By on November 16, 2009

(courtesy i.d.com.com)

TTAC Commentator edgett writes:

What is the correlation between driver’s training and safety? Articles suggest that improved driver training does not improve highway safety are simply counterintuitive. Granted that nothing supplants experience on the road, but surely having some idea of the braking and handling characteristics of your vehicle, before “experience” requires it, is of more than passing value. And how can we expect someone who is competent to drive a Honda Civic to drive competently when put behind the wheel of a Suburban or 15 passenger van?

If the Air Force ensures that pilots start off in small, light single-seat aircraft and lots of simulator time before getting a seat in an F15, doesn’t this suggest that education is worthwhile? This one has been hinted at in a variety of posts, but I don’t recall seeing anything where the issue has been covered in depth.

Sajeev replies:

Like you, I can’t digest the “no correlation between driver training and on-road safety” argument. Unfortunately, given the time and research confines of Piston Slap, I cannot find information that is a slam-dunk rebuttal for our case.

But, with the Best and Brightest’s input, I suspect we have an ace up our sleeve: research the automobile accident and morality rates in a country with extensive driver training and compare their numbers to that of the USA.  I’ve heard that Germany has a somewhat rigorous test before handing out licenses, so that’s where I’d start.

Then again, there’s an argument for any multi-nation analysis being irrelevant, as American roads, speeds, and automobiles are quite different.  How many Ford Fiestas in Europe travel at the speed (and distance) of a Chevy Suburban in the Midwest?  Close to none.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

My beef with this debate regards what everyone overlooks: wear and tear items and their effect on vehicle performance.  Used up brake pads/rotors/fluid quickly negates any benefits to smart drivers or anti-lock brakes.  Yaw-sensing handling nannies are no substitute for replacing your bald-ass tires.  Even most (halogen) headlights lose their “focus” after 4+ years on the road.

I personally saw the problem on a wet and twisty four-lane road with no median.  A blue Kia sedan obviously lost control and wound up upside down after hitting oncoming traffic.  The local news later reported this incident as a fatality, and the police officer on tape made it a point to show the Kia’s bald rear tires.  Was saving $200-300 worth that person’s life?

I suspect this is not an isolated incident.  Count all the accidents where the vehicles in question had out-of-spec wear items and the percentages shall blow your mind.

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50 Comments on “Piston Slap: Driver’s Ed Gets Piston Slapped...”


  • avatar
    michal1980

    Completely 100% agree with the bald tires. I’m amazed whenever I walk around a parking lot how many times I see cars with bald tires.

    In a perfect world we’d ticket people for this. Though my perfect world ticket wouldn’t give the goverment taxes. A 10 dollar fee for writting the ticket + 400 dollars, if you do NOT get new tires.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Piloting an aircraft (or racing or whatever) is fundamentally unlike driving a car, at least in North America.  Car accidents are, by and large, caused not by training (or a lack thereof), but by care (or a lack thereof).
     
    Very few people get into trouble because “they don’t know the handling limits and dynamics of their car” on a public road.  They get into trouble because they’re doing something stupid that they’d do anyways.  As the Toyota floor mat discussion is evidence of, being trained does not stop you from doing incorrect or stupid things in a panic situation.  Pilots and race-car drivers don’t panic, but they’re also “the best of the best”.  If we put Joe or Jane Q Public in so much as a Cessna, you’d bet they’d auger in frequently because they were putting on lipstick or trying to do a 360 on the landing strip.**
     
    If you want to get accidents down, you need to teach risk avoidance.  Think about that for a moment: you need to teach someone to do something that’s directly against a foundation aspect of their personality.  You’ll see about the success rate of people who try to train others to be better at time management or interpersonal relations.  Eg, you’ll fail—miserably.  You cannot really teach these skills to anyone over three years old, and even then.
     
    At best you can teach people to read road signs, know basic traffic law and perhaps do some maintenance.  Anything else, well, all you’ll teach them is how to maximize their carelessness, which they’ll do anyways.
    ** Heck, even trained pilots do stupid or risky things.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    In a perfect world we’d ticket people for this.
     
    One of the reasons I favour traffic cameras is that it would get officers off of “sit on your ass in a speed trap” duty and actually out doing real work.   I don’t think cameras are used effectively, but they’re a better use of tax dollars than paying one to four officers and two running cruisers per speed trap to sit around and do what a camera could do for much, much less money.

