Last updated on August 28, 2019 at 12:07 pm
As a certified defensive driving instructor, I have spent a number of years studying our driver training system and I’ve arrived at two conclusions:
- Driver training hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years.
- The objective of the current system is to teach new drivers to pass a driving test, rather than how to be safe drivers.
In short, the system is outdated. I advocate for a more modern method of driver training.
This article defines nine deadly driving myths that most of us accept as truth. These myths are responsible for a large percentage of the 800,000 teen-driver crashes that occur each year in the U.S.
Myth #1: It’s OK, My Friend is Driving
Approximately half of all the 15 to 20 year olds who are lost in car crashes are not driving — they are merely passengers.
Myth #2: It Can’t Happen Here
But it does. Every day eight to nine teenagers leave home and never return due to a car crash. To put that in perspective consider this:
- The odds of hitting the typical state lottery jackpot are 1 in 18 million.
- The odds that a 15- to 20-year-old driver will have a crash in the next 12 months are 1 in 17!
Myth #3: I’m a Good Driver!
First of all, what does that mean? I have spoken to tens of thousands of drivers and I always ask that simple question. It amazes me to see the looks of confusion and to hear all the incorrect answers.
There is a huge difference between a skilled driver and a good driver. A skilled driver handles the vehicle well. That’s important, but only 10% of crashes are caused by improper handling. Skilled drivers are not necessarily good drivers, and good drivers are not necessarily the most skilled.
A good driver is one who is proficient in the six key areas of driving. The six keys are S.S.S.A.D.T., which stands for:
- Speed management
- Space management
- Scanning your mirrors
- Attitude behind the wheel
- Danger zone recognition
- (Watching out for) The other guy
(We’ll get into these areas in more detail in our March blog article.)
Myth #4: Multitasking
The human brain cannot handle two complex tasks at the same time. Neurological research is proving that the brain switches back and forth (zig – zags) between tasks. If you zig when you should zag, you’re in trouble.
Driving is a complex task. It is actually very scientific and requires a series of consistent actions. If you are bored while driving you’re not doing it right!
Myth #5: Driving is Easy
We have been conditioned to think that when we turn the key and step on the gas, we’re driving! This is operating a motor vehicle, not driving.
Driving is a mental activity that requires our undivided attention and (you’ve heard this before) a series of consistent actions.
Do you know the five actions that a driver must be consistently engaged in? (Refer to August in our Teen Driving calendar.)
Myth #6: Driver’s Ed and a Few Hours Behind the Wheel are Enough Training for New Drivers
Many state authorities seem to think this is sufficient training for our new drivers. The truth is that driving is statistically the most dangerous thing we do each day. If we want to solve the problem of the unacceptably high teenage crash rate we need to make fundamental changes to our driver training methods and focus on the cause of 90% of crashes – mental error.
Myth #7: Passing the Driving Test Means that Your Teen is Ready to Drive
Passing the driving test is just the beginning of the process, not the end. It gives the driver a license to learn to drive.
Myth #8: Experience Solves the Problem
There are over five million crashes, nearly two million injuries and more than 30,000 deaths each year in the U.S. caused by “experienced drivers” 21 and older. These are NOT acceptable numbers.
When so-called “driving experts” refer to experience, they are talking about improved ability to handle the vehicle. Again, this is important, but only accounts for 10% of the problem. If a driver lacks foundational training in the mental aspects of driving then “experience” only helps to hide their driving weaknesses, and delay the inevitable crash.
Myth #9: You Can Talk the Problem Away
Talk is cheap. Humans (including teenagers) forget the majority of what they hear within weeks of an educational talk.
Besides, driving is instinctive. In the heat of the moment, your safe driving habits and subsequent reactions are what save you, not some lecture you attended. The bottom line is there is only one way to achieve better driving results.
It’s the same method used by coaches, teachers, parents and savvy companies: Training.
If you want your child to succeed in school, you help them to establish good study habits. If they want to succeed in sports, they must establish good training habits. If we want them to become safe drivers they must establish safe driving habits.
The solution to teaching teen drivers to be safer behind the wheel is simple, but like any worthwhile goal, it cannot be achieved without a bit of hard work and a strong commitment.
Stay Safe Out There!
Coming in March: S.S.S.A.D.T. – 6 Letters That Could Save Your Young Driver’s Life
Bob Ragazzo is a certified Defensive Driving Instructor, founder of Save Your Teen Driver LLC, as well as an Adult Driver Training company, Collision Avoidance Technology & Training LLC, and a non-profit Educational resource for parents and teens: The Parents’ Coalition to Stop Teen Driving Deaths NOW! Most importantly, he is the Father of two young drivers, Nick and Patrick. Bob trains thousands of drivers each year, both experienced and inexperienced. He has authored dozens of articles on driver training and several eBooks, including: “7 Things That Every Parent Must Teach Their Young Driver.” He has been featured on Network News shows from Florida to California, and is a regular guest Driving Expert on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada.