge and skills to the “average” driver, or any driver for that matter? That teaching techniques like Threshold Braking in ABS equipped cars or lines/apexes to drivers who have to deal with bi-directional traffic is, at the very least, counterproductive and, at worst, downright dangerous?

    Just because what has been studied hasn’t necessarily proven to be effective doesn’t mean that the concept of improving driving skill through training is a waste of time and effort. What it may well mean is that, quite simply, the current, generally accepted and advocated approach to driver training is not the right way to approach driver training. In this case, as someone pointed out earlier, Frued’s definition of insanity comes to mind – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a diifferent outcome.

    To ascert that there is no training available, other than standing on the brakes and hoping for the best, that will reduce the potential for accidents is akin to someone saying everyone who “drives a Phaeton” is a prone to writing over people’s head as they believe it demonstrates how much smarter they are than the next person. A statement like that is simply not objective or accurate, regardless of how many studies have been conducted on various segments of the “Phaeton driving” population and their writing habits, as the individual making that statement may be basing it solely on a study they read about this particular prediliction coupled with the work of just one “Phaeton driver”.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Joe,
    I for one have heard of your company (and not just because I’ve been to Raceway Park) and know the good work you’ve been doing. I look forward to your rebuttal.

  • avatar
    210delray

    @ Joe Autera

    Well, I’ll be very curious in seeing your evidence that training can work to prevent drivers from crashing. Has this evidence been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal?

    Personally, I agree totally with Pch101.

    I initially misinterpreted it, but I suppose you meant most of us wouldn’t qualify for your school’s courses other this Accident Avoidance Course described as follows:

    “This intensive full day program is designed to provide drivers of all ages with the skills needed to recognize and avoid potentially life-threatening situations, such as motor vehicle accidents and road hazards, while driving. Perfect for young drivers, family members and other non-professional drivers, this hands-on program utilizes exercises developed specifically to help drivers better understand their own limitations and how to safely operate a vehicle in a wide range of situations and conditions.”

    This sounds very similar to the free course I took in August 2007 when I attended AutoWeek’s Teen Driving Safety Summit in the Detroit suburbs. In connection with Dodge and the Richard Petty Driving Experience, they provided an afternoon’s worth of hands-on instruction in skid control, hard braking, and shoulder recovery for the attendees.

    It was interesting to be able to experience skids and learn how to correct them (although I pretty much knew what to do from when I lived in the snow belt in my younger years).

    What amazed me was how hard it was to get the cars to skid in the first place, and this was on pavement liberally sprayed with soapy water. This confirms why in over 40 years of driving, I’ve never skidded on dry or even wet pavement except briefly in a straight line for making hard stops. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to swerve sharply into another lane or partway off the road to avoid someone encroaching on my space.

    Rather, it’s by learning to pay attention to your surroundings, driving at a prudent speed for conditions, anticipating what other drivers may or may not do, and acting accordingly. If you drive in this manner, chances are you won’t have to make an emergency maneuver in the first place other than a little hard braking.

    I’ve always been this way, even as a beginning teen driver. I studied my high school driver’s ed book cover-to-cover (and later read other safe driving handbooks) and tried to put in practice what they taught me as summarized in the last paragraph (really, defensive driving plus knowledge of the rules of the road). Of course, I made (and still make) judgment errors at times, but I use them to reflect on what I could do better the next time in the same situation.

    I have never been in other than a few low-speed fender-benders and one 45-50 mph deer hit, the latter of which didn’t even lock up the seat belts at impact.

    So for me at least, it’s determination to be a safer driver, not to be “the race driver” who gets to his or her destination in record time. In my view, no amount of training can MAKE people act this way. As Pch101 put it, driving like a maniac can be fun for the anti-social or thrill-seeker. It’s a deliberate choice.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    @210delray,
    The fact that someone chooses to drive recklessly does not negate the benefits of advanced driver training for your “typical” driver who doesn’t consciously drive in a reckless manner. They are in fact two separate things. Advanced driver training will help the “typical” driver, by making them safer, more confident and better prepared for the unknown. No amount of training, experience or traffic tickets will prevent someone who chooses to drive recklessly from doing so.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Advanced driver training will help the “typical” driver, by making them safer, more confident and better prepared for the unknown.

    It’s the opposite result — that training makes thing worse. That “confidence” you site as a benefit is actually a detriment; it leads to greater recklessness and risk taking behaviors, and more collisions:
    ________________

    The Problem of Overconfidence. A curriculum based on risky conditions would likely focus primarily on preventive actions-ensuring that young drivers acquire the skills and capabilities that will minimize the likelihood they will be involved in a collision. Situations will likely continue to arise, however, where young novices will have to react quickly to unanticipated events and circumstances -i.e., emergency situations. Accordingly, instruction in preventive actions could be supplemented by instruction in corrective actions-i.e., emergency maneuvers or advanced collision avoidance techniques, such as skid control, recovering from shoulder drop-off, or steps to follow if the brakes fail.

    Evaluations of the effectiveness of programs that teach advanced driving techniques have produced disappointing results, especially with respect to skid, wet surface training. Some studies have found that advanced training does not reduce the collision involvement rates of course graduates. One possible explanation for this is that situations that precipitate the need for emergency skills arise infrequently, so the requirement to deploy these skills is also infrequent. And, given that there is poor retention of skills that are used infrequently (Schneider 1985), advanced skills learned over a relatively short period of time may tend to erode and not be readily available or inappropriately applied in emergency situations one or two years later.

    But perhaps of greater importance, the results of several evaluation studies show that course graduates actually have higher collision rates than individuals who did not receive such training (Glad 1988; Katila et al. 1995). The explanation for this is that advanced skills training leads to overconfidence. Not only can overconfidence eliminate normally cautious behavior, it can result in a greater willingness to put oneself at risk -e.g., graduates of advanced skill courses will be less reluctant to drive in adverse conditions because they are confident that they can handle any eventuality.

    http://www.drivers.com/article/361#tirfrole

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Pch101- The article you quote is pretty definitive and makes for compelling reading. Here’s a slightly milder counterpoint published in Science Direct, an Amsterdam-based group that uses a couple of UK sources. This is the Abstract (you need to be a subscriber to have access the full article):

    The effects of driver training on simulated driving performance

    Given that the beneficial effects of driver training on accident risk may not be an appropriate criterion measure, this study investigates whether professionally trained and experienced drivers exhibit safer driving behaviour in a simulated driving task compared with drivers without professional driver training. A sample of 54 police trained drivers and a sample of 56 non-police trained drivers were required to complete two tasks. Firstly to overtake a slow-moving bus on a hazardous stretch of single-lane road with bends and hills and secondly to follow a lead vehicle travelling at 55 mph in a built-up section with a speed limit of 30 mph. Results showed that in comparison with non-police trained drivers, police drivers were significantly less likely to cross the central division of the road at unsafe locations during the overtaking task and reduced their speed on approach to pedestrians at the roadside in the following task to a greater extent. Police drivers also adopted a more central lane position compared with non-police trained drivers on urban roads and at traffic lights during the following task. Driver group differences in simulated driving performance are discussed with reference to the implications for driver training assessment and skill development.

    Now let’s discuss global warming – myth or reality? ……..

  • avatar

    A few general responses before this article drops off the front page and into obscurity:

    buzzliteyear asks, reasonably enough, why “driver training” doesn’t help if every other kind of training helps in all other endeavors. I can only hypothesize at the answer, but here you go: Most people operate their vehicles at their own comfort level. The lower your confidence and ability, the lower that level becomes, which means that you’re likely to be going slower when an incident occurs and thus benefit more from passive safety features.