    • 0 avatar
      superbadd75

      You seriously think cameras would get cops off their asses? I think it would free up their days to do more b/s. The lazy ones would find ways to avoid real Police work, cameras would only change what those (in)activities are.

  • avatar
    jmo

    To test your hypothesis you’d need a large sample chosen at random, with half attending the class and half not, and then look at their insurance claims over time.  I’d be willing to bet that the overconfidence of those who went to training negates any benefit from the added knowledge.
    The issue with using Germany as an example is you need to determine if going to the class had value or is the value simply in making driver pass one more hurdle in getting a license.
    Say for example, in order to get your license in the US you had to attend and pass the 3-day $3,999 Skip Barber Racing School.  Highway fatalities would plunge as most 16yo wouldn’t be able to come up with $3,999.
    Was the value of the class in the class itself or was it in keeping people off the road for a few more years/permanently.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The issue with using Germany as an example is you need to determine if going to the class had value or is the value simply in making driver pass one more hurdle in getting a license.
       
      One of the things the Germans do well, or at least better than we do,  is consistent enforcement.  Again, you can train all you like, but if the consequences are inconsequential, people will always push the envelope.
       
      The “blitz” method of traffic enforcement results in people behaving badly except when they see a cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      A couple of years ago, the licencing agency where I live (ICBC) discovered that one of their examiners had been taking bribes in lieu of road tests.  When the story broke, ICBC announced that all of the 100+ licences obtained with bribes had been revoked, and that ICBC was going to try and recover all the money paid out in accident claims to those drivers.  There was an amount given (a large amount) but I forget what that was.

      These people were not properly trained, and in a short period of time (~2 years) were involved in accidents.  That data is useful, as it can be compared with the accident history of other drivers who passed their road tests at the same location without bribery.

      Here is a link to a related story: http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=f0df5b0f-6305-42fe-b5fe-0d225eb5de21

      I couldn’t find the original story from a few years ago (2007 I believe).

  • avatar
    210delray

    We’ve been over this many times, and psarhjinian and jmo pretty much sum it up.  Driver’s ed teaches students the basics: knowledge of road signs, right-of-way rules, how to steer, brake, and shift, what to look out for, etc., but no one has yet devised a course that can keep drivers from crashing.   Performance driving courses are alleged to do this, but the vast majority of crashes are due to excessive risk taking, poor judgment, distraction, drinking, or simple mistakes (to err is human, unfortunately). 

    All of here have most certainly made mistakes, even when trying our best to drive carefully, let alone when we’ve been in a hurry or tried to juggle that cellphone and coffee.  Most of the time, fortunately, these mistakes don’t result in a crash.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    210delay summed it up nicely.
    For a visual, consider the screenshot.  I count 11 other applications running at the same time as the driver’s ed software.   Any idiot can pass Driver’s Ed in the US after 15 minutes of study (even a 16 year old idiot), that’s just not the issue.  The problem is distraction.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    the easiest ways to increase safety are:

    1. magically make all 16-20 year-old have the mental judgement of a 25 year-old.

    2. get all the habitual drunk/drugged drivers off the road

    3. have the “average” under 30-man drive like a 50 year-old woman, lol.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    <i>
    TTAC Commentator edgett writes:
    …Articles suggest that improved driver training does not improve highway safety ….</i>
     
    What articles are you referring to, exactly?

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    I almost got hit by a person last night who turned onto the two lane road I was on without looking. This person (some chick in a Yaris) almost t-boned us, I saw her face as she came near me, her eyes were wide, she was screaming…I remained calm and managed to thread my car between her and the car next to me. Had about an inch of clearance on either side.
    Two things required to drive safely. The ability to remain calm and spatial awareness. If you have ever seen “Canada’s Worst Driver” those are the two things that never exist in the worst of the worst drivers. If you can’t parallel park your car going 1km/hour, how can you be expected to avoid an accident on a busy road without clipping someone? And oh so many people can’t parallel park.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Bald rear tires on any car will encourage snap oversteer when the road gets slippery (this is why tire manufacturers recommend placing new tires on the rear axle if you’re only replacing a pair at a time).  Stability control might bail you out of this situation, but that’s using software to correct a hardware problem.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    The problem is that driving under normal conditions has become way too easy. It does not hold the attention of most drivers, and there are very rarely consequences for ‘bad’ behavior.  Why bother to signal?  Failure to do so rarely causes accidents – perhaps 1 in 1,000 occurances. Same with tailgating, or left-lane-camping.

