RACF Education in Safety Report Will Undermine Excellence
The ABD is greatly concerned that the ‘Education in Road Safety’ report produced by Frank McKenna for the RAC Foundation 1
will be used to further undermine the status of driver training initiatives and quality driving.
The report's rather weakly worded conclusion that “it is not that no educational interventions can work, but rather that the evidence must be provided” is likely to be lost amongst the numerous suggestions that improving drivers' skills actually makes them crash more often.
Whilst it is true that improving technical skills can worsen the attitude of an arrogant individual, this kind of statement has been used in the past to suppress attempts to raise driving standards in favour of ‘do as you are told’ policies.
“Quality driving is about teaching people to recognise hazards and moderate speed and position accordingly,”
said ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries. “You don't need the kind of academic evidence McKenna demands to know that — only to try to deny it so as to justify more speed cameras and lower limits.”
The report makes two key errors.
First, it draws conclusions from the area of health education programmes and erroneously applies them to safety.
Health problems caused by smoking or obesity are cumulative over a long period of time. Although the statistical risks are high and well known, from the point of view of the individual it is sheer chance whether the behaviour will bring the risk to fruition, so the link between each enjoyable cigarette and the potential outcome is tentative.
Road safety is completely different, in that there is a small but immediate risk of a catastrophic incident, but in most cases this can be avoided by the individual concerned without any loss of fulfillment or enjoyment. In fact, a better driver will cover the ground more quickly as well as being safer, so there is every incentive to take on board good education.
The second error is to allow the actions of a small minority to distort the picture. Serious road accidents are rare events compared with the number of journeys made. A small number of extremely reckless people are disproportionately involved in them — these people are the ones who should be targeted by enforcement as their attitude puts them beyond training. They should also be removed from the figures as they tar responsible drivers with whom they share characteristics (young, male or faster than average) with the same brush.
Those drivers who have a good attitude to using the roads will benefit enormously from being shown or taught how to drive properly.
“In my mid 20s, with the help of friends and colleagues and a bit of rational thought, the penny dropped as to how to learn to drive properly,”
continued Humphries. “Some of it was about technical skills - braking/steering/positioning, some was about hazard perception and avoiding being taken by surprise (risk assessment, basically). But the effect was dramatic. Although I was driving much faster overall, those ‘heart in mouth’ situations where I suddenly found myself going too fast for the conditions simply stopped happening. I quickly became very angry that nobody official had told me any of this before.”
“The case for improving driving skills is clear to me — it always has been, and the evidence is in my own daily experience on the road,”
concludes Humphries. “Anyone who tries to undermine this has to be on a different planet — or have another agenda. There are too many people using safety as an excuse to try to make driving unpleasant so we will all cycle or use the bus. They have distorted and hidden the truth about safe driving and speed to such an extent that it is small wonder road user education is in such a confused state.”