    Another way to look at it: Most of us can play “Chopsticks” with mild “training”. Learning how to play Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto to perfection won’t make you any better at playing “Chopsticks”.

    The story that opens my article is proof of that. It doesn’t bother me personally to drive at 150mph, and it doesn’t bother me to have a little car-to-car contact at 100mph; I’ve been bump-drafted at 130+. On the street, that confidence is not helpful.

    Joe Autera believes that his experience indicates that drivers do improve with training. However, I would suggest that his particular area of training is specialized to the point where it may not be terribly relevant to the mom in the Honda Odyssey. We’ll see what his article says.

    A few other people indicate that, as motorcyclists, they are particularly shocked by the opening paragraph. As a motorcyclist myself and sportbike rider since 1994, I have to think they’re kidding. Motorcyclists are the most egregious violators of safe driving principles out there, and the self-styled top riders are some of the worst. Given the number of times I’ve been running a motorcycle at outrageous speeds and been passed by a kid on a Hayabusa wearing flip-flops, I’m not sure “cagers” are their worst enemies.

    Also, with regards to motorcycles: some training, like MSF, does help, primarily because the average motorcyclist/rider combination has such a low competence envelope. Everybody knows how to steer a car on the freeway, but most riders can’t countersteer effectively enough to negotiate a freeway offramp at reasonable speed.

    Thanks to everybody for reading and commenting, even the people who said they were quitting the Internet as a result of Phaeton-induced trauma.

    And yes, the Phaeton survived to get in more trouble:

    http://www.speedsportlife.com/photopost/data/1158/medium/350z1.jpg

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Pch101 (and others)

    This discussion seems to have headed off on a self-evident truth. If you’ve had training, end up being overconfident and are flat-out irresponsible enough to take the risk as the author did, then NO, driver training has not worked.

    Somewhere there is a balance to be had between teaching people physics of driving and respect for driving. I think we can all agree.

    If you want to know if driver training (not the advanced sort, basic physics, car handling) have any impact, try driving in countryside China where people just get in cars and have no idea.

    Baruth’s survival conclusion appears to me to be mass = safety, and no vehicle safety aids = same outcome.

    Clearly nonsensical and dangerous thinking.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This discussion seems to have headed off on a self-evident truth. If you’ve had training, end up being overconfident and are flat-out irresponsible enough to take the risk as the author did, then NO, driver training has not worked.

    Somewhere there is a balance to be had between teaching people physics of driving and respect for driving. I think we can all agree.

    Honestly, that’s not quite it. The data shows that education just doesn’t work, and advanced training makes things worse.

    The reason for this is because accidents are caused by inattention, intoxication and excessive risk taking, not by a lack of skills.

    This is an important point of fact, because it illustrates why education doesn’t work — these accident-causing actions are related to personality and lifestyle, which education can’t fix. It also contradicts the gut reactions of your average enthusiast, who believes (wrongly) that accidents are caused by unskilled people…aside from themselves, of course.

    Since we spend a lot of money and effort on education, we should ask ourselves whether we have better uses for our money. At this stage, we’re supporting education, well, ‘cuz that’s what we do! We do this despite an abundance of evidence that shows that we are wasting our time and money.

    I think that we have to accept the benefits and deficiencies of drivers ed. It can do a reasonable job of teaching basic mechanical skills to new drivers (i.e. how to steer), but it does an absolutely rotten job of getting them to behave. We’re expecting education to do things that it can’t do.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Pch101

    Constant review of any education programme is always good. Are there ways to tackle the problem differently? Sure.

    Monash Accident Research Centre has successfully helped all Australian States implement revamped driver training in schools, for permit and after-license. They combine elements of many forms of education into our certification process and attitude modification is a large part of the process.

    It’s been about 10 years since many of their theories have been put in place, and the Australian injury rate per mile travelled is dropping faster than most comparable countries.

    Will you find a direct link to education?? Maybe not, but it has to be a multifaceted approach. It’s prudent to equip people with knowledge before they set off on something that is otherwise a human function requiring skills. Drug use harm minimisation works on the same principles, as does sex education.

    Controlling driver behaviour is a different and altogether more complex issue.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Pch101,
    Within the confines of new driver education, lacking evidence to the contrary, I will cede your point, though I would be interested to see where such comprehensive “behind the wheel” training was being given within a Driver’s Ed environment. I would like to see the data that indicates that this is the case for drivers across the board.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    I think we all may have a piece of “The Truth” here.

    Jack Baruth – is correct that, for the average driver who simultaneously plays sudoku, texts on the cell phone, and drinks coffee while driving, advanced driver skills training won’t help.

    Joe Autera – is correct that driver’s training, when applied in a consistent and scientific way, does improve driver safety.

    PCH101 – is correct that, in the real world, advanced driver’s training does not have the impact on safety outcomes that we would like to see. He is probably also correct that the overconfidence effect is a major factor for this failure.

    buzzliteyear (yours truly) – I believe is correct that the problem is not that advanced driver’s training is ineffective, but that it is not taught/practiced nearly often enough to produce the desired effects.

    Scientific research into expertise indicates that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to make someone truly proficient at a skill (violin, tennis, computer programming, etc.). In the real world, how many drivers get training within two orders of magnitude of that number (100 hours)? Not many.

    Finally, another piece of The Truth. Research indicates that the human brain does not full develop until approximately age 25. The frontal cortex, which is involved in judgment, higher reasoning, and rational assessment of risk, is the last portion of the brain to fully develop.

    Ever wonder why car insurance losses (and hence rates) plummet after age 25? It’s because drivers’ brains are finally mature enough to handle the task.

    This probably accounts for much of the real world failure of advanced driver training. It doesn’t matter how much skill you give a 17-year-old. He/she won’t have the mental capacity to use it effectively for 7 to 8 years.

  • avatar
    discoholic

    I may be a bit late for this, considering there are already 120 comments, but DEAR GOD, anyone seriously talking about driving safety while admitting he was blasting down the I 95 at more than 120 mph cannot possibly be taken seriously. Robert, I hope it’s not considered flaming, but does TTAC make a difference between pistonheads and reckless drivers who should get their licences revoked NOW?

    Honestly, all the talk about safety training just sickens me. How about some very basic mathematical safety training: at 123 mph, your stopping distance including reaction time is more than 250 metres (that’s if you happen to be in a car with good brakes). If you havent’ got at least 300 metres of EMPTY, dry, straight-as-a-laser road ahead of your car, you do NOT go as fast as that. And yes, that goes for no-speed-limit autobahns as well.

    Jack, do you even begin to realise that sheer dumb luck kept you from being responsible for the severe injuries, possibly deaths of several people? Do you realise that slamming ANY car into an obstacle at 70 mph reduces that car to a cloud of debris and the passengers to a smear? (It’s physics: crash tests are done at 40 mph – at 70, the cinetic energy is over three times as high.)

  • avatar
    Ronman

    I read something today about Boloxology, and that is what this is.