    It’s so easy to drive modern cars that you can read a book while you drive, and you can -almost- text too.

  • avatar
    50merc

    A long time ago I heard about a study that found drivers ed increased accidents. It wasn’t that drivers ed made young people worse drivers, but that drivers ed graduates were more likely to be younger when they began driving. Maturity, or the lack thereof, was the most important factor. Extrapolating from this observation, it seems raising the minimum age for a drivers license to, say, 18 would prevent more accidents than insisting on more rigorous training of new drivers.
    Oklahoma used to license 14 year old kids to operate motorcycles but not cars. What a combination: vehicles that are inherently riskier, ridden by callow youths.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’ve posted on this topic many times.  As pointed out above, training doesn’t help because drivers choose to do things that they shouldn’t have, even if they aren’t supposed to.

    It’s quite unlike flying a plane, in part because bad driving is both easy to do and often fun, pleasurable or convenient for the person doing it. The technical skills required for good street driving are not very high, and tend to be overhyped.

    I suspect we have an ace up our sleeve: research the automobile accident and morality rates in a country with extensive driver training and compare their numbers to that of the USA.  I’ve heard that Germany has a somewhat rigorous test before handing out licenses, so that’s where I’d start.

    In other words, let’s cherry pick the data and ignore the instances that don’t support the thesis.

    Countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy have more difficult and expensive licensing regimes, yet they consistently have higher fatality rates.  Germany is an exception to the rule, and there is no evidence that shows that training explains their results.

    As for comparing before and after, Norway and Finland both instituted advanced driver training courses as requirements for licensing.  The end result was no benefit to crash rates, and in the case of younger males, crash rates increased in some cases.  As it turns out, advanced driver training teaches people to be overconfident, and overconfidence contributes to accidents.

    Count all the accidents where the vehicles in question had out-of-spec wear items and the percentages shall blow your mind.

    Equipment failure is rarely a cause or even a contributing factor in crashes.  It’s usually goes back to human error, and that human error is not caused by a lack of training.

  • avatar
    colin42

    There is reasearch out there that shows an improvement to driving skill with increased education.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Advanced_Motorists
    Independent research from Brunel University recently concluded that advanced drivers who had been through the IAM system of car control were nearly 70% better in all aspects of their driving – from steering to judging distances and speed.[2] Earlier research by the TRL that concluded drivers are less likely to crash if they have reached a measurable higher driving standard.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    Require more drivers education, and a politician is seen to be doing something. That’s what makes those courses popular, in every country.

    The statistics do seem to show the courses help. But that is probably for reasons other than the education they provide.

    We see the same with mandatory continuing legal education in my profession. We have to get 24 hours of training every 3 years, including some hours in alcoholism and drug abuse, ethics, and “elimination of bias.” That is supposed to help keep the standards up for California lawyers.

    Problem is, the lawyers who worry about continuing their legal education and so take these courses are not the issue. Those lawyers who need to get their act together have problems beyond what 24 hours of boring classes will help with.

    But those problem lawyers usually do not meet their education requirements, so the bar officials can point to lack of education as the problem. The system perpetuates itself. Millions of dollars get spent. Thousands of hours are wasted. But the problem persists.

    Same with drivers education. Drivers who need more training usually get it. On their own, from family. The required traffic schools and drivers education programs here in California tend to be a joke. They are expensive, take time, and do little.

    Yet the solution you hear about is not to get rid of them, but to increase them. Go figure.

  • avatar
    Mark out West

    Flying and driving are two different skills – you can slow down and stop while driving.  Not an option with flying, so the emphasis becomes “know before you go”, and once in the air Rules 1, 2, and 3 are “Fly the plane”.  That comes before “talk on the radio”, “fix the problem”, or “navigate”.

    Also, look up “sterile cockpit” as to how serious the regulators take idle cockpit chit-chat under 10,000 feet.

  • avatar
    jmo

    colin42,
    <i>Earlier research by the TRL that concluded drivers are less likely to crash if they have reached a measurable higher driving standard</i>
    And those who took the class but didn’t reach a measurable higher driving standard?  You can’t send everyone through the class but only judge those who have improved.
     

