How to Set Up Your Teen for a Traffic Accident: Part 2

If you haven’t read How to Set Up Your Teen for a Traffic Accident: Part 1, please do so before reading this post as the solution for preventing traffic accidents is multifaceted. In Part 1, I expressed my views on the inept Regulatory Requirements for passing a driving exam.  This post addresses the effectiveness of the Driver Education and Training Industry.  I’m bound to step on some toes so let the fireworks begin.

Driver Education and Training Schools:

As an active driving instructor (driving school owner and operator) in the private sector for more than 30 years, I’ve personally trained over 10,000 clients (from 15 to 101 years of age) so my assessment of the Driver Education and Training Industry is based upon actual experience instead of just theory.  My expert assessment of the industry is that the current driver education and training methodology is fundamentally flawed. This fundamentally flawed methodology was created as a result of a resolution by the National Safety Council in 1935 and installed in our high school curriculum in 1949 (and is still currently taught nationwide). Driving has been the #1 killer of teenagers for over 70 years so how can the Driver Education and Training Industry claim any success. Albert Einstein once stated that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.  In my opinion, this is what the vast majority of the Driver Education and Training Industry does.

As I earlier stated, I’m an active behind-the-wheel driving instructor in California.  For the last several years, about 30% of my clients come to me after they’ve already received driver training from other so-called professional driving instructors.  Most of the time, these clients are teenagers who’ve scared their parents to the extreme or are classified by their parents as not having the ability to learn how to drive.  I find it very interesting that the focus of the “inability to learn how to drive” problem falls on the new driver instead of on the person trying to teach the new driver.  Since I don’t have any difficulty teaching these supposedly “difficult new drivers” how to drive, one must conclude the lack of knowledge resides with the parent or so-called professional driving instructor.

A big part of the problem is that driving instructors (including parents who teach their teens to drive) are mainly concerned with passing the driving exam and receiving a little piece of plastic called a driver’s license….in other words, they teach to the difficulty of the test.  The driver’s license isn’t the goal, that little piece of plastic never protected anyone in a traffic accident.  Becoming a safe and competent driver should be the goal. Many driving schools and/or instructors brag about their first time test passing statistics, like that’s something to be proud of.  Eighty percent (80%) of new teen drivers will have a reportable accident within the first three years so getting a teenager to pass a driver’s license test seems to have a twenty percent (20%) success rate at avoiding an accident within the first three years.  For further proof, check out the DeKalb Study at NHTSA.

It’s time for parents to stop pretending that the driving school industry, as a whole, is competent enough to prevent driving from being the #1 killer of teens.  Parents also need to realize that “knowing how to drive” and “knowing how to teach driving” are two totally separate skills and should not be conflated.  Learning how to become a knowledgeable Parent Driving Instructor is essential to teach their teen how to become a 5 Star Driver.

John Cullington

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