    123 MPH???????????????? i had to read that bit many times to make sure it wasnt 123 KPH.

    that is 200 kilometer per hour.

    first to get out of the way, going that fast with a full load in a humongous car is plain Stupid.

    second, your technique is essentially pure luck because of the speed involved. have you been doing the indicated 70mph (i think) standing on the brakes alone would have stopped you much earlier than where the crash was taking place, not to mention you would have been in another zip code and the accident would have concluded by the time you got there if you werent doing 120.

    my mom who is 65 now and has raced a couple of rallie in a renault 10 gordini in her young days always says to me that a car on a public road is not efficiently controlable over the speed of 80 KPH, she based her info on the pre mentioned car. now suspension technology has iproved and acronyms have become aplenty to keep the car in check, but still there is no crumle zone airbag esc that is designed to work properly at these speeds (120mph).

    i’ve had the stupid pleasure of driving over 200 kph on a public highway in a car that was not designed to go 200 in the first place and through my experience i have learned that driving very cautiously invites accidents, and driving too fast causes them. however if you stay within the limits keep an open eye and never suppose that everyone will drive as is expected, then maybe you can avoid the worst. but get some advanced training on controling your (own)car on the limit, as well as some techniques to anticipate other drivers’ errors na dyou might get by your whole life without coming close.

    on a lst note, track driving as everyone might agree has nothing to ad to regualr driving.

    and driving courses in terms of safety should be done on your everyday car or a very similar model. not an audi quatro when you drive a 1990 taurus.

    i base my info on driving on Lebanon’s roads. where there are not specific limits, i have been driving for 14 years and have never been fined for anything. because they just dont fine you. the land is lawless in terms of traffic unfortunately and the traffic landscape looks like a nightmare. indicators are optional of course and honking a way of life…..

    but doing 123 with your family on board is just plain stupid….

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Is there no end to Baruth’s rationalization efforts?

    Of course there are unsafe motorcycle riders, but they are vastly outnumbered by those of us who are driving defensively to avoid hotshots/idiots in cars who insist on increasing the risk of death/injury for those around them.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    My guess is that Messrs Baruth and Farago may have underestimated (or totally not expected) the backlash this article was going to generate.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Researchers can’t find it, either. Study after study reaches the same conclusion — driver training doesn’t get results.

    It should be pretty clear what the risk factors are and broad sweeping generalizations like this are useless.

    Operating a vehicle at higher speed is more dangerous, so is driving out of pattern. More complex driving requires more skill and judgment.

    Proper training can provide addition skill or judgment.

    I predict none of the studies actually measured meaningful data such as this, and likely when for a straight class->accident correlation, which only shows the type of classes that are poor at providing either.

  • avatar
    Riz

    To Jack Baruth re: “Maybe Robert will let me sneak the phrase “I strangled a Labrador puppy” into the middle of my next diatribe.”

    Try a blender – works wonders as an internet meme

  • avatar
    Jimal

    agenthex:
    Seeing how the cited studies deal almost exclusively (I ad the caveat “almost” as I started glazing over while reading the one study last night) with new driver training and graduated license schemes for young drivers will little to no behind-the-wheel experience. I would like to see data from drivers of various levels of experience who have taken incremental advanced driver training programs and how it stacks up against overall numbers for all drivers.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I predict none of the studies actually measured meaningful data such as this

    Then you obviously haven’t bothered actually reading the studies, because they specifically address these points.

    I know that enthusiasts get upset with news like this, but here are the basic issues:

    -Driving on the street is just not that difficult. You may feel very proud of yourself, but it just doesn’t take that much technical ability to drive a car on a public highway. Comparing it to being a concert violinist or a pro athlete is a real stretch.

    -Most bad driving is a function of personality and attitude, not skill. So skills training doesn’t help, since skills aren’t the problem, and it can actually make things worse because it inspires overconfidence (a bad attitude.)

    -You can’t force people to have better attitudes. Driving instruction routinely includes attitude training, but it doesn’t have any effect.

    The studies cover the very issues that you claim that they don’t. Get back to me when you’ve actually read them. There is no need for you to make assumptions about their content that happen to be wrong.

  • avatar
    sullie

    123mph? Really? With the family on board? I find “Jack’s sense of indifference” interesting.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    The real “truth” about training in general is that it’s effectiveness is not generalizable. For example, we training students for years at math or whatnot and they still can’t solve simple problems or compose proper lit. However, proper training can be very effective at the individual level.

    Moreover, in this discussion, we’re talking about something (accidents) that are another step removed from the actual training (ie. retention of info) itself.

    The only contained explanation here is that you can only train motivated people to be more proficient at tasks. So if I want to drive fast, I can learn to be more proficient at vehicle control at that speed, or learn to avoid configuration that can lead to bad situations.

    The majority of drivers have no such motivation, and are not part of the same topic.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Then you obviously haven’t bothered actually reading the studies, because they specifically address these points.

    Then why don’t you provide some links. Or at least provide some example of what they do study.

    I’ll bet far more studies have been done on education in general, and most of them pretty much say the same thing. You can only teach to people who care.

    Where is the exceptionalism here.

    I’ll also note that the public policy type studies you’re probably referring to are generally crap since they hardly ever approach subjects scientifically. They are done for bureaucrats who understand causality about as well as the man on street.


    As I’ve already pointed out, there are two topics here. One is what to do with the general population/policy, one is what to do as an individual. Confusing the two only leads to stupid points like this:

    -Driving on the street is just not that difficult. You may feel very proud of yourself, but it just doesn’t take that much technical ability to drive a car on a public highway. Comparing it to being a concert violinist or a pro athlete is a real stretch.

    No one is saying something designed to accommodate the LCD is difficult. This is consistent with the goal of policy admins, which is not the goal of one enthusiast.

    As another example since it seems to be a difficult point to absorb:

    This winter, the streets around where I live became hard to drive due to poor handling of the snow. The best advice for the population is to stay home. However, I choose to go to work or whatever anyway, and some degree of driving skills was very useful.

    You can argue from a policy POV the road are pilotable in the general case if we mandated snow tires/chains or better snow clearance, and again it has nothing to do with the effectiveness of specific training at an individual level.

    While it’s true it’s difficult to condition attitudes, which is why it doesn’t result very often, it is possible to better prepare for reasonable situations that may arise. This is much harder to study statistically, but maybe you can show people who have gone much out of their way to decorrelate and do so.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    @Pch101
    the results of several evaluation studies show that course graduates actually have higher collision rates than individuals who did not receive such training

    The explanation for this is that advanced skills training leads to overconfidence.

    The study results you quote appear to be quite compelling at first glance, however I note that the studies are not too specific on the types of training being examined. A few references are made to skidpads but that’s about it. Having researched a few, they appear to describe “driver training” as if it’s some amorphous entity. This is a gross over-simplification.

    It seems inconceivable that someone taking a defensive driving course would drive LESS defensively as a result. The worst that one could expect would be no improvement. As for overconfidence, the defensive driving courses I took pushed me closer to paranoia than overconfidence.

    I can absolutely see someone taking a high-performance driving course consisting of choosing the correct line and blasting around a track or autocross course to come away with an “I’m the second coming of Schumacher” opinion of their abilities. Translated to the street, that would be a recipe for problems.

    So let’s assume that performance driving courses can lead to an increased accident rate for some aggressive individuals. Let’s also assume that defensive driving courses can reduce the accident rate for some participants. Combining them under the umberella of “driver training” would yield a net zero statistic or even a net increase in accident rates.

    When determining the cause of the poor return on investment of this amorphous “driver training”, the performance driver graduates would be studied (since they’re the ones having the accidents) and Bingo! it’s all down to overconfidence.

