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Ian Law: Yes indeed, there are bad drivers

Ian Law disagrees with a writer who says there's no such thing as a bad driver.

Published July 9, 2012
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I read an article on the weekend by another auto journalist from a rival newspaper who claims there are no “bad drivers.” His opinion is, there are only “drivers who did a bad thing.”

He is only partly correct in his article.

The writer argues that if you ask anyone if they believe they are a “bad driver,” they will never admit to being so. He says being a bad driver is a relative term and he is correct in the latter of these statements.

I believe it would be safe to say that I have probably talked about driving to more motorists than him, since driving and training is what I’ve done for about three decades now. I have discussed driving at car shows, car clubs, driving schools and probably in my sleep.

As the writer points out, by far most motorists look upon themselves as adequate, good or great drivers. He writes “you are never going to have anybody admit to being a bad driver.” This is not quite accurate.

Believe it or not, a few have admitted to me their driving skills are lacking. I praise those who can admit their driving talents need improving and who take action to make themselves a better driver: Kudos to those who do and have.

Sadly there are far too many who truly believe they are good drivers and it is “all the other drivers” who need to improve their skills and/or attitude in driving. My estimate would put that portion of the driving population above 95 per cent who think every other driver on the road needs to improve or shouldn’t have a licence.

If everybody thinks everybody else is a “bad driver” and in need of more training, the math suggests those who think they are good drivers really are not at all according to those they share the roads with. Give that some thought for a moment.

Having trained tens of thousands of drivers in everything from advanced driver training to performance driver training (racing), I have seen just about every skill level there is.

The writer says there are no “bad drivers,” just those who have poor driving habits either from a poor driver education, poor driving attitude or they just lack confidence. This is where he is not quite accurate.

Some do have a driving attitude problem. We have worked with a good number of drivers who “know it all” and were going to show us how it is done. These are usually teenage lads or middle aged men who really believe they are God’s gift to driving. About halfway through our training, they start having moments of “I didn’t realize how bad my driving really is.” These are the drivers with bad attitude. They are trainable and when shown, most will rethink their abilities and settle down.

This bad-attitude driver also extends to those who drink and drive or use drugs for pleasure or to stay awake while driving. Drivers who show off to their buddies or street race definitely have an attitude problem. They can change and become good drivers.

The vast majority of motorists lack proper training and these too are trainable and can be good drivers. Motorists of all ages are or were taught what is needed to pass the MTO driver’s tests: the bare minimum. Not nearly enough to be “good” drivers.

Some definitely lack confidence and with a program that shows them exactly what their vehicle will do in an emergency and how to maintain control in that situation, they lose that “fear of the unknown” and become safer and more confident drivers. Once these motorists realize how much control they have over their vehicle and their driving situation, they become good drivers.

Unfortunately, I have seen drivers who are bad drivers and it’s not an attitude problem or lack of training or confidence, it is a lack of ability to operate a complicated machine. There is a certain amount of intelligence and coordination required to operate a vehicle and some drivers are lacking in one or both of those key elements. I must point out now that this problem spans all races and both genders.

I say this because some people have told me they think a certain segment of our population stands out as needing extra training but in actual fact there is nothing racial or gender specific that makes a “bad driver.” When you have trained as many drivers as I have in advanced driver training, you see it all from every walk of life.

Having said that, there are drivers who should not possess a driver’s licence at all. I have worked with some whom I have urged to hang up the car keys and let someone else drive for them. These range from motorists with short term memory challenges to those with visual impairments or coordination issues and those who do not have the capacity to properly process enough driving information to be safe on our roads. Some of this is age-related but some is just what we are born with.

These are just “bad drivers” who are a threat to other motorists. They should not have a driver’s licence.

So yes, there are “bad drivers” out there and they are sharing the road with us, our family and our friends.

What does that say about our MTO standards for drivers?

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