I am well aware of the fact that we have a reputation for being “expensive” so I am going to address that issue in this article. DrivingMBA has been in business since 2003 and our offerings evolved over the years to the full service that we offer today. When we first started we thought we would only offer simulation to augment traditional driver training offered by some high schools and other driving schools. We learned early in the process, however, that parents wanted the convenience of a one-stop shop. We partnered with two different driving schools over the years so that we could offer on-road with our simulation training. In 2007 we ran into roadblocks and when we opened our Chandler site we were forced into becoming a full service driver training school. That was probably the best thing that happened as we were able to train our instructors the way we wanted and we gained control of the quality of every aspect of the training students received.
So, why is it that when you compare DrivingMBA to other driving schools we cost more. It is about value. I know what my fellow competitors offer, I know a lot about how people in this industry run their business and what I will say is “we don’t follow the norm.” We have, on occasion, hired individuals that have worked for other schools and they can tell you first hand the difference between DrivingMBA and the other schools. Randa Williams is a current trainee and she worked for another school. Most schools would have had her working solo within a week. Randa is in her 6th week of training and will have logged over 100 hours of training before she is solo teaching students. That is true of every instructor that comes to work for DrivingMBA. We offer exceptional value, exceptional high touch customer service and exceptional training. We truly are a driver tutoring facility. We tutor our students to be safe and responsible drivers. We don’t teach them just enough to pass a test. That, my friends, is the significant difference between DrivingMBA and other driving schools.
From the very beginning we have aligned our curriculum to National Training Standards. The State of Arizona curriculum standards were non-existent until just this past year. We have developed a culture of continuous improvement so as we learn more about what we need to teach and what methods work best for students, we make the necessary changes. We have two simulation labs with expensive equipment so that we can provide training in a safe and controlled environment. We focus on the whole student – their beliefs and attitude about driving, their learning style, their support system so that we take every opportunity possible to shape that student into a skillful, respectful, safe young driver.
With all that we have incorporated into our process to develop our training into the best training you can find anywhere in the country, the cost is, for our most expensive package, $44.00 per hour. You can’t find a tutor for any subject for $44.00 an hour.
The question you need to ask yourself is: how much is my child’s safety worth in time and in money? How much do you spend on the school they attend if they are in private school, or sports or other extracurricular activities they are in? Are these things really worth more than providing them the very best training for a life skill that has life or death consequences if not executed properly?
A novice driver is ready for their license when they can drive without being guided by their instructor or coach. It has nothing to do with the number of months the state requires them to hold a learners permit, or whether they are doing well in school or if they met some significant milestone. A license is not a reward for good behavior or for meeting some goal. Unfortunately parents often use “getting a license” as a carrot for eliciting desired behavior from their teenager that has nothing to do with whether the teen is actually ready to be on the road as a solo driver.
Being ready to be a solo driver means the driver has met specific objectives that relate to driving. It also means the driver has a healthy respect for driving and understands and is ready for the responsibility of driving. How do we know they are ready? The best acid test I know is if you can sit in the passenger seat next to them and feel absolutely comfortable reading a book or not paying attention to their every move in any kind of traffic.
Often parents are lulled into thinking that their teen is ready because they are “doing a good job” of driving back and forth to the same location day in and day out. Of course they will start to look like a “good driver” because they know that terrain, they know that route, they are comfortable with it, but that is not a good test of their ability. Any novice driver needs to be exposed to a wide variety of traffic and locations so that they can develop the necessary multi-tasking skills. They need to be able to navigate 5:00 pm traffic downtown at an interchange where four major highways intersect. They need to get exposure to light rail, heavy rail, heavy pedestrian traffic, one-way streets, reversible lanes, rush-hour traffic. They get exposed to these situations as they continue to develop skills.
I have written about the fact that there are levels of skill that need to be developed over time. Most novice drivers are licensed with a basic understanding of the rules and very basic abilities. Decision-making and judgment skills aren’t even being taken into account, while in fact, those are the most critical skills that need to be developed.
We tend to think that learning to drive is no big deal and it is easy. It really isn’t. It is a complex and on-going process that requires dedication and time. If the objective is to pass the test at the MVD, that can be accomplished in a week or two. If the objective is to develop a safe and responsible driver, that takes time and effort and there really is no short, quick and easy way to do it. Just remember, if you don’t take the time to properly prepare them now, you may suffer the consequences later.