  • avatar

    You know, I really thought this would be a 20-comment story. Thanks to everybody who chimed in, even the people who are quitting the Internet as a result of being traumatized by the opening paragraphs. I also kind of thought it would be a dry discussion about types of driver training. Guess I was wrong :)

    More than a few people have questioned the idea of going that fast with my family on-board. At the time, none of us had any children; now my brother has a son and I have one on the way, so I think that’s probably modified our willingness to blast from pack to pack on the freeway.

    In the trip from which this story comes, however, I was the slower driver compared to my rather devil-may-care brother. My ’06 Phaeton has no working speed limiter (the ’05 had a pretty hard stop at an indicated 133) and more than once I had to remind him that we were driving on V-rated tires, not Z-rated ones.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    —-
    I missed pch’s earlier post.

    “Overconfidence” is a misleading term in that context. Doing something more difficult carries inherently more risk. Effective preparation for it does not imply negative risk.

    By your understanding of the issue, driving _should_ be banned or least seriously curtailed because professionally driven buses are safer.


    Mike:
    This is a gross over-simplification.

    They don’t even bother to separate out obviously unrelated criteria.

    Even well designed scientific studies are often misleading due to minor confusion of correlation to causality, so assign the credibility to this level of “study” accordingly.

    What’s really sad with these policy studies is that they’re so goddamn long BECAUSE they aren’t controlled in any meaningful way so the authors have to blather on endlessly to compensate for a paycheck.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Jack Baruth
    The comments for your posts tend to have that shitstorm in a closet feel to them. I think it livens things up in a good way, even if half the correspondents are wishing you a slow death.

    I just hope no one is getting banned because of their responses though (outside of extreme cases). You are kind of shooting puppies in a mall pet store with your choice of topics and general devil’s-advocate tendencies.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It seems inconceivable that someone taking a defensive driving course would drive LESS defensively as a result.

    Most driving courses being offered **are** defensive driving courses. Surely, you were taught in your driver’s ed course that driving under the influence is bad, that tailgating is bad, that running stop signs is bad, that using your car to exercise your hormones is bad, and that one should generally drive defensively. (The second link that I posted above specifically addresses this.)

    I posted links to just two studies, but if you do some digging, you’ll find an abundance of other academic research that concurs with the position that training doesn’t help, and practically none that holds an opposing view.

    There is no controversy in research circles about this. Enthusiasts who haven’t read the research may find this position to be controversial, but those who study it are pretty much unanimous in their skepticism of training.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    @Jack Baruth
    I also kind of thought it would be a dry discussion about types of driver training. Guess I was wrong :)

    Ooopps! I guess I fell into your clever trap with my prior post. Oh well, predictability can be a virtue.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Pch101 Most driving courses being offered **are** defensive driving courses. Surely, you were taught in your driver’s ed course that driving under the influence is bad, that tailgating is bad, that running stop signs is bad, that using your car to exercise your hormones is bad, and that one should generally drive defensively.

    Wrong, wrong, WRONG. Do you actually think that defensive driving means “don’t run stop signs” or “don’t drink and drive”? Houston, we have a problem.

    To keep this short, I filched this brief description. It’s a country mile from “driver’s ed”.

    It is a form of training for motor vehicle drivers that goes beyond mastery of the rules of the road and the basic mechanics of driving. Its aim is to reduce the risk of driving by anticipating dangerous situations, despite adverse conditions or the mistakes of others. This can be achieved through adherence to a variety of general rules, as well as the practice of specific driving techniques.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Enthusiasts who haven’t read the research may find this position to be controversial, but those who study it are pretty much unanimous in their skepticism of training.

    That’s funny because that very long ass driver training metastudy points out that some approaches seem to work better than others as would be expected. More specifically, it particularly discredits the typical unsophisticated approach for ones based on providing insight on understanding actual limitations.

    Maybe you should actually read your own references before handing out generalizations.

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    Jimal :
    February 22nd, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Joe,
    I for one have heard of your company (and not just because I’ve been to Raceway Park) and know the good work you’ve been doing. I look forward to your rebuttal.

    Jimal,

    Thank you, sir. It is truly humbling to receive recognition from an unexpected quarter.

    Pch101,

    After an exhaustive search of my library and the internet I have been unable to find that one, all encompassing study which concludes that any and all approaches to driver training are wholly and absolutely ineffective. In as much as it appears that you have the one and only copy in existence, perhaps you would be kind enough to share? Thinking it might add something to the rebuttal article, which I would hate to submit it without having first consulted such a definitive work on the subject at hand.

    Agentthex,

    Damn it, man! I guess I’ll have to rewrite yet another paragraph in the rebuttal …again.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    @ Jack Baruth
    More than a few people have questioned the idea of going that fast with my family on-board. At the time, none of us had any children; now my brother has a son and I have one on the way, so I think that’s probably modified our willingness to blast from pack to pack on the freeway.

    Just noticed this little gem. Do you mean:

    a) You consider adults less worthy of protection than children?
    b) Other people’s children are less important than your own?

    This doesn’t exactly add weight to your argument. When you find that you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

  • avatar
    TireGuy

    nathaniel :
    February 21st, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    This anecdotal evidence is hardly evidence of anything.

    Also another thing to think about is the that the rubber on SUVs is usually not meant for speeds that the Phaeton rubber is capable of. Not that you should have been in that situation in the first place, but if I was, I would want to be in the car with capable tires for the speed I was traveling.

    Also…
    Escalade 60-0 – 145 feet
    Phaeton 60-0 – 125 feet
    Cayman S 60-0 – 105 feet

    You gonna tell me that this measure of “active safety” doesn’t mean anything out there on the highway?

    You are absolutely right – and it is not only the rubber.
    Unfortunately, in the US, ABS and ESP have a negative connotion. Robert some time ago strongly presented his “case” that with ABS cars have a seemingly longer breaking way.

    This is nonsense. ABS is one of the most important features in a modern car. In Jack’s example, when his tires went to the border of the road while breaking, he would have skidded without ABS, loosing control, and having no power to break on the road any more.

    Continental Tires of Germany bought the ABS Manufacturer in 1998 – and a few years later they showed what you can do when tires, electronics and other equipment works together. They called it the “30 meter car” – meaning that a car would come to a halt from 100 km/h (about 60 m/ph) within 30 meters! The standard at that time was 38 meters – which means that you still have a speed of 30 km/h when the first car stops already.

    No wonder that Jack survided in a Phaeton containing all electronic gadetry German engineering can invent.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Do you actually think that defensive driving means “don’t run stop signs” or “don’t drink and drive”?

    That’s certainly part of what constitutes defensive driving. Heeding the rules (or most of them, anyway), paying attention and leaving room for error is a large part of what defensive driving is all about. It’s about avoiding stupidity, and not being overly aggressive.

    Enthusiast bias taints the analysis. Enthusiasts assume that accidents are caused by other people, that their own skills are above average, and that accidents are best avoided through evasive actions. In reality, those who drive aggressively cause more problems than average, most people have average skills, by definition, and accidents are best avoided by avoiding situations in which they are likely to occur.

    “Overconfidence” is a misleading term in that context. Doing something more difficult carries inherently more risk. Effective preparation for it does not imply negative risk.

    Wrong. One of the points made in that and in other studies is that advanced driver training persuades people to do things that are more likely to get them into trouble, by taking risks that they don’t need to take.

    You’re actually proving the point of the studies. You apparently believe that training should inspire people to take more chances. The whole point of the discussion is to point out that risk taking is the problem, and reducing the amount of risk taking is the solution.

    After an exhaustive search of my library and the internet I have been unable to find that one, all encompassing study which concludes that any and all approaches to driver training are wholly and absolutely ineffective.

