Monday, March 26, 2012

Driver education

Following on from last week's post about self-driving cars, it occurs to me that the true solution to the driving "problem" isn't increasing the number of interfering driving "aids" that are put in cars. We don't need ABS, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, blind spot cameras and all the other nonsense. What we need is proper driver education and regular re-testing, enforced with steep fines. The education would cost, as would the re-testing, and the fines would be steep enough to cover some costs whilst at the same time being a disincentive for people to re-offend. Look at other more enlightened countries - especially those in Scandinavia where it takes a year or more to do the driving education course and drivers are required to know how to handle their cars in terrible road conditions (snow, ice, rain), at night, in towns and on freeways, at many different speeds. Compare that to the joke of a driving education and testing system in America where driving licences are handed out like candy and you can be legally blind and still have a licence. The statistics bear out the education argument too. Sweden has one sixth the casualty and accident rate of the US per capita. Germany has one third. Most European countries have at least half the rate the US does if not more. (Countries by traffic-related deaths)
The problem is the culture of inclusion, where a car is treated as a right instead of a privilege. Society today is afraid to tell people that they've failed at something so instead we try to ensure that everyone gets a driving licence and then we deal with the consequences of this flawed policy by loading cars up with all manner of gadgets in an attempt to keep people safe. Now don't get me wrong - seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones and side impact bars I believe should be (and for the most part already are) mandatory in every car sold today. These are all mechanisms to help you out as a Hail Mary. But to put all the other things into vehicles that we see nowadays is irresponsible of the manufacturers because it lulls drivers into a false sense of security. People aren't trained but instead are led to believe by the manufacturers that their car will effectively save them from their own stupidity. Look: when you're driving 2 tons of steel, it needs to be treated with respect and attention, and education is the only way to get people to understand that. All you need is to see one good snowy day to realise how much drivers have been misled into believing they're safe in their vehicles. Look at the video below - not one of the cars is steering the right direction, trying to counteract the skids, or has even a single wheel rotating. I can tell you what's going on in every one of these cars; the driver has both hands on the wheel, pulling it towards them with as much force as possible whilst standing on the brake pedal with both feet (probably with their eyes closed). The results are predictable, and ultimately the end product of a system where we've elevated the value of driver "aids" at the exclusion of actual driver eduction. In this case the worst decision these drivers made was attempting to drive on a street that was patently undrivable in the first place. Believing their driver aids would save them coupled with a badly misplaced understanding of their own skill is what you see here.
Enjoy the video. It was taken not 10 miles from where I live, in a state where we deal with snow for three months every year.


David said...

Your link -- it is broken

Chris said...

Fixed :)

Paul said...

Agree with you almost 100% Chris (as is the case most of the time). As I've said before I don't think having a car is a privilege/luxury but it's also not a right either. Education is the key but sadly, in the US, trying to force driver education would be met with all sorts of negativity and it won't happen.
Something else, our daughter is at that age now (16) that she wants to get her license. The cost of a driving school is $600! I refuse to pay that much so I'll be teaching her myself as I've done (successfully) with my two other children. Perhaps if they made driver education more affordable people would be more likely to use it.
My 2c.