I have written about the new standards and requirements for driving schools to test students for both the written and skills tests for the past several months. In this issue I want to address why having standards and stringent requirements is important and necessary. Car crashes are the #1 killer of young people. The number of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 killed in car crashes far surpass any other age group and the number of injury producing crashes for this age group is mind boggling. Yet parents continue to put their children on the roadway unprepared because they “passed the test.” The “test” is really no indication that an individual is “really prepared” to be on the roadways.
We recently ran a permit prep class at a local high school and when we asked the students whether they have looked at the driver license manual, their response was “no, we heard it’s just common knowledge.” There is a 50% fail rate for the written test at the MVD because of this attitude. The test isn’t rocket science, but it IS important that a new driver know the rules of the road. However, that is only the first step. Often new drivers are involved in car crashes within the first or second month of being licensed.
Teaching and preparing a novice driver whether they are 15 ½ or 35 years old takes time and patience, there are really no shortcuts. It takes a combination of good instruction and practice. There is so much more to driving than the ability to move a vehicle. There are a multitude of objectives and benchmarks that must be met and that is why having curriculum standards and requirements for training are so important.
It is fast and easy to teach someone how to pass the test at the MVD. Teaching someone to be safe, responsible, know the rules, and to respect the road, takes time and there is no accelerating the process. One skill set that parents often don’t even think about or consider is the ability to make a decision and judgment in a matter of moments. That is one of the most important skills that need to be developed. Think about the mental process required to judge a left turn in a busy intersection or a lane change on a busy interchange or surface street. There is so much more to driving than “the basics” and unfortunately too many young people are on the street with even less than basics.
Curriculum standards hold us accountable to meet minimum requirements. DrivingMBA has been meeting and exceeding national standards for years and we are delighted that ADOT has recognized the need to develop better rules and regulations for professional driving schools. The 30-10 requirement; 30 hours of classroom and a minimum of 10 hours of on-road instruction is a good start. While DrivingMBA is not a proponent of “talk-at” classroom, our simulation labs are interactive, hands-on classrooms where students are learning by doing.
Practice is an important element in the driver training process. A student that goes through training with very little practice simply cannot develop their skills. They can potentially pass the driving test at the MVD, but they would not be considered “safe” drivers by any stretch of the imagination. Developing driving skills is no different than developing any other skill. If your daughter is a ballerina, she puts hours of practice in to become a better dancer. If your son plays LaCrosse, he puts hours of practice in to become a better player. Driving is no different. A student must practice what they are learning or they don’t develop skills.
I am still baffled by the fact that parents will move heaven and earth to get their kids to sports practice so that they are ready for the game, or to dance practice so they are ready for the recital, or to drama practice so they are ready for the play, but when it comes to driving practice “we just haven’t had time” is an acceptable excuse. I cannot repeat this message enough, IF you want your teenager to develop the necessary skills to navigate the “crazy” on our roadways, then practice driving needs to become a priority in the scheme of things. Our recommendation to parents and students is 100 hours of practice and that doesn’t mean driving back and forth to school every day. It means practice in a variety of traffic situations over time. It is also not a good idea to take a newly permitted driver out onto a busy surface street to make a major left turn. The practice is graduated over time, as the student progresses, then the practice progresses.
We make two RECOMMENDATIONS:
- ALL of our parents take DrivingMBA’s Parent Class. The purpose of the class is to inform parents about the issues surrounding teenage driving and to provide them with information, tips and tools so that they can work with us in developing their teen into a safe and responsible young driver. The parent class is now mandatory for any student that will test with DrivingMBA and receive a waiver.
- Having students LOG their practice driving time. It is the ONLY way you can keep track of the hours actually spent practicing and will help you inform our instructors about what your student needs help with when they come in for their lessons.
Ask a teenager what it means to get a license and their response is often “freedom.” If you think about it, driving is the last life skill that we impart to our children before they really do begin to experience young adulthood and freedom. They are no longer dependent on their parents to get them where they need or want to be. That freedom also includes the ability to “hang out” and that often means they are out driving with friends in their cars. Unfortunately, passengers are one of the major contributing factors to teen car crashes and it is likely because of the peer pressure to potentially engage in unsafe behavior. Studies indicate that when you add one teenage passenger to a novice driver’s car, those teen drivers are 50% more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash, and with every additional teen passenger the risk increases. It is why DrivingMBA highly recommends to students and their parents that they should not have passengers in their vehicle for at least one year after licensure. We realize that that is a difficult expectation, however, that year provides them that much more opportunity to stay focused on driving and to continue to develop their driving skills.