    Fortunately, I provided you with two studies that are fairly representative of the norm of academic research. Those studies pretty much contradict everything you’ve said, and you obviously have no rebuttal to the content of those studies.

    In comparison, you cited in passing a NHTSA study about motorcycles, and inferred inaccurately that it was about passenger cars.

  • avatar
    TireGuy

    Pch101 :
    February 24th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    One of the points made in that and in other studies is that advanced driver training persuades people to do things that are more likely to get them into trouble, by taking risks that they don’t need to take.

    In my view it really depends what will be trained during such a training. I have a motorcycle, but do not drive very often. I participated then in a “Fahrsicherheitstraining” (training for driving safely), where I learned quite a bit about the handling of my motorcycle. Especially, breaking and then driving around an object in your way was trained. Such training creates safety.

    One of the points where people should be trained is the use of ABS. Jack in his story writes that he gets off the brake at 70 mph and then chooses his spot where to go – with ABS you do not need to go off the brake before turning the steering wheel! You only loose breaking distance if you do so! This is the big advantage of ABS: no skidding, and full breaking power while steering.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Wrong. One of the points made in that and in other studies is that advanced driver training persuades people to do things that are more likely to get them into trouble, by taking risks that they don’t need to take.

    Well, such is the nature of life and risk. Take recreational activities with likelihood of injury like skiing. One point about it is that higher proficiency can lead to higher risk taking naturally. So do you limit an allowable level of proficiency? And this leads to the more important point, which is whether it is proper to limit arguably more optional rec activities if overall risk is really that much of a social concern.


    Fortunately, I provided you with two studies that are fairly representative of the norm of academic research. Those studies pretty much contradict everything you’ve said, and you obviously have no rebuttal to the content of those studies.

    If you just think about the empirical fundamentals what they’re trying to study, then it becomes obvious how difficult and ridiculous it is. They’re taking subjects with pretty loose controls, a secondary influence (since you mostly learn about driving from doing it under normal circumstances), and taking samples of exceptional events.

    The closest respectable category of experiments are probably medical studies and an estimate based on apparent crash rates (which needs to be categorized for proper study) makes the whole affair pretty laughable. I seriously doubt if it’s even possible for their measured diff to be above stat error.

    This is basically trying to study illness rates in people who lived for a few month within a country mile of high voltage power lines. And that comparison is for one individual study with dubious correlation tween driver ed studies due to obvious pedagogical differences.

    But hey it’s mostly for policy decisions, and the general class of folks who do those probably don’t get any of this. I don’t even see any mention of numbers or control group or statistically significant, which are pretty basic info in the metastudy.


    Anyway, for anyone who’s ever taken driver’s ed (studies of anything else are even less statistically significant), it’s not surprising the usual bureaucratic approach is useless. Years of math or lit classes are barely useful so any expectation of some hours of dictating rules to adolescents and half-assed PSAs with minimal exercises should be low.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Take recreational activities with likelihood of injury like skiing.

    Your choice in analogy illustrates why you miss this completely.

    Driving on the street is not a sport. Driving on a public highway is largely not a skills based activity — the skills needed to do that are easy to acquire — but one based on judgment.

    Since accidents aren’t caused by a lack of skills, their number will not be reduced by an increase in skills. It is not like playing the piano or football; it isn’t about technical ability, but about playing nice.

    If you just think about the empirical fundamentals what they’re trying to study, then it becomes obvious how difficult and ridiculous it is.

    Again, that statement indicates that you haven’t bothered to actually read the studies. Since you don’t want to believe the conclusions, you’ll resort to misinterpreting them and making inaccurate claims, instead.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Driving on the street is not a sport.

    No, it’s more important and risks more justifiable, which is the whole point.

    It is not like playing the piano or football; it isn’t about technical ability, but about playing nice.

    There’s nothing really technically difficult about doing either poorly so your analogy doesn’t even make sense.

    You should also note that I used term judgment in my posts above. Better judgment is part of any skillset, just as overtaking or increment conditions on a racetrack versus reaction time. The two are not really discriminant in the realm of pattern recognition/conditioning.

    Again, that statement indicates that you haven’t bothered to actually read the studies. Since you don’t want to believe the conclusions, you’ll resort to misinterpreting them and making inaccurate claims, instead.

    Perhaps you can point how these very objectively inferior policy studies are somehow numerically more accurate than a really crappy medical study, which are already pretty flaky compared to any hard science not the least because they make more stat assumptions.

    There’s a reason why the whole category (of which this kind of stat is at the worse end of) is considered a joke and the only people who would even entertain it is the kind that metastudy is written for.

    Given that I’ve made loads of damning points about these studies and this whole topic in general, maybe you can set up a show n’ tell to refute one instead of trying to waste more time by pretending reading any of them are a worthy effort. So let’s review all my points thus far:

    1. Crappy studies
    2. Low expectant results
    3. Generalizations about pedagogy
    4. Lack of differentiation between policy and individual pov.
    5. Naive view of risk (includes behavioral science as well as policy pov).

    and probably some above I forget.

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    Pch101,

    Fortunately, I provided you with two studies that are fairly representative of the norm of academic research. Those studies pretty much contradict everything you’ve said, and you obviously have no rebuttal to the content of those studies.

    In comparison, you cited in passing a NHTSA study about motorcycles, and inferred inaccurately that it was about passenger cars.

    I thought I had made it abundantly clear that my rebuttal would come in the form of an article in respone to Mr. Baruth’s original editorial. Obviously you missed that point, so please allow me to reiterate – I will be presenting a thoughtful, informed response to Mr. Baruth’s opinion that no form of driver training is sufficiently effective to provide a discernible benefit to the average driver. This response will, of course, be based on my years of experience in:

    a) training professional drivers from around the world (who, coincidentally, are far more likely to face life threatening situations than the average driver) to avoid behind-the-wheel emergencies

    b) designing, developing and conducting training programs that are sought after by those driving in “at-risk” environments or situations simply because they know others who have used the skills they gained in training and lived to talk about it

    c) dissecting case studies and accident reports to determine the contributing mechanical, human and environmental factors to behidn-the-wheel emergencies and identifying the root causes of success or failure

    d) studying the science of vehicle dynamics and human physological responses to stress

    e)providing data gathered during driver training programs and research and development projects to vehicle and tire manufacturer’s, government agencies and educational institutions.

    as opposed regurgitating the questionable findings (that’s not me saying that, it’s the peers and subsequent researchers in the fields from which those studies originated) of studies which:

    a) I have no first hand knowledge of

    b) I did not particpate in the conduct, data collection or analysis

    d) simply do not claim to be all encompassing or definitive works on the efficacy and applicability of all approaches to drivers training

    Oh…while we are on the topic of research and study’s…and before I forget, please note that when you “google” something it is always best to read the entire entry that can be found on the indicated website as opposed to the excerpt that appears in the search results. Case in point, if you enter the phrase “NHTSA Accident Aviodance Skill Training & Performance Testing study conducted in 1976″ the first listing that appears is http://www.msf-usa.org/Downloads/NAMS_print.pdf, and some convoluted text which would indeed seem to indicate that I was inferring the results of a motorcyle related study applied to driver (as opposed to rider) training.

