Make Better Drivers

A Proposal for Certified Driving Instructors by Bernd Felsche
Road safety is largely determined by the attitudes of road users.

From Article 1 of the German Straßenverkehrsordnung (StVO), their traffic regulations:

Participation in road traffic demands constant attention and mutual regard.

Every traffic participant is to conduct themselves in a manner so that no others are damaged, endangered or, more than required by circumstances, obstructed or encumbered.

This article describes how this addresses the management of quality of attitude amongst drivers.

It is proposed that all those who wish to obtain a licence to operate a motor vehicle do so by undergoing sufficient instruction by a Certified Instructor (CI) who observes attitudes and manages their development in the individual prior to assessing their fitness to drive.

Certified Instructors would warrant that:

  1. All students are competent in dealing with the variety of driving conditions during instruction, including but not limited to:
    1. Daytime and rush-hour city/urban traffic
    2. Highway cruising including high speed and overtaking
    3. Multi-lane highway/motorway driving
    4. Country roads including narrow and unsealed routes
    5. Night-time driving in all of the above
    6. Driving in wet and dry conditions in all of the above
    7. Preparation for long journeys including route planning, breaks, etc.
  2. All students are capable of controlling the vehicle under expected conditions, including:
    1. skid control
    2. brake and steering control in emergencies
    3. dealing with breakdowns and crashes
  3. All students demonstrate appropriate attitudes with regards to their obligations and responsibilities as traffic participants.

Hours of Certified Instruction

It is estimated that it would take a minimum of 20 hours over a period of at least 3 months for an adept candidate to convince a CI that all of the above are satisfied.

A CI’s chief purpose isn’t in essence so much that of an instructor, but as an assessor. They get around 10 hours to do what can’t be done in 10 minutes of testing. Testing attitude by a written test is unreliable because learnable responses to formal questions are different to those of behaviour drawn out of attitude to ad hoc stimulus in the real world while driving.

The minimum expected hours are what it to takes for a CI to be convinced of the student’s abilities and attitude under the various traffic conditions. Those are nothing like the total hours that learner should be under some form of instruction; be that behind the wheel or in a classroom and workshop.

The concept of regulated minimum hours is however dubious. It takes as many hours as is necessary to convince the CI that the student is ready to drive on the roads, unsupervised. Attendance and participation are not a measures of driver quality.

Students could still undergo additional (logged) instruction by uncertified instructors but would require approval from a CI to qualify for final assessment before getting their licence.

Driving Conditions

As not all students or CI may have ready access to all traffic conditions as outlined above, several CI may have to instruct a student. The number of CI would have to be limited to 2 or 3 so that each would have sufficient exposure to a student.

It’s anticipated that CI will form several associations and collaboration between distant ones could provide for referrals to CI in areas other than the student’s native traffic environment. This can result in e.g. rural-based CI to host weekends away for small groups of students from urban areas; and vice-versa.

An essential task of the CI is the psychological evaluation of the student during and around the time of instruction. The more a particular CI observes each student, the higher the quality of the assessment.

Quality of Licenced Drivers

The requirement for certified instruction can also be applied to people who want to get their licence back after suspension of (say) 6 months or more. The exact requirements would have to be based on the scheme of penalties that result in suspension.

A series of technical infractions can result in the suspension of licences; a penalty of licence suspension for such is already perceived as inappropriate and onerous by some. Such drivers should not burden CI.

There are others however for whom a long-term assessment is appropriate and a course of CI a mandatory requirement to ensure that the subject’s attitude has changed sufficiently to let them back on the road, unsupervised.

Certified Instructors

Certification of the instructors has to be on a uniform federal basis; perhaps under the auspices of the ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) working together with State Authorities and driving instructors. Setting the standards nationally (or even internationally through e.g. UN/ECE) from the outset obviates the need to normalize different sets of laws and regulations.

CI performance is to be evaluated continuously, based on the performance of their graduates. i.e. The “product quality” is controlled. The highest penalty for failing in their obligations (save from criminal fraud by knowingly graduating the incompetent) would be a permanent ban on them being a driving instructor; certified or otherwise.

Although in a competency-based scheme, there would be no need for the final test, there is a background of testing by road authorities. Least of all to keep them comfortable and as the primary quality control on the CI.

Fees and Incentives

Certified Instructors would eventually be the only way to gain (or regain!) a licence. This presents a potential to exploit situations if there is not a competitive market. There are already regulations against “price gouging” which may be best supplemented by licencing authorities ensuring that there is a supply of competent CI within the reach of most.

Income opportunities present themselves for CI in rural areas, providing e.g. “workshops” and instruction for (sub)urbanites, in association with CI in (sub)urban areas.

The main incentive for the student driver is that when they get their licence, it’s a full licence for that class of vehicle. Without a probationary period or driving restrictions. The quality control exercised by the CI warrants that the individual is fit to drive; demonstrating an appropriate attitude and sufficient skills to participate as an operator of a motor vehicle in road traffic.

Subsidies for instruction need to be looked at on a regional basis, taking into account the individual financial circumstances of students.

Drivers who have had their licences suspended for e.g. more than 3 months may be required to undertake assessment by a CI before being allowed to drive again.

Implementation Phases

The need to certify instructors and to put into place a system of managing them means that such a scheme cannot be “switched on” overnight. It will take several years.

Incentives as noted above and the timeline if implementation will provide some motivation for existing driving instructors to seek certification and for students to seek out such instructors to gain a full licence, without a probationary period.

Expected Gains

Fewer crashes Less road trauma.
Co-operative road use Improved traffic flow.
Reduced fuel consumption Reduced motoring costs.
Improved productivity. Reduced stress and rage
First published: 2006 at http://bernd.felsche.org
Updated 2013-01-27: Fixed typos. Added point about planning journeys.

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