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    In most cases, driving a car today is very easy, even in less than perfect conditions. I think a lot of the problem isn’t skill as much as it is distractions. Cell phones, nav units, stereo systems, etc. can all be major distractions, and with the sheer number of cars on the road in most cities these days, a few seconds of distraction can equal a collision. Sure, driver training would help, but even the most skilled driver increases his chances of crashing if he’s not paying attention to the business of driving. The problem is that it’s very difficult to do anything about those distractions. A good start would be to outlaw talking on the phone without a handsfree device or texting, but there are still a lot of other factors, but frankly I don’t like the Government sticking their nose in our business. I’d rather drivers just be a little smarter about it and take care of their personal business at home, and focus on driving while they’re on the road.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    PCH101’s oft-repeated assertion that driver training per se is useless, is not supportable. Teachable skills do prevent crashes, just not the skills we teach in any driver’s-ed program I’m aware of in North America. And not the skills one can pick up at any of the high-performance driving schools, either. A more supportable assertion is that driver training as usually implemented does not seem to have a significant benefit to traffic safety.
    The crash involvement of inexperienced drivers of any age (youth is a highly direct proxy for driving inexperience given new-licence demographics in North America) is relatively high, due in substantial part to new drivers having not developed the skills to seek and parse the relevant and disregard the irrelevant information from the dynamic, complex visual field while driving. Look into the work of Doctor D. Alfred Owens, of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. His results suggest novice drivers have not yet learned how to scan their field of view efficiently to detect, perceive, evaluate, and process developing threats. They just plain don’t see them in time because they don’t know how, when, and where to look. Personality, consequential feedback (crashes and/or sanctions) and probably some other factors determine whether the initial unskillful driving practices solidify into habit or are shifted towards better practices. Driving safely and effectively involves skill, judgment, situational awareness, conditioned response, and other structured mental and/or physical behaviour. Experience behind the wheel brings a fairly adequate level of most of these safe-driving factors, but only over a great deal of time, as evidenced by the relatively enormous rate at which inexperienced drivers of all ages are involved in crashes. All of these factors can to varying degrees be taught and trained, which confers no magical shield against crash involvement, but compared to untutored experience does greatly accelerate the development of the mental and physical tools for safe driving.
    Driver training does not end at the conveyance of the relatively simple motor skills needed to operate a vehicle, and it probably shouldn’t even start there.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The crash involvement of inexperienced drivers of any age (youth is a highly direct proxy for driving inexperience given new-licence demographics in North America) is relatively high, due in substantial part to new drivers having not developed the skills to seek and parse the relevant and disregard the irrelevant information from the dynamic, complex visual field while driving.
       
      I don’t think this is the case.  The issue with younger drivers has proven to be one of risk-assessment and not a lack of skill.  They become safer drivers for the same reason they usually stop the casual drug use and start using condoms more often: their prefrontal cortex is more fully developed and they’re better at processing the concept of risk and reward.
       
      You can’t really teach that kind of skill because it’s not really a skill as much as it is a behaviour.  Behaviour conditioning is intensive, comprehensive, long-term and expensive, and it’s why the “training” that pilots or race car drivers get has more in common with the “training” that soldiers get when we’re trying to condition them to kill people on order and without hesitation, and very little with the training you do to help you make mailing labels in Microsoft Word or who has right of way at a four-way stop.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J. Stern

        OK, you don’t think it’s the case…go look at the data I mentioned and then decide if you still think what you think you think. Obviously there’s no single reason why some classes of drivers are involved in more crashes than others; numerous factors come into play.
        (Don’t believe everything you think…)

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

           

          OK, you don’t think it’s the case…go look at the data I mentioned and then decide if you still think what you think you think.
           
          I still think what I think I think: that one explanation (under-developed prefrontal cortexes in the brains of sub-25 year olds, and thusly a predisposition to risky behaviour) is the more plausible, based on the depth of supporting research.  I’m not discounting your citation, but offering one that fits the available evidence, especially given that accidents involving young people are very often the result of bad judgement and not a lack of technical skill.  It’s not the only reason, but it’s likely the major one.
           
