The Role of Education in the Prevention of Traffic Crashes


Defensive Driving Skills Simulator

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:
Excellent instruction
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.


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