Hergott: Does driver training reduce crashes?

Lawyer Paul Hergott looks into whether driver training produces better drivers.

Does driver education and training produce safer drivers and reduce crashes?

Might that qualify for the “dumb question of the year” award?

Certainly, a lot of British Columbians must be “buying in” to the notion. ICBC lists 54 driving school businesses offering approved driver education courses at 221 locations. The courses run at approximately $1,000.00 per student.

Before you dismiss the question, though, consider that the effectiveness of driver education and training has been researched and the results are far from overwhelming. Here are links to reviews of scientific studies from 2011.

Why? One conclusion pointed to skill as being a primary focus of driver education. The final paragraph of the 2011 article notes: “…yet skill as measured by on-the-road tests has never been shown to be correlated with driver crash rates” (2011 article, last paragraph).

No surprise there. Inattention and distraction cause the vast majority of crashes. Precious little skill is required to keep a vehicle between the lines. Perhaps even less is required to bring your vehicle to a stop when the traffic ahead of you comes to a stop.

Have I mentioned, recently, that fully 50 per cent of the personal injury claims I prosecute arise from rear-enders?

In fact, teaching young people how to skillfully manage emergency driving situations might cause more harm than good! Here is a very interesting article on that point.

Again, no surprise when you put your mind to it. Is a teenager’s level of care likely to go up or down as a result of developing skills for managing a skid!?

I hate to say “I told you so”, but what I’ve been preaching for years remains true: driver safety is all about driver attitudes. Quoting from the same concluding paragraph of the 2011 article: “…there have been numerous studies documenting the highly significant role of attitudinal and lifestyle factors in the high crash rate of young drivers…”.

So I looked at ICBC requirements for an approved driver education course.

An ICBC approved driver education course must include at least 16 classroom hours, 12 practical hours, and 4 discretionary hours. The curriculum requirements list four broad goals, each of which with clearly listed learning objectives.

My heart was warmed seeing that the majority of learning objectives focus squarely on driving attitudes.

Well done, ICBC!

Are those learning objective being effectively taught by 54 independently run driving schools?

The most basic of crash data collection should allow ICBC to provide statistics of the numbers of crashes caused by those with and without the approved driver education course. Care to provide those statistics, ICBC?

Let’s assume that a driving attitude-focused education course produces safer drivers and reduces crashes.

If so, why is it not mandatory?

Is it our goal for only the most affluent of drivers (those who can afford the $1,000.00 price tag) to have good driving attitudes?

What percentage of new drivers fork over the $1,000.00 for the course? Care to provide that statistic, ICBC?

British Columbia’s graduated licensing program requires almost nothing of driver education and training. New drivers must simply:

  1. pass a written test;
  2. allow time to pass while holding an “L” license (requiring adult supervision along with other restrictions);
  3. pass a road test, qualifying them for an “N” license; and
  4. allow some more time to pass while holding the “N” license (passenger and other restrictions).

Unlike some other jurisdictions, there is not even a requirement for any actual driving to occur during the “passage of time”.

If you can afford the ICBC approved driver education course, you shave 6 months off the time requirement.

Road safety in British Columbia has never reached the priority it should have. Perhaps soaring ICBC rates will cause British Columbians to demand an effective road safety strategy.

Will our new government step up to the plate?

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