          This gets back to driver training thusly: risk assessment in a panic situation is not something that’s easily taught.  It takes a level of conditioning that’s beyond what we could reasonably expect people with day jobs to take up, and doesn’t really do much for people who are going to do something stupid anyways…
           
          …but it’s appealing to harp on driver training because it makes us feel superior, and avoid things like ESC and PreSafe, because we who have the skills don’t need such things, and they’d only further dumb down the sheep, and we’re manly men who learned to drive stick on our daddy’s knee, etc, etc, who wouldn’t make those kinds of errors.
           
          P.S. I say “I think” because I haven’t done the legwork to prove it.  If I said “It is because of xxxx” I’d be making an authoritative statement on something I haven’t done the legwork on, only researched and reasoned out.  Most armchair debaters on the internet do this, but I’m trying to be honest.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    Sometimes education is not enough. Part of “Canada’s Worst Driver” is testing driver’s basic physical response times. Most of the people on that show have little to no spatial awareness, slow response times in grabbing a falling object, the inability to remain calm or poor vision. No amount of education can compensate for that. Some people simply should not drive. Period.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    PCH101’s oft-repeated assertion that driver training per se is useless, is not supportable

    Er, it’s not my assertion per se, but those of academics who actually study the results.  It’s clear that you’ve not bothered reading the research, otherwise you’d know that “my” position is the norm within the field.

    Teachable skills do prevent crashes

    If you want to believe that, then you have to ignore the last 30-35 years of research on this subject.

    If you went into a room of academics to claim that driver training works, they’d roll their eyes because they would know that you are clearly out of touch with their research.   The issue within that field is to explore whether there is some special training regime out there that can do what all of the other ones have failed to do thus far, not just in the US but also abroad.

    This topic to enthusiasts is like discussing climate change — you are all so opinionated that you can’t be bothered to actually read the research and see that it contradicts your position.

    The theory from the 50’s through the early 70’s was that training should help.  The research since then has shown, with few exceptions, that the anticipated results have not been delivered. The general consensus is that behavioral modification isn’t best achieved through training, but through appropriate enforcement and provisional licensing.
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Pch101, you’re right about dearly-held opinions clouding the ability of some people to consider facts and data, but I’m afraid you’re quite guilty of exactly that. I’m not sure why you continue to elide the distinction between driver training as a concept and the (ineffective — we agree) type of driver training that’s been the norm. Until you decide to acknowledge the existence of that distinction, and back away from strident guesses and assumptions about who has or hasn’t read what, there’s little point in our debating.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    research the automobile accident and morality rates in a country with extensive driver training and compare their numbers to that of the USA. 

    I think we can attribute a lack of morality in vehicles in the US  (hadn’t actually heard of this problem before today) to the historical prevalence of large bench seats in the back of roomy cars not to a lack of driver’s training.  I’m surprised to even hear that they keep statistics on this sort of thing, but there are people out there measuring cow flatulence and trying to determie its effects on global weather patterns; so, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    research the automobile accident and morality rates in a country with extensive driver training and compare their numbers to that of the USA. 

    I think we can attribute a lack of morality in vehicles in the US  (hadn’t actually heard of this problem before today) to the historical prevalence of large bench seats in the back of roomy cars not to a lack of driver’s training.  I’m surprised to even hear that they keep statistics on this sort of thing, but there are people out there measuring cow flatulence and trying to determine its effects on global weather patterns.  So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • avatar
    tedj101

    The closest to this that I can give you in the US is the studies done by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation on the accident rates of those that have had the course and those that have gotten their licenses without taking the course. 

    The data shows a big initial decrease in accidents for the group that has taken the course over those that have not.  (I don’t recall the exact percentage, but it was significant).   However the data also shows that the differential does not continue for very long.  Indeed, I think the two groups ended up pretty close together after something like 6 months — which the MSF (and me) found to be rather discouraging.

    To those who think that training isn’t important, I am a big proponent of training – especially in accident type situations.  To that end, as soon as my daughter turns 18 she will be going to an advanced driving school for teenagers.  (I think a person should have a fair amount of real world experience before taking a school of this sort.)  I also took her out in the first snow storm after she got her license and had her “skating’ the car around on a wide (empty) road in our area.  I wanted her to get a feel for the car when it was relatively out of control and also some feel for what it is like to get the car back in control again.  Expecting a person to do this for the first time in a true emergency is naive.  (This exercise ended when others started to use the road.)

    I have also done similar “training” with my wife — both on an iced over parking lot after an ice storm and sending her to an introduction to racing course.  (She found the racing course much more difficult than she had expected.)  I think this sort of “training” has helped to make my family members better drivers.

