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Making better drivers

Many people are talking about the latest safety features designed to prevent accidents where driver error was the cause. And many people are talking about distracted drivers and how to make driving safer for them while they text, dial, shave, read the paper, etc. The discussions (not to mention the market’s solutions) all center around making the car safer while ignoring the responsibility of the driver.

Whatever happened to paying attention when you’re behind the wheel? We all know it’s the only real answer, yet we keep allowing people to get away with being distracted. It’s like we’re afraid to say what the real problem is. The real problem is that it’s become acceptable to be a passive participant instead of an active one. (This is a symptom of our society in general, but I’ll stay on topic here and limit the post to driving.)

I’m not a big fan of loading up cars with so many safety features that it takes the driver’s responsibility out of the equation. The only way I see that working is if (and when) we eventually get to the stage of automatically controlled vehicles – vehicles where there is no driver, only passengers. But, until we reach that level of technology, the only solution seems to be driver responsibility. Like most Americans, I took my driver’s test at age 16 (though, unlike most Americans, I passed on the first try), and I’ve always thought that the privilege to drive was not taken seriously by anyone – drivers or DMV. It’s far too easy to get a drivers license and far too dangerous to put any average idiot behind the wheel. Driving is a “privilege” and not a “right”, as many people believe. Our licenses can be taken away if we abuse them. So how is distracted driving and putting other drivers in danger not considered abuse? How is it acceptable that we are “allowed” to pilot a 2000lb vehicle simply because we memorized some rules and can maneuver around cones in an empty lot? Forklift drivers and backhoe operators have stricter training than we do for driving a car – and they aren’t even operating around other moving vehicles. If we make the driver training more involved and more accurate to actual driving conditions (ie taking driving tests in simulators), the drivers on the road – the ones who actually have the ability and sense to operate a vehicle properly and thus pass the test – will be much more competent and safe. And this test should be repeated every 10 years or so, to make sure we are still capable of operating a moving vehicle (this is especially important for the elderly). Getting a lifetime license because we passed a simple test at age 16 is irresponsible (and if anyone thinks the DMV driver test is hard, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel). My best friend when I was 17 failed the test twice, and passed on his third try. In the five years following, he wrecked three cars on his own! (one of them a mint condition '73 Mustang convertible). He’s a terrible driver (as should have been noted by the DMV when he failed the test twice). My dad began showing me the bits and pieces of driving at a young age, so that when I was old enough, I’d already become familiar with most aspects of driving. That included not only maneuvering the car, but being safe, aware and knowing when to be assertive and when to chill out. Driving in the real world takes a lot more attention and skill than just being able to maneuver a solo car in an empty parking lot. Train our drivers better and make the tests more like what we would encounter in the real world and we’ll have better drivers. Millions of people will be upset because they have to “earn” their license, but millions more will be alive. There are many other benefits to having safer drivers, but I’ll save that for another time. :wink:

I’m all for better drivers, but I am also all for cars to be as safe as possible. You can be involved in an accident even when you not only didn’t do anything wrong, but tried everything you could to avoid it.

Good post. Common sense (like yours) is not a common virtue.

Anyone who might argue that the costs of testing drivers are too high should think of all the money, time, lives, etc. saved from fewer serious accidents.

And many people are talking about distracted drivers and how to make driving safer for them while they text, dial, shave, read the paper, etc. The discussions (not to mention the market’s solutions) all center around making the car safer while ignoring the responsibility of the driver.

Distracted drivers has NOTHING to do with making the car safer…but has EVERYTHING to do with making the driver more responsible.

Like most Americans, I took my driver’s test at age 16 (though, unlike most Americans, I passed on the first try)

Actually MOST people do pass on their first try. Especially when drivers-ED is now required in many states if you want to get a drivers license at 16. I got mine the first try (although I took drivers ED AFTER I got my license)…A girl I was dating in HS was the Valedictorian of her HS…and it took her 8 times…Two separate tests she got in an accident (both times her fault).

I wouldn’t let my Son or daughter get their license until I thought they were ready. My daughter was ready within 8 months after she started driving. I wouldn’t let my Son get his until a couple months after his 17th birthday. He wasn’t ready. Both passed theirs the first time.

NH doesn’t have a permit system. You can start driving at 15.5. No permit. Just have to have an parent or guardian who has a valid drivers license in the car with you.

After a couple of close calls I have added a new (well new to me) technique. Before I start to back up and after I check my mirrors, etc. I roll down my rear windows and turn off my radio THEN I put the car in reverse. I find that this gives me another source of data – my ears – and it helps me stop my multi-thoughting (not really tasking if it’s all in my head) long enough to focus. Granted this only works with electric windows and it does have some drawbacks during the winter but I’m not backing up for very long and when the weather is really bad I settle for just turning the radio off. I’m still trying to build this into a rock solid habit like buckling my seat belt but so far I feel better backing up when I do this.

WDYT?

I, too , often use ‘‘windows down’’ but not just in reverse.
Most often in busy parking lots such as picking up the kids at school and the skating rink.
I want to HEAR anyone and anything.
So many of the first warnings would never be loud enough except with the windows down.
The little ‘’ hey you forgot…’’ and ‘‘look out for…’’ and the little crunch that happens first.

My 12teen daughter is already discussing driving stuff and asked the other day at the skating rink, " how come all the windows are down , it’s snowing out there ! "

I have mixed emotions about technological safety features. I do believe they come with tradeoffs, and when they’re applied to control system of the vehicle they should be applied very carefully lest they cause mor eof a problem than they solve.

Things like ABS, and particularly traction and stability control, can provide a false sense of seurity and allow drivers to drive faster than they can without…too fast for conditions.

Things like seatbelts,crush zones, airbags, and padded dashes protect the driver without effecting a false sense of security I’m in favor of. Too much false handling technology, technology that makes us think we can safely go 70 in snowstorms, I’m not.

I’ve always advocated intensive driver training,
It is in fact the overall solution.
Every one argues that we can’t afford it.
ALL…ALL the discussions on this board prove only one thing…

We can’t afford NOT to.

Things like ABS, and particularly traction and stability control, can provide a false sense of seurity and allow drivers to drive faster than they can without…too fast for conditions.

I kinda agree with you. For NEW drivers who’ve NEVER driven a car without ABS or stability control…I do believe that it give them a false sense of security. But you and I have been driving without ABS or stability control for over 30 years. I now have ABS and stability control…and I’m NOT 100% use to it. I still find myself pumping the brakes sometimes. My stability control has saved me a couple of times on black ice. I knew the weather was bad…and I was only doing about 35 on I-495…But it turned out the road was pure ice…And my ABS kicked in when I was trying to speed up a little…telling me how slippery it was. I then slowed down to under 20. Accidents all over the place. I could have easily been one of them without stability control.

I can see a time when Wii games will get sophisticated enough, that playing them will give driving experience that actually helps. Simulator time is rewarded for pilots, how about simutor time for inexperienced drivers. I am all for practicing correct driving technique that can simulate emergency driving. It would be really neat to activate and deactivate some of these traction and stability aids.

I can see a time when Wii games will get sophisticated enough, that playing them will give driving experience that actually helps.

A few years ago…I think it was 20/20 that did piece on the Flying Simulator you can buy for your PC. One Marine Pilot loved the game as a kid. And thus he’d play it all the time. They said it was so good at training the player that the Marines added it to their training of pilots. I’m not a flyer and have only tried it once so I can’t comment on if it will actually work.