Driver Education Programs Are They Effective or Not

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Introduction

The subject has seen much debate around the world particularly in the United States regarding how effective a Driver Education Program really is? Over a span of three decades, many educational programs have been designed and developed for the educational purpose of both new and experienced drivers with sole mission of reducing accident ratio and increasing personal as well as overall safety, but recent statistics suggest another story, where despite all education and training, the accident ratio has risen tremendously.

Safety Programs and their Effectiveness

One reason or another, there seems to be a mysterious behavior noted among drivers of both trained and untrained status. Somehow, in most situations, drivers tend to forget their braking control skills and accident inevitably occurs. Although there is a possibility that this happened because of other’s fault, judging this is almost impossible regarding   whose recklessness resulted in an accident. The realization became apparent way back in 1960s when the first such program was designed and trained many to drive safely and cautiously but to their dismay, despite all safety measures, there were more accidents than initially anticipated. The big argument surfaced with the failure of first DSP (Driver Safety Program) whether the usefulness was factual or fictitious?  

With the failure of such an ambitious program, the authorities were concerned and so was the Highway Research Board, because they designed the program after a thorough research of more than 1500 possible driving behaviors that lead   to a possible accident scenario (Jobs, 2009). Technically, this program was meant to rectify those short comings, but the unpredictable human nature became an unlikely obstacle, while   the program was tested on actual test scenarios. It was a “back to the drawing board” situation for authorities and   they began to recognize the shortcomings of the program. Also they inspected the overall driver`s behavior by creating various situations in which a driver can commit a mistake and suffer an accident. This was a daunting task and needed a thorough research and plenty of time consumption, but   the program was given a go ahead, nevertheless.

A new driving safety curriculum was designed with added emphasis on safety and awareness concepts. More than 2000 driving behaviors were simulated   and included in the program including possible reactions under various hazardous situations. Driver behavior was the focal point in this program as it was identified   as the main concern and the root cause to an accident.   Comprehensive manuals and classroom instructions were designed   to teach appropriate methods along with a vehicle training program (Jobs, 2009).

Under the program specifications, students had to spend 32 hours for formal classroom instructions and training manual study and another 16 hours for the simulation part. During the simulation, it was necessary to show control of the vehicle, while at very slow speeds and eventually speed was raised   to gain more control on higher speeds. Efficient use of brake was a must and special concentration was given   on its use.

During high traffic, the proper use of brake has saved many lives alone so its necessity cannot be negated. Along with brake, the race and road sense were also taught with the help of professional trainers sitting along the trainees all the times.  One hour was dedicated   to night time driving simulation training, where the proper use of headlights was an absolute necessity (Langford, 2009).

Trainers   constantly checked the brake race combination along the traffic. Next part was the evasive maneuvers, which   the trainee had to make at a reasonable speed, while looking at his surroundings. The real challenge comes while going through an empty road with no traffic in sight, when all of a sudden a speedster emerges only to cause an unfortunate accident. In short, the SPC program was very much on the mark when undertaken, but never worked as it was incepted (Langford, 2009).

When program trainees went back to the road with all their driving and safety knowledge, it looked satisfactory for a month, but then accidents began to happen at a pace that was never anticipated. Inquiry was launched   regarding what actually happened and who was at fault, while the accidents occurred. Findings showed that there were still some flaws in the program inception more work was needed   to make SCP work properly. In the end, the program was terminated in favor of a more elaborate program.

More Training More Accidents

One might   ask many questions on the effectiveness of these training programs regarding   when they   seem to cover all the aspects of driving and safety, then where is the flaw? Why accidents keep occurring and never seem to end? The answer is not easy by any means as there have been comprehensive training programs undertaken over the years that seemed to have covered almost all technical aspects to increase road safety and reduce accident ratio. Somehow, none of these programs worked as expected (Lord, 2009).

Some results were encouraging though   as there was a reduced accident ratio observed in 1980’s   program launched in Atlanta, GA. The program lasted for 8 months with complete training manuals and special emphasis on outdoor training and simulation were paid. Students were required   to go through a rugged drill of multiple accident scenarios, where they were allowed to use their senses as much as possible (Lord, 2009).

The program seemed a reasonable success at the beginning, but eventually there were accidents that reduced the overall effectiveness of this program as well. Still, it was a much better and well worked program than the likes of SPC or similar programs undertaken during 60 through 70s (Hartley, 2009).

Trained or Untrained?

One may argue to the fact that, when an educated and well trained person is bound to commit accidents, what is the point of a training program and spending millions of dollars on it, when the results only see a hairline increase in road safety ratios and that too for a little, while before the situation goes back to square one?

A possible explanation is that any road safety program that has ever been undertaken has shown a positive driving attitude and grown confidence among trainees. Their road sense has increased many folds as compared to novices or self learners. This goes well with the possibility of an error committed by another party instead of the trainee, which is quite possible as in most accidents the driver`s reaction time is much smaller than his reflex action time, which was found as among the major causes of accidents all over US during the dismal 70s, but may not necessarily be the only cause. 

Also during early Training Programs, where students were trained for a mere 3-6 months, there was not ample time to teach them the actual road sense and neither was the effort made to reduce major accident situations during dangerously heavy traffic situations. There were multiple situations that were addressed, but there were many that remained untouched and after a plausible initial result, the inevitable dismal conclusion followed, where training was of little use (Hartley, 2009).

There has been a major communication problem as well, because sometimes trainee interpreted a self assessment of a certain situation which was not actually beneficial to him. Things like allowing trainees a driving license at an early age is also a major cause of road safety hurdles. The age issue is subjected to serious debates over the years and still needs a resolution. Students below 20 have a tendency to get excited while driving, which is quite natural as this is their age of exuberance when they can get excited in certain situations and tend to lose control of vehicle at some stages.

Conclusion

By looking at various Road Safety Programs, public can safely assume that training and road safety is beneficial only if properly implemented. There seems to be much controversy surrounding each program, which is a shame. Researchers hold the opinion that a proper program must be implemented regardless of it length, because traffic situation is growing more complex as time goes by and only more aware and trained and safety aware population is the solution to this problem (Hartley, 2009).

When more trained people embark the roads, accidents are bound to reduce, but this will take some time. Do not hurry things up and expect results in weeks or months. A consensus must be developed on a comprehensive program that must have a proper consultation by leading road safety and training experts around the country and after careful examination, the program must be undertaken.

Age factors is another issue, and it is better increase the age limits as there are young drivers with a possible tendency of blood rush hence ending in a terrible accident. The more a training program is spread, fewer accidents will happen. Public awareness is a must and a massive campaign is needed to be launched, where town people must be given proper briefings on the consequences of improper driving and accident hazards. Drastic measures are needed  to address this issue on emergency basis (Anatine 2009).

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