Piston Slap: Driver's Ed Gets Piston Slapped

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap driver s ed gets piston slapped

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.

[Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com]

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  • Dimwit Dimwit on Nov 16, 2009

    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.

  • Benders Benders on Nov 16, 2009

    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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