Driver Education & Road Safety

Is skills-based driver training effective?

The effectiveness of driver training as a crash counter measure is the subject of ongoing debate. It is argued that improved skills improve safety; that the more skill a driving task requires the more training a driver should receive. This seems to make sense. However, research does not support these arguments, as shown in the following statements:

Advanced training aimed at increasing the vehicle control and handling skills of experienced drivers has not been shown to be effective in crash or violation reduction terms (Christie, 2001, p.23).

In a road safety context, skid-control and emergency braking are seldom required by drivers in everyday driving… under these circumstances, a driver trained in these skills is highly unlikely to retain them… drivers quickly forget those behaviours which they do not have to use regularly. Malaterre (1989), who tested the competency of experienced drivers immediately after advanced training, concluded there was little point in training these drivers in such skills as they did not retain them (Christie, 2001, p.29).

If increased rates of crashing were due to lack of skill, then training and education would appear to be a natural countermeasure. Although there have been many studies of the influence of driver education on crash rates, none with acceptable methodology has shown that those who receive driver education have lower crash rates than those who do not (Evans, 1991, p.105).

Driver training and education programs targeting the development of hazard-related skills need to target driving skills that reduce the need to respond to a hazard rather than skills involved in responding once a hazard has occurred. The behavioural responses to emergency situations are almost certainly based on automated processes that depend on experience rather than education or knowledge, … (Harrison, 2002, p.10).

… there is no evidence available to suggest that existing techniques of driver training can improve the accident record of young drivers… the international literature does not report significant road safety benefits deriving from driver training… traditional driver training programs have not produced useful results… (Horneman, 1993).

Naïve application of apparently straightforward logic would suggest that more skill will allow greater safety. After all, being able to avoid a crash in a 'tight situation' (a potential crash situation) may depend on emergency braking or fast, accurate steering around an obstacle, however, the data clearly disconfirms this view by indicating that driver training generally produces no safety benefit, or results in a significant disbenefit, as the following indicates. Evidence shows that in the USA the highest skilled drivers (registered race and rally car drivers) have a much higher crash rate than the average driver (Naatanen and Summala, 1976). Careful analysis of apparently successful skills training programs in reducing the road toll indicates that these programs often work when used as a prerequisite for a licence. Their effectiveness lies in deterring people from getting a licence not in increasing skill and safety (Job, 1999, p.22).

… alleged benefits [of skidpan training] rest upon the assumption that a substantial proportion of crashes are attributable to a lack of vehicle-control skills: increased exposure to assorted manoeuvres on a skidpan will improve these skills and thus reduce accidents. However, again the evidence does not stand up to close examination: attendance at skid training programs has increased rather than reduced crash involvement (Langford, 2002, P.36).

no-one has come up with an evaluation that shows there's a benefit to advanced skills training… gains from training may be offset by confidence and reduction of safety margins… (Lord, 2000, pp.21-23).

When validly tested for effects on crashes, attempts to teach safety have more often than not been exposed as not delivering improved safety at all (Staysafe-18, 1990).

There appears to be no evidence that a driver or rider instruction course is an effective traffic safety measure (Saffron, 1982).

It is obvious that the results of this large-scale field experiment do not support the notion that improved driver education helps prevent accidents. In passing we may note that the same holds for post-licence defensive driving courses… Better driving skill, risk perception included, does not necessarily mean fewer accidents… Other studies too show that better driving skill is not associated with greater safety (Wilde, 1994).


Don't drive any faster than your guardian angel can fly.

More Reading:

  • Building-Animal

  • Burn-Answer

  • Burst-Apparatus

  • Business-Approval

  • businesslike-Argument

  • Butter-Art

  • calculator-Attack

  • canal-Attempt

  • Canvas-Attention

  • Care-Attraction