Steve Wallace: Lessons from a driving-school convention
The annual Driving Schools Association of the Americas convention was hosted by Oklahoma City in the last week of October.
The first presenter made an obvious but telling comment in the introductory remarks: “He who dares to teach should never cease to learn.” It summed up the very reason we were all attending this information-sharing activity, and learn we did. Learning is the goal. Teaching is important, but one can learn without a teacher. Nobody can teach without at least one learner. The statement was not made to lessen the importance of teaching, but to provide a focus on the learner.
How we learn and the best way to present information is paramount. Teens are tied to their devices. Using them in driver-education theory sessions makes sense. Many courses now include the advantageous use of a cellphone to answer quizzes, explore relevant topics and search for information, all taking seconds, rather than days of research by traditional means.
Memorable quotes made an impression upon every participant at this year’s convention. Drowsy driving is still a big problem in North America. “Park and rest or rest in peace” was meant to be a shock-talk message for attendees. It was a message that should be included in every driver-education program. About one in five fatal crashes in the U.S. are of an occupational nature: People making their living behind the wheel, namely professional drivers, are far too likely to be involved in such crashes. Death in a vehicle is a greater threat than all other types of “accidental” deaths combined.
They call it a life-jacket. It is a part of every water-safety presentation and mandatory by law, when on the water, in almost every jurisdiction of North America. So why do we call it a seatbelt, when it is meant to perform the same lifesaving function in a vehicle? Shouldn’t it be more properly referred to as a “lifebelt,” given its undeniable function?
Teens make up six per cent of the driving public in Oklahoma, but are involved in 28 per cent of crashes in the state. This is a statistic that is relatively consistent throughout North America. Recent vehicle insurance changes in B.C. have reflected this reality, dramatically increasing premiums for the age group.
The “bob and weave” head movement is now a behaviour when drivers are attempting to see beyond the very wide “A” pillar separating the windshield and the driver-side window. These reinforced posts contain safety innovations, including airbags, but their tendency to hide pedestrian and other smaller hazards is a reality.
No one comes out of nowhere. Knowing what to look for is a technique that should be taught by every driving-school professional. Teaching a person to pass a rudimentary road test should not be the sole goal of driving professionals. Staying alive behind the wheel was emphasized much more at the Oklahoma convention than road-test proficiency.
Motivations for getting a driver’s licence are vastly different for the present generation. Generation Xers are now the parents of new drivers. Many teens are delaying getting a licence for financial and environmental reasons. The cold reality of a job interview causes many to qualify for a driving privilege. Some jobs require a licence, and not having one disqualifies candidates before an interview is even granted.
Environmentally friendly electric vehicles are much more in demand these days and are readily available. Companies and employers operating these relatively new vehicles are looked upon positively. The transition from “hybrid to electric” is now a reality.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.