Saturday, July 13, 2013

Driving Instructors' Own Standards (USA)

Driving Instructors' Own Standards in the USA 

By Eddie Wren, of Drive and Stay Alive, Inc.

After passing the compulsory driving test, the 

vast majority of people never take any further 

driver training throughout the remainder of 

their lives, despite the fact that driving is the

most deadly, frequent activity they will ever 


Ask the majority of these individuals how 

good they are at driving and an equally large 

majority will tell you that they are 'good', or

words to that effect.

So why, then, does the USA have such an 

appallingly poor rate of deaths, as a 

proportion of the population, when compared to other developed nations?1  For 2003, for

 example, the nation had a per capita death 

rate of 14.66 -- slightly more than two and a

 half times worse than the leading countries,

which had rates in the 5.8's.  In other words, 

for every 100,000 members of America's

population, 14.66 people are killed in road 

 crashes each year. That might not sound like

much but the result is the equivalent, in the

number of deaths, to a tragedy such as the

 World Trade Center massacre happening

 here every 23 days.

Clearly, the overall standard of driving is not

 the only contributory factor in the USA's

 43,000 annual road deaths  -- road and

 vehicle 'Engineering' form one key factor, the

 preventive effects of law 'Enforcement' are

 another, but basic driver training is a vital 

element in the 'Education' which forms the 

third of the most commonly cited 'E's of road


Yet if one asks virtually any driver in the

 States whether they thought the driving test

 was difficult, a large proportion will say the

 exact opposite -- that it was in fact very easy.

  And if one compares the driving test in this

 country with that in many of the countries

 that have much better safety records, it is 

clear that the driving test here is significantly

 less demanding than it is elsewhere.

Does this matter?  

Sadly, commercial driver training in any 

country is driven by people's desire merely to

 pass a test, with scant regard for safety in the 

longer term, so they want the minimum 

number of lessons at the least possible

 expense. If the test were to be made more 

difficult, it becomes an inescapable fact that

 more lessons would be required in order for

 people to pass.

Logically, this will improve the standard of 

each individual's driving, but there is a truly 

vital element that has not yet been mentioned

 -- the standard of driving instructors.
In an article in the Sacramento Bee -- July 3, 

2005 -- it is mentioned that California state 

qualifications for driving instructors (quote) 

"are basic: a high school education, a driver's 

license, 60 hours of training and passing a 

written test. DMV officials last year dropped 

the special behind-the-wheel test for

 applicants, saying it duplicated the test for a 

driver's license. Drug tests are not required. 

Criminal convictions do not automatically 

disqualify a job candidate."

On the face of it the training aspects in 

California might sound acceptable, but once 

again comparisons are called for.  In Britain,

 for example -- the country which has had the

 safest roads more times than any other 

country in recent years -- the average training

 period for a new driving instructor lasts

 several months and involves three demanding tests2 which are all carried out by 

national examiners from the Driving 

Standards Agency:

  • Knowledge of traffic law and safe driving 

    (computerized test);

  • A test of one's own ability to drive (to much

     higher standards than an ordinary driving

  • A test of one's actual ability to instruct 

    (with a test examiner role-playing as the 

    student driver).

British driving instructors are also graded -- 

the highest level being grade 6 -- and by law 

are re-tested, usually every two years.

By comparison, the Sacramento Bee article 


The job of driving instructor in California 

today is easy to get, and not highly 

valued. Schools sometimes pay

 instructors beginning salaries

under $10 an hour, less than some 

supermarket baggers earn. Turnover 

rates among the state's 3,000 instructors 

are higher than 30 percent a year, an

 analysis of state data indicates. That

 forces schools to scramble continually

 for new instructors, at times scraping

 the bottom of the job-market talent pool.

Of course it is easy for politicians to claim that

 improved driver training standards would be

 too expensive or that improving the regime

 is outside their budgetary reach, but this is a

 deadly cop-out. The cost of crashes, both at

 local and societal levels, is truly enormous. 

The National Highways Traffic Safety

 Administration states that each person killed

 on America's roads costs the country around

 $1 million, so a hefty proportion of $43 

billion would become available each year if 

the annual death toll were to be cut

 significantly, for starters -- and this 

calculation of course omits the aggregate 

expense that could be saved each year by

 reducing the much higher numbers of people

 who are 'just' seriously injured.

Driving standards are not the only thing that

 can be enhanced in order to help reduce the 

annual carnage on America's roads. There are 

many road engineering features that could 

radically be improved, and similarly there are 

many aspects of road policing that could 

equally be enhanced.

published by Wyatt Olsen 

                                                                                        Sponsored by
The Greyhound Group

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