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Driving at age 12? Here’s why it might be a good idea

Ian Law says children at a younger age should be trained about driver education as part of our school system.

Published June 28, 2012
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There is a request in Britain for the government to encourage young people to learn driving skills before they are old enough to hold a licence.

The Institute of Advanced Motoring believes a lack of driving experience, rather than age, is the reason one in 10 young drivers crash within a year of passing their test. A number of companies in Britain are now offering courses for children as young as 11, in the hope that giving them early driving experience might ultimately make them safer on the road.

Maybe we should be training children at a younger age about driver education as part of our schooling system?

After all, traffic fatalities are the number one cause of death for those between 16 and 25 years of age. That sounds like a topic worthy of a dedicated class in school for children ages 12 to 17.

Since the role of our education system is to prepare our youngsters with life skills and to be productive, what better life skill can they learn than how to survive on our roads?

As part or our regular elementary and secondary curriculum, maybe we need to show young teens the correct attitude and skills even before they take the first drive on our streets.

Along with math, English, chemistry and all the other life skills that most of our children will put to good use, maybe staying alive through a thorough driver education class to be able to benefit from those skills should be included in a dedicated class?

A large part of the problem with younger drivers is their attitude toward driving. They have spent their early years watching their parents turn driving into a moving office, a rolling phone booth and anything but a serious means of transportation. Add to this the view of driving as portrayed by our social media as a means of impressing one’s peers or chasing after bad guys or proving one’s manliness. To add even more disrespect to driving, TV commercials show motoring as a carefree romp in the country where everyone smiles and danger no longer exists. After years of taking in this message, it’s no wonder our younger drivers are thinking it is game when they get behind the wheel.

Perhaps some education is needed on the real danger driving can present to the participants and the fact there is no “Reset” button when things go horribly wrong in a traffic situations is called for in our education system?

With these courses included in a typical curriculum of public education, much more time can be dedicated to training future drivers than can now be offered by “for profit schools.”

Driving schools approved by MTO only require a minimum of 40 hours total instruction. Of those 40 hours, 20 hours must be in-class training with 10 hours of in-car training and an additional 10 hours of “flexible” training.

The “flexible” training can be almost anything from computer based instruction, as in an online “Q and A” session done at home by hopefully the student, additional in-car training, simulator driving or simply more classroom work. In other words this additional 10 hours could be almost anything or maybe just wasted time.

From the driving instructors I have talked to, that additional 10 hours of training won’t be in-car even if that is exactly what the student needs as this is by far the most expensive way to use up the 10 hours. It is much more cost effective to simply send the student driver home with 10 hours of “homework” according to these instructors.

Why are we giving new drivers just 30 to 40 hours of training when they could really use four years or more of driver education?

I believe it is time to change the way we prepare new drivers to deal with today’s extreme motoring challenges. Let’s start training new drivers when they are 13 years old and in Grade 9.

It’s time we had our new drivers start at this younger age learning the rules of the road, proper driving attitude and using driving simulators. One hour a week through the entire high school curriculum in a class totally devoted to driver education.

The instructors would be just that. Real dedicated driving instructors and not part time math teachers who have a driver’s licence and drew the short stick and now must stay after school to teach kids how to drive like they do.

When they reach 15 years of age they can learn car control in an enclosed environment away from traffic. Instructors can teach them to learn proper steering techniques, emergency braking, evasive manoeuvres and skid control all before heading out onto our roads. Today our teenagers do not experience these real life threatening scenarios until they crop up on our roads and it involves other “real” people. Mostly it is too late.

Part of the new driver education in the schools would be winter driver training. The vast majority of new drivers only get to practice this important skill when they encounter their first snowfall and they get to use you and me as pylons. This usually does not work out well for anyone.

It’s time to get the Ministry of Transportation to team up with the Ministry of Education and give our young teens a fighting chance to survive into their golden years by providing them with a thorough driver education.

The last major change we had in driver education was the graduated licensing system. The MTO statistics show this improvement has been saving many lives. Why stop there? Let’s take driver education to the next level and save even more lives.

It will cost a lot of money to set up this type of training. It will be well worth it when we start saving some of the tens of billions of dollars lost to vehicle crashes each year. Fewer deaths, lower hospital and rehab costs, cheaper insurance rates and less money wasted on crash clean up and road repairs.

Better still, more teenagers surviving to be productive members of our society.

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