    BTW, if you want to have a good time and also take a course that will help your driving awareness as well, I recommend that anyone take the MSF course.  It is a surprisingly good course that doesn’t subscribe to the “common wisdom” such as speed kills.  It does subscribe to the remarks of one of the other B&Bs here that it is inattention that kills.

    Best,
                  TED

  • avatar
    carve

    If training is so ineffective, then why do we train at all?  Trust me- I’ve been to countries with no licensing training or testing requirements, and it is scary as hell.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      Training provides the basics of car control, but it hasn’t been shown to reduce the rate of crashing.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You’re making a logical error: assuming that correlation implies causation.
       
      Driving in India or Costa Rica is scary not because the drivers aren’t trained, but because there are huge cultural differences between them and,  say, Germans or Scandinavians.
       
      If you wanted to address the problem of traffic fatalities in, say, India, training would help a little.  What would help more is making Indians behave like Swedes.  There’s a lot of psychological difference between two cultures, one  that answers the question of  “what side of the road should drive on?” with “wherever there’s space” (or “Side?”) and another that can switch driving sides of the road for a whole nation in one day without a hitch.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Correct this Kraut if he’s wrong, but I don’t think Germany is that much safer. Accidents per driver/year are lower in Germany, but that’s because people don’t drive as much. Accidents per driven mile are, if I remember it correctly, about the same as in the U.S.
     
    PCH101 has in the past made a pretty compelling case for the argument that bad judgement, and not poor driving skills, is the killer on the road. (Does anybody have a handy link to earlier TTAC articles on this?)
     
    Daniel Stern is saying, if I understand him correctly, that judgement, i.e. correct risk assessment, should be taught in driving school. I’d agree. This is what they taught my daughter at driving school, who as a result is a better driver at 18 than I was at 25.
     
    And Tom Vanderbild in “Traffic” has a knockout argument: 90% of traffic deaths could be avoided by sticking to the damn speed limit. If it’s true, it’s depressing, but the truth is not generally supposed to be partial to pistonheads.

  • avatar

    It baffles me that everyone so willingly throws their hands in the air and says that increased education will not improve highway safety. 200 people die in a commercial aviation accident and there is no end of handwringing over the means to avoid those deaths, yet year-in and year-out we remove 44,000 people from the roles of citizens and we accept it as if it was a fact of life that people will only drive using a portion of their awareness.
    The lives of any number of working people have been saved through improved safety awareness on the job, using both education and improved equipment, yet the majority here seem adamant that similar measures would not reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on public roads. It is worth remembering that aviation was once an incredibly dangerous activity not only because the equipment was less evolved, but so were the operators less well prepared for the rigors of flying.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It baffles me that everyone so willingly throws their hands in the air and says that increased education will not improve highway safety.

    It baffles me that people will ignore reams of research when it contradicts what they want to believe, even though the research is abundant and generally consistent.  It illustrates that humans will hang on to their wishful thinking and prejudices long after they have been proven wrong.  Most of us don’t base our views on factual data, but on our gut feelings (which are often wrong) and what we want to believe.

    In any case, that is an inaccurate description of the situation.  Stage 1 occurred before the late 60’s to early 70’s, when the expectation was that training would help.  Stage 2 is the current realization that those theories that were offered previously were wrong — training didn’t accomplish what we thought it would.  Stage 3 — the future that may or may not occur — is that someone figures out whether there is a not-yet-discovered training regimen that can prove to be the exception.
     

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      It baffles me that people will ignore reams of research when it contradicts what they want to believe, even though the research is abundant and generally consistent.  It illustrates that humans will hang on to their wishful thinking and prejudices long after they have been proven wrong.  Most of us don’t base our views on factual data, but on our gut feelings (which are often wrong) and what we want to believe.
      Which is exactly why training can’t/doesn’t/won’t work.  Unless you can train someone’s gut to think that everyone on the road is a homicidal moron hell-bent on ruining your car/day/life, people won’t even attempt risk avoidance (they won’t see a risk).
      The aircraft analogy has another aspect to it: risk perception.  Many people have a fear of heights, but few people experience that fear at even lifted Suburban on 35’s elevations.  Put them in a Cessna just 12 feet off the ground and they’ll have a seizure.  Cessnas also feel like tin cans that are about to rattle apart.  That feeling extracts an extra measure of attention on the part of the pilot.  Cars today are too safe and too isolating; it allows their pilots to be comfortable isolating themselves from the task of driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Stage 3 — the future that may or may not occur — is that someone figures out whether there is a not-yet-discovered training regimen that can prove to be the exception.