    However, if one actually takes the next logical step in conducting their reasearch, they will discover that the entry in question refers singularly and specifically to the joint NHTSA-MSF “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures” study begun in 1976 and published in 1981 by Hurt – as opposed to the NHTSA Accident Avoidance Skill Training and Performance Testing study which began 1974 and concluded in 1976 with the publication of G. R. Hatterick & J. R. Bathurst’s final report, to which my passing reference was made.

    It is moments like this that bring to mind the oft quoted phrase that “one should never enter into a battle of wits with an unarmed man”. Oh, what fun the author of that little gem must have missed out on in his or her lifetime.

  • avatar
    TxTransplant

    I’ll address this to pch101 since he appears to be the self-appointed – or annointed, if you prefer – Chief Ignoramus in this debate, though my comments certainly apply equally to Jack Baruth.

    If we were to embrace your supposition that simply because studies show that some forms of training have no positive impact on some portion of the target population writ large, all forms of training are ineffective and are best ignored, where would that leave the passengers and crew of Flight 1549?

    After all, virtually every study conducted prior to January 15th showed that training pilots in proper “ditching” techniques had no discernible impact on the survivability rate among passengers and crew aboard aircraft forced to make water landings. Thus, based on your stated position, engaging in any form or manner of “ditching” training was a waste of time and should have been abandonded a long time ago as it presented no demonstrable benefit. One really has to wonder just how well that approach, or a position that obstinately supports that approach, would sit with the crew members and 150 passengers who survived such a landing; or with the Captain himself, who continues to credit his training, ostensibly the same training that had failed in every other attempted water landing – not luck – with the successful outcome of that event. In as much as he lived through the event, I dare say his conclusions are far more relevant than those which will be reached in some study conducted by someone who was not in that cockpit, and even more so when compared to the opinions of those who will some day read that study and interpret or present the findings in a manner that supports that opinion.

    The unmitigated success that was the landing of Flight 1549 transpired despite the fact that, until the very moment that some form or combination of training proved effective, every effort to develop the desired behaviors in pilots confronted with a water landing had, statistically speaking, been abject failures.

    With regard to the current debate, it seems to me that the answer is not to dismiss driver training out of hand. In my mind, the answer lies in finding what form or combination of training will lead to the desired result. This can only be accomplished by taking different approaches to the problem, studying the impact those approaches have and either refining those that show promise or moving away from those that don’t. While the answer may not yet be clear, this much is; the desired result can not be found in earlier studies. While the findings may get us closer to the answer, they simply point out what won’t work, not what might work. Wasn’t it Edison who that said each of the more than 300 failures he experienced in his quest to invent the light bulb brought him that much closer to a solution?

    Or maybe the opinions of these two pundits are correct. In as much as a viable solution has yet to be found, rather than trying to solve the problem we should just simply stop trying. That way there can be no more Flight 1549’s, events that fly in the face of academic studies and point us toward the solution to a vexing problem. Of course, if we had taken that same stance in 1492, we would all be living in Europe professing our concern for the environmental issues facing on our flat planet. Then again, we wouldn’t be worrying about aircraft making water landings as the Wright Brothers would have stuck with building bicycles – in France or Spain no less.

    I for one applaud those, like Joe Autera, that have the wherewithal to continue searching for a solution. He may not yet have the all encompassing solution to resolve every driver training issue, but I am willing to wager that he is far closer to finding it then Jack and his minions. Personally, I look upon the likes of he and Pch as merely a part of the problem, individuals who have neither the knowledge, skill nor ability to find a solution where none existed previously, close minded fools whose only answer is to dismiss out-of-hand the efforts of those who do and aren’t.

    In as much as these two lack the courage to lead and the conviction to follow, I suggest they step aside and let more creative, imaginative and capable individuals go about their work.

    Mr. Autera, I rarely give advice, but if I may suggest, one should never argue with a fool lest onlookers be unable to tell the difference.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Great post TxTransplant, but expect the moderators to delete your comment.

    Seems “flaming” is tolerated if it comes from the anointed. And I have really no issue with that, because it is RF’s site.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    all forms of training are ineffective and are best ignored, where would that leave the passengers and crew of Flight 1549?

    OK, so you don’t get it, either.

    Let’s try this again — flying is difficult, and most people who want to fly aspire to do it well.

    In contrast, driving on a public road is easy, and many people who drive poorly do so because they **choose** to drive poorly (or because they prefer to do other things, which results in them driving poorly.)

    It’s a very simple concept to understand. If you want to compare driving to flying, playing an instrument, brain surgery or any other technically challenging activity, then you will be way off base.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Stern:

    Phaeton buyers are not ordinary men that need to be concerned with mundane things like the safety of those around them.

  • avatar

    @TxTransplant:

    I certainly hope RF doesn’t delete your comment; it’s worth discussing.

    The problem is that as Pch101 has repeatedly said, flying is not driving. I’ve operated aircraft myself and there is absolutely no comparison between the two.

    Not only is it much tougher to fly a Cessna 172 than it is to operate a Malibu, it’s another order of magnitude more difficult to operate an enormous jet aircraft. It’s a profession in and of itself, one which requires an enormous amount of experience, knowledge, and specific instruction.

    Driving a car just isn’t that hard, which is why we let fourteen-year-olds do it in many states. Driving a car in a race can be a bit tough, but strictly speaking, we aren’t supposed to be racing on the streets.

    With all due respect to Mr. Autera, he is a proponent of driver training because it pays his bills. He has a product to sell. Would you expect him not to try to sell it?

    I, on the other hand, have no dog in this fight. I perform on-track driver instruction but I don’t tell customers that they’ll be safer street drivers as a result.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    @roamer: Yes, this seems to be a chuckleworthy attempt at a troll contrived at cartoonish length. I am led to wonder whether Baruth’s is a five- or a six-car grudge.

    There is a kernel of truth here, though Baruth only strikes it a glancing blow rather than forthrightly asserting that a vehicle’s engineering origin (more than its size or weight) is an excellent predictor of its safety performance and documenting the claim with evidence such as this. But even that mealy kernel is lost amongst abstruse, baseless grand mal fulmination about driver training and active safety systems soundly known to improve safety in the real world — we’re meant to believe whatever Jack shouts loudly, as it seems — and bizarre digs at the “oh-so-superior” denizens of the European market whence Baruth’s Phaeton came.

    It is interesting to ponder why, if Baruth is even slightly interested in roadway safety, he is so proud of driving so far above the 85th-percentile speed so robustly demonstrated to minimise the likelihood and severity of collision. The speed differentials he created on that day with his felonious velocity suggest a selfish sense of entitlement and a self-perception that he is above the law and more important than everyone else on the road. Safety (anyone’s safety) is clearly not on the list of factors that went into his speed selection.

    I am, finally, led to wonder what (aside from demonstrating his ability to emit showers of sparks) Baruth hopes to accomplish by displaying his lamentably poor judgment and gross ignorance in such high-profile fashion, and what RF hopes to achieve by giving him a platform to do so.

  • avatar
    TxTransplant

    Jack,

    I look forward to that discussion.

    I am afraid, however, that the point of my post has been missed entirely. The point was not whether flying an airplane was more difficult or complex than flying a car. That it a given among us mere mortals. The point was whether or not engaging in any form of training was a worthwhile endeavor if, in fact, the training had thus far proven to be ineffective at achieving the desired outcomes. The correlation was between training for a water landing in a non-amphibious aircraft which, up until January 15th 2009, had failed to achieve the desired outcome and driver training, which has been shown in a number of studies to be incapable of achieveing the desired outcome, not between the vehicles in which those that training is applied. I ask the question again of both you and Pch101. Are you of the opinion that we should abandon any training that hasn’t automatically achieved the desired result from the onset?