The teenage years are some of the most difficult and dangerous times in our children’s lives. It seems like they have much more to deal with than we did when we were growing up and the pressure to “fit in” is ever increasing. Studies also indicate that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior and controls multi-tasking ability, judgment and decision making, is not fully formed until age 25 and beyond. Young people consistently take greater risks when their friends are watching. When teenagers are asked if they have ever felt unsafe while driving with friends, over 65% of them admit that they have. Most of them say that they were uncomfortable admitting it to the driver, so they often sit quietly and “hope” they’ll get to their destination. They are afraid of being ridiculed or believe that the driver won’t listen or worse, may escalate the behavior.
Studies also indicate that teens have the lowest seat belt use of all drivers and that this rate decreases even further when there are other teens in their cars. We ask students why they or their friends don’t use their safety belts and many of them say: “because they forget, or they don’t think they need them, or it isn’t cool. “
Many states have Graduated Driver License laws (GDL) prohibiting passengers or limiting the number of passengers a novice driver can have in their vehicle. The restriction varies from state to state. Those states that have instituted strong GDL’s have seen a decrease in teen driving crashes. While it isn’t an “easy rule” to institute, DrivingMBA recommends that parents create their own rule about passengers for their newly licensed teens. While it can be a battle, because the teens don’t think it is necessary, or it isn’t going to happen to them, it happens to an average of 10 teens every day. Teenage car crashes remain the #1 reason for teen deaths and the number of young drivers injured every year are staggering. When you consider the consequences, having to reinforce a rule like 0 passengers is nothing compared to having to deal with life changing injuries or the loss of our kids.
We first came up with the idea of attempting to improve the quality of novice driver training after reading story after story about young drivers losing their lives due to loss of control issues.
With backgrounds in the automotive industry, computer technology, and adult learning processes, we developed the DrivingMBA programs to significantly accelerate the acquisition of “experience” through the use of high quality driving simulators while employing adult learning techniques.
Experiential learning is generally considered vastly superior to traditional classroom methods of imparting knowledge. Learning by doing has a much higher retention rate compared to more traditional methods of reading, lecture or video presentations.
Both levels of our simulators (we use two different ones) incorporate a cab configuration that matches an actual vehicle to the extent practicable. Simply sitting at a computer screen, even when using gaming controls for steering and acceleration/braking, does not compare to actually using automotive controls with a close reproduction of the seating and dashboard controls encountered in a real vehicle.
Naysayers refer to the simulators as “video games”, but studies have shown a high degree of learning transfer takes place when the simulation device is close to the “real” thing. If this were not the case, why would the airline industry require (and spend so much on) simulator training for pilots?
Over the next several posts, we will describe the many reasons why high-fidelity simulators are actually superior learning tools when compared with traditional novice driver training methods.
Driving Is A Piece of Cake – Learning How To Drive Is Easy
Yes, memorizing enough of the Rules of the Road to pass the knowledge tests in existence today in the US is simple enough.
Learning how to start a modern vehicle and put it into gear is a piece of cake(unless it’s your first experience in a car with a push-button switch).
Becoming familiar enough with the accelerator, brake and steering wheel manipulation is also pretty straight-forward, although it does take some practice to make certain the correct pedal is used for the desired outcome (which is why we tell our parents to pull the vehicle out of the garage before going on a practice drive with their teen).
Adding on the ability to use the turn signals, headlights, windshield wipers and entertainment system pretty much completes the “training” necessary to allow a person to “drive” a vehicle down the road. In fact, a lot of cars have automatic headlights, so you don’t even need to know where the control is or how it works.
Why should we spend hundreds of dollars and a significant amount of time learning how to drive using a quality professional driving school?
Driving Safely & Responsibly:
- Is a Mental Process Assisted by Physical Moves
- Requires significant preparation to reach competency
- Is NOT a one week(or even a one month) process
While behind the wheel of a vehicle, the driver is presented with an ever-changing set of information on road and traffic conditions that he/she must process and use to make informed decisions on how to control the vehicle. That includes recognizing potential issues in time to respond appropriately.
