The actual rules of the road really haven’t changed, but technological advances in vehicles have changed and have changed what we need to think about and pay attention to when we drive.
Hand position – 10 and 2 really is no longer the safest hand position because of the air bag technology – if an airbag deploys and your hands are higher on the wheel there is greater risk for injury. We teach 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 and the shuffle steering method where you do not cross over to turn the wheel, but transfer control of the wheel from one hand to the other in a shuffle method.
Tire technology has also changed the way we stop a vehicle, tires today give us better traction and better stopping ability. ABS braking systems have changed the way we brake in an emergency situation, where you stomp, stay and steer, vs. pumping brakes manually years ago. Electronic Stability Control in new vehicles has also changed the way we handle a turn – it will automatically apply the brakes for us.
Cameras on the back of our vehicles warning us if something is behind us as we back up our vehicle.
Airbag technology -side curtain airbags have changed the outcome for T-bone collisions – collisions that would have been fatal years ago have turned into injury producing collisions.
The amount of “entertainment” technology we currently have in our vehicles – monitors, music choices, phones – all of these are distractions that take the drivers attention away from the road, even if it is only for a split second.
All of these types of changes have given drivers a “sense of safety” and have, unfortunately, dummied drivers down in some cases. It is still important for us to teach drivers how to do ALL of these things manually, as technology sometimes fails.
Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings, roadways are faster, vehicles are built so that sensory feedback is no longer a warning that danger is lurking. Maintaining focus on driving and recognizing that circumstances can change in an instant are all important for drivers to keep in mind as they navigate roadways.
There is a “sentiment” in this country in particular, that “driving is no big deal” – anyone can do it. We tend to trivialize what it takes to make a new driver (no matter what age) safe and responsible on the roadways. The emphasis is on convenient, easy and fast (can we get it done in a week or two?), cheap (or free – with the expectation that drivers ed should be in schools when in fact it is being removed from high school curriculum). Parents of young drivers need to take this much more seriously and dedicate the time and resources to properly prepare their teens for this big responsibility. The analogy I use is what does it take for a football player, or drama student, or a student preparing to perform in a recital to become proficient and ready for the game or play or recital? Driving is no different, it takes training and a lot of practice to become good.
There is also a much greater awareness of the differences in the way students learn. Some with challenges such as ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, (the list can go on) Can these students drive? Yes, however, the process is longer and requires a customized approach to the way in which they are taught and the way that they develop their skills and ability to overcome the challenges they have in the driving world.