10 lessons I've learned about safe driving
This month marks my fifth year as a Wheels columnist. It's also my 25th as an advanced driver training instructor and racing instructor.
This month marks my fifth year as a Wheels columnist. It’s also my 25th as an advanced driver training instructor and racing instructor.
In those years I have spoken with thousands of motorists and racers, from both casual and professional viewpoints. It has given me a tremendous amount of pleasure to help drivers improve their skills for safety and performance.
However, it hasn’t been just a one-way street. I, too, have learned a lot from my encounters. Here are a few of those lessons.
1. Wheels readers, for the most part, are well-informed motorists. Correspondence I receive as a result of my articles shows that many readers are quite knowledgeable and opinionated. I do my best to answer my messages and have enjoyed many of the exchanges. Some readers offer their own advice or will make suggestions.
Sometimes I worry I’m preaching to the converted. I have had some ongoing discussions with a few who steadfastly refused to see the point I was making. A few others have some strange views that have me concerned.
2. A large majority of drivers overestimate their abilities. As an advanced driving instructor, I find that most drivers feel their skill level is adequate, and it is everyone else who requires improvement.
Many parents inquire about extra training for their teenagers while declining to join them in the course, citing their years of experience as the reason for not needing to improve. Those who have taken the course usually admit to having been humbled by just how much is involved in driving.
3. Most motorists are unaware of proper vision training. Drivers need to be educated about where to look while driving, which is down the road. Correct vision technique is an acute part of safe driving. This procedure is not natural and takes practice and concentration to perform properly.
There are a few who can appreciate and apply the correct vision technique because they can relate it to training from a sport such as ski racing or horse jumping. To see the enlightened faces of drivers who become aware of correct vision technique is very rewarding.
4. Few drivers know how to hold or use a steering wheel properly. It’s a fact that drivers cause crashes and most crashes that involve loss of control have been due to drivers doing too much with regard to steering inputs. I have watched many drivers, new and experienced, struggle to simplify their steering technique. When they finally do, they always have much better control.
5. It’s much easier to make good drivers out of novices than of those who have anywhere from five to 45 years of bad driving habits under their belts. New drivers don’t have to overcome the multitude of ingrained practices that so many “mature” drivers have acquired.
6. What is not being taught in regular driving schools is very troubling. During the past 25 years, I’ve had plenty of discussions with new drivers who have enrolled in advanced driver training to complement what they learned in a regular school. It has given me the opportunity to find out what is being taught to new drivers.
It’s apparent that most schools have one objective: to have their students pass the driving exam. Unfortunately many driving schools, the transportation ministry, new drivers and some parents seem quite content with this result, instead of developing the safest drivers possible.
7. A growing number of motorists acknowledge they need better training. This trend is heartening and shows there is some hope for safer roads. However, the numbers are still too low. I have a lot of respect for drivers who can park their ego and admit they need help.
8. Health and safety in the workplace is a growing concern and employers are realizing that driving is a workplace danger that needs to be addressed. Just recently we trained employees from the Ontario government.
Management was caught off guard by a workplace safety survey in which the employees listed driving as the No. 1 concern in the workday. Both the transportation and environment ministries took steps to address this concern.
9. During the past 25 years, we have achieved phenomenal advances in vehicle safety, tire technology and road design, all to make driving safer, but we’ve done little to improve the most important factor: driver education.
10. You never stop learning. This one is the most important lesson. Each time I train drivers, I also learn something. We should all acknowledge there is always room to improve.
Ian Law can be reached at www.carcontrolschool.com