      PCH, I am glad to see you acknowledge the possibility that novel types of driver training may prove effective in improving traffic safety. There’s some interesting research into what such a new driver training approach might look like , and it’s quite different to what’s been tried so far.
      Now you might put some effort into discussing matters such as this without implying yours is the only valid or informed perspective on the matter.

    • 0 avatar

      cdotson has a very interesting idea in relating a Cessna to increased awareness of risk. Perhaps we’ll get better drivers if everyone is driving something like an updated Model T, or better yet, put everyone on motorcycles! Not only will they begin to believe that everyone else on the road is a homicidal moron, they’ll either start to drive that way or won’t be around very long. This approach would have the initial effect of dramatically increasing the quantity of vehicle fatalities, but it would likely begin to taper off as only those who remained aware whilst driving remained alive.

      It’s worth remembering that there were once reams of research suggesting that the world was flat, the sun circled the globe and disease could be thwarted by the application of leeches to the body. These seem such absurd notions today that it is difficult to imagine such absurd notions continue to abound in the “reams of research” we currently have.  The workplace was once considered a place where training would offer no means to improve worker safety, even in modern times, yet both training and active measures to keep people from sawing their appendages off have resulted in significant changes to the safety of workers. There is a doctor I read of recently who has proposed the revolutionary idea of checklists to avoid fatal post-op infections, and physicians by the hundreds insist that he is nuts; his techniques work. 

  • avatar

    I’m still sticking with the lack of automobile upkeep being the biggest problem here, and the lowest hanging fruit we can grab.  And I’m not talking about making stricter state inspections, there’s too much room for gouging by the mechanic at that point.
    Teach people to fix their damn cars. Or force everyone on a 36 month lease plan.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That’s probably true, though the solution is probably not something you’re going to like: more automata and idiot lights.
       
      TPMS sensors, for example, are a pretty good thing.  They’re not perfect (mostly because it’s not clear what they mean: my wife called me recently, describing the TPMS icon in terms that left me thinking “what the hell is that?”), but they (along with Honda or BMW’s maintenance minders) are a good way to convey those needs to an untrained and uncaring public.
       
      Now, couple something like TPMS or EBFD/ABS with a “limp home” mode and you’ve got a negative reenforcement as well as a clear performance indicator.  Lose tire pressure or let your brakes age and the car won’t go very fast.  That’ll get people into the service bay quickly.
       
      This works for the same reason that stability control and PreSafe reduces accident deaths while  driver training does not.  You get better results compensating for “stupid” than you do trying to fix it.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    It baffles me that everyone so willingly throws their hands in the air and says that increased education will not improve highway safety.
    Well, maybe the problem is the definition of training.   Most people, when they call for increasingly rigorous training have in mind car handling skills.   But few accidents happen because people can’t handle the car.   So you can take everyone out and make them do “controlled” skids, and “ice skating”, and wet brake panic stops,  and blow out a tire at 70mph, etc. but it will have little effect on overall safety, because most accidents don’t have those factors as causes.      Driving drunk, fiddling with the radio/nav system/cd changer, ipod jack, etc. , going too fast for conditions, texting,  and so on can  lead to an accident.   If an accident is about to happen because of these behaviors,  it’s unlikely that ice driving skills, or wet brake panic stop experience will save the day.
    If you can figure out how to “train” people to pay attention, and not load CDs, not apply make-up, not text, not drive while drunk, not steer with their knees while eating a double cheeseburger,  not read books, and so on, then you’ll be very valuable to society.
    You can “teach” these things, and people will understand – it’s not conceptually difficult.    It’s the decision not to do those things that is important.   I’m not aware of training that makes people not do these things.
    But I do like your analogy to workplace safety.   We recieve regular training about not lifting with our backs, not leaning out on ladders, not working on live circuits, etc.

    I’m still sticking with the lack of automobile upkeep being the biggest problem here,…

    We await hard numbers showing any significant percentage of accidents are caused by lack of upkeep.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m still sticking with the lack of automobile upkeep being the biggest problem here, and the lowest hanging fruit we can grab.