It takes time and practice to develop the observation skills needed to allow proper reaction. That requires much more than 6 or less hours behind the wheel in a supervised mode, or boring classroom/online presentations of the Do’s & Don’ts of driving.
Defensive Driving Skills Simulator
I presented at the Roads & Streets Conference sponsored by The University of Arizona Civil Engineering Department, The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. This is a conference primarily focused on engineering, however, this year they added a “safety” track. My topic was “the Role of Education in the Prevention of Traffic Crashes.” I was pleasantly surprised that the presentation was well received.
The focus of my presentation was what it really takes to prepare a novice driver for the responsibility of driving. Teaching a student to pass the MVD test is easy, truly preparing them to be a safe and responsible driver is NOT. There are many factors that need to be considered, one of which is a student’s beliefs and attitude about driving. If they have the attitude of: “this is no big deal” which often mirrors the beliefs and attitudes of their parents then getting through to them can be challenging. The truth of the matter is that driving is one of the most dangerous activities ANY of us engage in on a daily basis. Driving is a mental process that is assisted by physical movement and there are levels of learning and levels of skills that are developed over time. This is NOT something that is accomplished in an abbreviated period of time.
The levels of learning are:
Awareness – the ability to pass a written test and articulate the rules, and understanding how a vehicle works
Knowledge – knowing when and how the rules apply and recognizing that we as human beings and ANY vehicle we drive have definite limitations
Skill – specific skills needed to accomplish the task such as hand and foot control, steering, lane management, making right and left turns, etc.
Mastery – the ability to apply knowledge and skill to any given circumstance.
Unfortunately, there are far too many novice drivers on our roadways with a cursory level of awareness and knowledge, minimal skills and certainly no mastery. In order to develop the necessary skills and mastery it requires:
Practice and repetition
There are also levels of driving skill that range from the basics of pedal and steering control, turns, lane position to a second level of skills that include lane management (choice, position and spacing), parking and reversing, navigating intersections and freeway driving. Developing a level of mastery requires observation and planning, judgement and decision making, hazard recognition and the ability to manage space and speed no matter what circumstances the driver finds themself in.
If you truly want your teenager to develop the necessary skills it requires responsibility and dedication from both the teenager and their parents or guardians. Driving needs to become a priority, not something that is fit in when you have a little time. If you simply want them to pass the test and get their license, that can be cheap and quick, but the consequences can be costly if not deadly.
This is a great texting and driving InfoGraphic to share with teens and experienced drivers. We love how they referred to this epidemic as “Driving While Intexticated“. Thanks to OnlineSchools.com for putting this information together.
DrivingMBA has been featured in two National publications because of our training model. The title of this “Overwhelmed and Undertrained” is the title of the article featured in Road & Track. We have been in business for 10 years and it continues to shock and amaze me at the poor choices parents make when it comes to preparing their teenagers for the responsibility of driving. Convenience tends to trump all other considerations. What I can tell you after being in this business for 10 years is that this is not an easy process and it certainly isn’t convenient. It takes responsibility and dedication on the part of the student and the parent(s). Below is a quote from the Road & Track article that refers to the devastating trend of teenage driving fatalities and injuries:
“If this were a disease, we’d declare it an epidemic. If kids were being killed by a foreign government, we’d go to war. But since these deaths happen one at a time, nine or so Donovan Tessmers every day, no one seems to care enough to do anything. Not the government, not the insurance companies, not even the parents.
Upper-middle-class American parents spend almost $9000 annually on enrichment activities for their children. But $100-per-hour cello lessons won’t make most kids Yo-Yo Ma. The soccer career of the average boy or girl in a $1500-a-season travel league ends with high school. Most teenagers will drive for the rest of their lives.
Yet parents tend to cheap out when it comes to teaching driving to kids. The price of a typical driving course is $300.”
I implore parents to consider what it is like to be on the roadways as an experienced driver. Now put a young, inexperienced driver in that position without being properly prepared and it is no wonder the statistics are as out of control as they are. Car crashes are the #1 killer of teenagers. Think about this as you prepare your child for this responsibility.
Click on the links below to read the full articles:
July 2013 Road & Track Article
July 2010 Car & Driver Article