    With all due respect to Mr. Autera, he is a proponent of driver training because it pays his bills. He has a product to sell. Would you expect him not to try to sell it?

    I fail to see how asking someone to provide their qualifications for stating an opinion, presenting their own credentials in support of an opposing opinion and then asking questions that challenge the suppositions of others equates to selling one’s services. In reviewing Autera’s posts here, it appears the exact opposite is taking place. In fact, he points out that he apparently has little to gain from a business prospective by debating this issue here. While ultimately that may be neither here nor there, what I find most interesting is that the only challenge he has provided to the theories espoused by yourself and Pch has come in the form of asking direct questions that have, in all actuality, presented the perfect opportunity for both, or either, of you to further your stated position. Yet, neither of you have done so. Instead, you both continue to revert to the staid arguments that have been repeatedly presented by one or the other, though these arguments do not answer the questions posed. While it reamins to be seen whether either of you are adept at evasive manuevers behind the wheel, it certainly appears that you are adept at evading pointed questions that require thoughtful response and simply reinforces the obvious fact that your article was indeed nothing more than a troll.

    What I find most interesting in all of this is that neither you nor Pch101 have endeavored to answer Autera’s original question. Which was quite clearly stated as what is it that qualifies you to make assumptions and present opinions about the impact and effectiveness of driver training? Other than the fact that you have obviously engaged in unsafe driving behavior, flown an airplane and have provided some manner of driving instruction for an indeterminate length of time that, by your own admission, is inapplicable to safe driving on the streets, exactly what are your qualifications, sir?

    I ask the same of Pch101. Other than having read just two driver training studies and, apparently, being capable of performing web searches using commonly available tools (and, so it appears, not doing that very well) what qualifies you to take an unequivocal position that driver training writ large is absolutely ineffective?

    A simple question that requires nothing more than a simple answer, gentlemen.

  • avatar

    @TxTransplant:

    You’re right; let’s give Joe’s questions a fair airing-out.

    Exactly what qualifies you to make the assumptions you make in your article?

    I can read a study, drive an automobile, and assemble objective and subjective data.

    What type of driver training have you participated in?

    I’ve attended a variety of schools myself, including Ross Bentley’s “Coach The Coach”.

    How many drivers have you trained over how many years ?

    Not that many over just a few.

    How many accidents and near accidents have you dissected and studied in explicit detail?

    Several, usually with plenty of video from multiple cars to see what happened.

    How much time have you spent studying subjects that are integral to driver training – such as the science of vehicle dynamics and human physiological responses to stress?

    Science of vehicle dynamics? I suspect Joe doesn’t mean measuring joules of energy at x angle here, but rather simply discussing, provoking, and observing vehicle behavior in extremis. So let’s say five hundred hours.

    Human psysiological responses to stress? That’s been a hobby of mine for a long time as a former pro BMX racer, occasional competitive shooter, and now auto racer, so let’s say more than two decades of itinerant study.

    Something I haven’t bothered to discuss in this thread previously, because I think it’s almost as distracting as the high-speed stuff, is that I have known some of the same people Mr. Autera has known in the “security field” and I have trained with some of those people. I am reasonably familiar with the concepts behind executive protection and tactical driving, have observed Dale Fricke and Gabe Suarez perform shoot-and-drive stuff, and I’ve read a lot of the source material. I don’t think any of it applies in this case. Mr. Autera teaches a very specialized form of behavior for people who expect to undergo a wide variety of tasks over and above regular driving. I’m sure he does a good job, but he’s fallen into the trap of the HPDE instructor who thinks he’s making safer road drivers.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Are you of the opinion that we should abandon any training that hasn’t automatically achieved the desired result from the onset?

    I’m all in favor of not bothering with activities that don’t work. This subject has been analyzed to death, and we not only know that it doesn’t work, but why it doesn’t work.

    If you are to advocate training, then it is your job to prove its value, not through anecdotes, but through research. So far, there are long paragraphs that claim that “training good, not training bad”, but no support other than a (disproven) hunch to back it up.

    Other than having read just two driver training studies

    I guess that you didn’t read what I wrote. I’ve read a lot more than two studies, but those two are quite similar to the many others on the subject and are close enough to the norm that they give someone such as yourself, who presumably has read zero such studies, a sense of what the research in this field has concluded.

    The issue isn’t with Pch101 vs. training, but with fact vs. enthusiast folklore. It’s obviously uncomfortable for a lot of enthusiasts to learn that their hobby isn’t that tough and that taking it seriously doesn’t contribute to highway safety (and may actually make it worse), but the facts are what they are.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    I’ve read a lot more than two studies, but those two are quite similar to the many others on the subject and are close enough to the norm that they give someone such as yourself, who presumably has read zero such studies, a sense of what the research in this field has concluded.

    That’s pretty laughable you can continue to assume the whole line of “research” is even valid.

    Without any substance for causality, all they’re doing is playing with numbers, and it’s scientific methodology vs. people who like to pretend going through the motions means something.

    The only marginally meaningful result shown is that teaching reasonably complex behavior patterns is nontrivial, but then that’s not exactly surprising to anyone who knew anything about human behavior in the first place.

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    Jack,

    With all due respect, and I sincerely mean that, while you may be familiar with the approach some others take to driver training, unless you have attended one of our programs you have no concept of what our approach to driver training entails or applies to.

    That is not me saying that, it is simply the feedback we have received over the last thirty six months from:

    The United States Secret Service Protective Operations Training Division

    The United States Marine Corp Security Coordination, Education and Training Center

    The Louisians State Police Driver Training Division

    US Navy EOD Training and Evaulation Command Land Warfare Training Center

    US Joint Special Operations Command

    The Colorado State Patrol Executive Security Unit

    The Niagra Regional Police Emergency Tasks Unit

    The NE PA Regional Counter Terrorism Task Force

    a past President from the Association of Law Enforcement Emergency Response Trainers

    a member of the US DOT/NHTSA Police Pursuit Training for Driving Instructors Curricullum Development Team

    a member of the NJ State Police Training Commission Driver Training Curricullum Development Committee

    students from more than a dozen other law enforcement agencies

    students from more than 100 corporations(including more than 50 Fortune 100 corporations and five of the ten largest corporations in the world)

    students who have travelled from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, the UK, and the UAE to participate in our training

    Our popularity and the demand for our services is driven not by some high dollar marketing machine that churns out magazine ads and press releases, it is driven by the fact that we acheive measurable, sustainable changes in driving behaviors. We achieve this because we approach driver training in a way that is completely different than every other approach being applied to driver training.

    It is this simple fact that saw us conduct 14 driver training programs in the last 16 weeks of 2008 (more than our closest competitors conducted throughout the entire year – as the old saying goes we actually do the things others merely talk about) and why, come the first week of April 2009, we will have conducted 11 different driver training prorgams in the 8 week period that began on Feb. 11th.

    Please don’t confuse me with an HPDE instructor, I haven’t met one yet who is qualified to do anything other than wash cars and pick up cones for us. One of the reasons for that is like yourself (again, no disrespect intended) that particular group consists of part-timers who merely dabble in driver training. As opposed to myself and the other members of our staff who each spend 50-60 hours a week, fifty to fifty two weeks a year designing, developing and conducting driver training programs that incorporate an operant approach to achieve sustainable behavior-change. There is simply no comparison between what we do and what an HPDE, EVOC, “tactical” driving or racing instructor does. Again, that’s not me saying it. That’s the more than five hundred people we have trained from around the world in the last two years saying that.