    There’s no reason to believe that.  Again, this is an area in which research contradicts belief.

    Just one example:  Per the California Highway Patrol, there were 18,599 fatal crashes in California between 2003 and 2007.  Of those, 22 had brakes or failed equipment as a primary cause.   In other words, 844 out of every 845 crashes did not involve equipment as a primary cause.  Not much fruit hanging down there.

    The most common primary causes of fatal crashes are intoxication, improper turning and excessive speed, in that order.  In 2007, those were the primary causes of about 6 of every 10 accidents.   Equipment helps to anchor the bottom of the list.

    http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/pdf/2007-sec7.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Remember, the absence of evidence does not imply or constitute evidence of absence. The difficulty here is that vehicle condition is generally scrutinised at only a very rough level for crash causation. Very obvious primary causes (bald tires, worn-out brakes) will be counted, but improperly-aimed lights that didn’t allow the driver to see what he hit (or improperly-aimed lights on an opposing vehicle that caused levels of glare sufficient to blind the driver at just the wrong moment), improper wheel alignment that caused or aggravated a loss of vehicle control, pitted windshield glass or worn-out wipers that reduced the driver’s ability to see in the presence of headlamp or sunlight glare, relatively minor exhaust leaks into the cabin that dulled the driver’s attention and slowed his reflexes…none of these, nor any of many others like them, is routinely sought, detected, or counted. It is difficult to count what is not sought! I’m reminded of comments from a veteran American auto lighting regulator about a decade ago: “Does glare cause crashes? Of course it does. Could I reduce the glare from low-beam headlights by making changes to the regulation, and thereby reduce crashes? Sure, if I could prove glare causes crashes. Can I prove it? No, because nobody’s sorting or tabulating the crashes caused by glare.”
      (So what killed the man? Was it being pushed off the top of the building? Or was it the 30-storey drop? Or was it the impact with the pavement?)

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Could it be that experience is the only reliable teacher – and only if you pay attention?
    If you were a driver’s ed instructor, what would you tell your students that wasn’t in an ordinary course? Mine are village/suburbs related, because that’s where I drive. I know, not the most likely areas for fatals.
    No matter what anyone else says, your right to proceed at a green light or against a stop/yield sign the other way depends on the other drivers paying attention. Or giving a damn.
    Also, pedestrians who might dart out in front of your vehicle can hide behind a minivan or jacked up truck/SUV, but their shadows, feet and ankles can’t. Look down the road and down under the vehicle.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    In Australia we’re trailing a system where-by the youngest drivers are taught to respect the consequences of their decisions (or lack of). This is being combined with ever more restrictive probationary licenses over longer time frames to build up the experience base. Results so far suggest the youngest driver’s injury rates are still being pushed down, but they’re still way higher than older drivers.
     
    For myself personally, the last time I nearly lost control of a car into a ditch outside Seattle in bad weather, I was very glad I have training and experience from the track/dirt. There-in lies the conundrum; can you teach car control to certain brain types without it turning into risk taking behaviour. The answer appears to be no.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    It seems to me that the number one cause to accidents is attitude. Indifference? Anger? Inattention? Distraction? Arrogance? Suicidal? Rage? Immaturity? All play a part. And you can’t train that out.
    I’m noticing a much higher incidence of the “road rage” type of accidents, though to be frank, calling them accidents is not really honest. Unpremeditated attacks? As the roads get more overloaded the stress rises. Bad traffic management leads to more risky behaviour as people try to “beat” the rest to a goal. Fenderbenders abound. Speed increases. Stupid behaviours become more commonplace and as is the usual case, familiarity breeds contempt and as each incidence that occurs with nothing of consequence happening it leads to further risky manoevers until it’s become the unthinkable.
    Look at the youtube follies. Risky and stupid behaviours abound. Yes, some of the most spectacular happen in badly traffic/road designed countries like China, Russia and Eastern Europe but that’s no excuse for all the others.
    And that’s not a training issue. Is it an enforcement issue? Perhaps. Given how overwhelmingly prevalent it is, that’s not a likely solution. There’s just not enough cops in the world to put a stop to it. Unfortunately I have no answers today.

  • avatar
    benders

    This point has been made in other articles and above with the MSF: continuous training is required to see any long term results.
    But this will eventually be a moot point when computers drive us around. It’s coming.

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