    You will be able to read all about our unique approach in that rebuttal article I have promised, which should be completed later this evening. Of course, because it presents a thoughtful, informed perspective on driver training it far exceeds the arbitrary 800 word limit set by RF, so we’ll have to figure out some other way to get it out to “the masses”. Unless, of course, we can get some sort of dispensation from the man. How about it, RF?

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    To All,

    In as much as it takes far more than 800 words to capture the knowledge gained during more than three decades of driver training and articulate an informed position on the efficacy of various driver training approaches and the validity of certain assumptions made in a number of driver training studies (there really are more than just the two that some have used to formulate their position)…see what I mean about that whole 800 word thing…my response to Jack Baruth’s editorial, which I have titled Driver Training: Myths, Misconceptions and Reality will be posted on our website in the next day or two.

    Once it is available online I will post a link here. As always, constructive comments, feedback, biased opinions and trash talk can be posted right here.

    Please note, however, that I may not respond immediately as we have some students coming in from overseas next week and then I am headed to Texas to waste countless hours engaged in what some obviously consider a fruitless endeavor…a little something that one of our students recently called a life changing experience, though we just refer to it as highly effective driver training.

  • avatar
    TxTransplant

    Fellow Driving Enthusiasts,

    As it appears the arrival of Mr. Autera’s rebuttal is imminent I felt it best to do some research on this fellow so as to determine how much weight his opinions should be given.

    Here are the high points of what I discovered in my admittedly less-than-scientific research;

    Mr. Autera is the protege of one Anthony J. Scotti.

    Mr. Autera is one of just a small of handful of instructors around the globe who are certified to
    train drivers using a proprietary methodology developed by Mr. Scotti.

    This Scotti fellow is one of the most prominent and respected professionals in the field of driver training.

    Mr. Scotti’s opinions on the subject of multi-disciplinary driver training are sought out by professional trainers around the world, as are those of his protege.

    Mr. Scotti has written at least two books on the subject of driver training which are considered must reads by professionals in the field.

    Both Mr. Scotti and Mr. Autera have authored and published scholarly works on the subject of driver training.

    One of Mr. Autera’s works has been cited in at least two Masters Thesis’.

    Both Mr. Scotti and Mr. Autera have been invited to speak on the subject of driver training at nationally and internationally recognized conferences.

    While I find the internet to be a wonderful tool, I have long held that mining the data it holds can not be fully accomplished over a short period of time. This is just the information I found over the course of an hours worth of research, so forgive me if it is incomplete.

    Jack, apparently your suspicions were wrong. It appears that when Autera refers to the “science of vehicle dynamics” he does actually mean measuring joules of energy at x angle, which he then applies to discussing, provoking, and observing vehicle behavior in extremis. An approach that at least two engineering graduate students and hundreds of driver training professionals find most interesting.

    With all due respect, I dare say that the weight of an opinion offered by someone who has apparently accomplished a great deal in the field of driver training, who has studied at the feet of a master and whose insights and expertise are sought after by professionals in his field is far greater than that of someone who is a former and occassional something or other totally unrelated to the topic at hand. Come now, sir, exactly how does pro BMX racing relate to teh subject of driver training? It seems to be that there is a bit of self-egrandizing and a sense of self-importance in your approach to this discussion.

    I look forward to reading and digesting Mr. Autera’s forthcoming opinion.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    @ Jack Baruth
    “Not only is it much tougher to fly a Cessna 172 than it is to operate a Malibu, it’s another order of magnitude more difficult to operate an enormous jet aircraft. It’s a profession in and of itself, one which requires an enormous amount of experience, knowledge, and specific instruction.

    Driving a car just isn’t that hard, which is why we let fourteen-year-olds do it in many states.”

    Flying a jet aircraft is easy, any idiot can do it. Remember the 9/11 lunatics? Flying a jet aircraft well is another matter entirely and is indeed a profession requiring skill, experience, knowledge and specific instruction.

    Cutting a steak is mechanically the same as performing an operation – all you need is a sharp knife. The difference is many years of training and experience. Similarly, driving a car is simple. Driving a car well requires training and experience.

    On the roads we have an army of steak-cutters performing operations, hence the need for seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones, DSC (and the rest of the alphabet soup nannies). Without them the human toll would be enormous.

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    Okay Folks,

    At the urging of RF, I have culled an 800 word (+/-) rebuttal from the diatribe I wrote on the topic of driver training. It is now in his capable hands.

    The larger article will be posted on either our website or, perhaps, broken down into smaller chunks that appear here.

    However, none of that is likely to happen in the immediate future as I am about to begin a two week training rotation. But when it does we’ll let everyone know.

    I look forward to everyone’s constructive comments, feedback, baseless arguments, uninformed opinions and trash talk. It all makes for really great sport, don’t you think?

    Stay Safe,

    Joe

    P.S. Mike S – GREAT analogies.

    Agentthex – really enjoyed your insights

    TxTransplant – trust me, we are are more impressive on paper than in real life.
    That’s not me saying that, it’s my wife;
    and she knows me better than anyone

    Jack Baruth – what can I say? Without you none of this would have been possible

    PHC101 – what can I say? Nothing nice, so I’ll opt to say nothing at all

  • avatar
    agenthex

    TxTransplant, if you’re going to astroturf, at least try to make it less obvious. For example, more detail is not necessarily better.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    what can I say? Nothing nice, so I’ll opt to say nothing at all

    I can understand your frustration. I cite a couple of academic sources that are typical within the field of research, and you offered no substantive counterargument. You can shoot the messenger, but the message still stands.

  • avatar
    TxTransplant

    Actually, I was utilizing metadata to cloak my flaming of both Baruth and Pch. Obviously it worked.

  • avatar
    Mike S

    @Pch101
    A few snippets I came across:

    The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is a UK charity with the goal of reducing accidents of all kinds, including traffic. They offer free driver training (no profit motive there)

    “What is Advanced Driving?
    Every day we drive our cars without giving an additional thought to the fact that it may be one of the most dangerous things that we will do in that day.
    It is a shocking fact that traffic accidents account for almost half of accidental deaths and are the largest single cause of death and injury to young adults.

    Defensive Driving is the art of avoiding preventable accidents. It is a deliberate, skilful and responsible driving technique admired by others. As a defensive driver you are able to anticipate and control situations to reduce accident risk.

    An Advanced Driver is equipped with the knowledge and skill to drive safely and effectively in all conditions.
    Advanced Drivers are 25% less likely to be involved in an accident”

    http://www.rospa.com/index.htm

    “With its UK headquarters in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Miele has seen its already industry-beating average accident rate reduce by about 20% following the introduction of driver training, recognition of which brought a £20,000 premium reduction from its insurers.”

    http://www.drivetech.co.uk/press_releases_050421.htm

    “In the year since Paducah Area Transit System (PATS), in Paducah, Ky., began training its drivers on its Mobile Driver Training Simulator, total accidents went down 44 percent, with preventable accidents down almost two thirds, at 64 percent.”

    http://www.masstransitmag.com/web/online/Industry-Announcements/Dramatic-Drop-in-Accidents-after-Simulator-Training/1$5600

    The list goes on and on and….You get the picture.

    On second thoughts maybe you won’t..

  • avatar
    Joe Autera

    PCH,

    I’m the immortal, deadpan words of Soh Yamamura:

    …I like you. You make me laugh!


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States