The Need for Quality Driver Training, Even by the U.N.

Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for UN staff worldwide, but sadly that can be no surprise because the same tragic scenario often applies to soldiers, even within actual conflict zones. And work-related driving (fleet safety) is in a similar category.

It has become common or perhaps just fashionable in recent years for some traffic safety academics to decry driver training around the world as something that does not work. This frankly is a preposterous belief and a new United Nations report clearly indicates this.

Driving through a busy village in a tourist area can oresent many different safety challenges.
This common scenario shows a whole host of potential hazards which with no disrespect we would challenge the vast majority of researchers to even fully identify without studying the photograph for some time — and even then probably failing to recognize them all — and that much time at one small point of a journey is something which drivers of moving vehicles typically do not have in abundance. (Copyright image, 2017.)

Standards in driver education & training

A few years ago, I had the privilege but also the surprise of being the only behind-the-wheel driver trainer worldwide to be invited to speak at an event titled the ‘International Conference on Road Safety at Work‘ in Washington, DC. The event was jointly organised by NIOSH, the NSC, and the World Health Organisation.

A photo of Advanced Drivers of North America's CEO Eddie Wren at the United Nations in New York City for their General Session on global road safety, April 2012.

The title of my presentation was ‘Standards in Driver Training‘ and it attracted many compliments from, yes, the researchers in the audience. Indeed, one of them was a high-ranking individual from the Center for Disease Control [CDC] who assured me that to his surprise it had been the most entertaining and enlightening talk about road safety that he had ever heard in his long career. (Protocol sadly prevents me from naming the gentleman concerned.)

Over previous and subsequent years, however, it has been the subject of ‘attitude’ that many academics have focussed upon, to the probable detriment of furthering the improvement of behind-the-wheel curricula and training methods. It has to be said, however, that some of the high-ranking academics involved in attitudinal aspects are also heavily involved in businesses which sell that training. A conflict of interests, perhaps?

“Defensive-driving training in particular should be a mandatory and standard requirement for drivers of all types of vehicles.”

United Nations

Kindly note that I am not for one minute disputing the crucial nature of ‘attitude’ in safety — it is paramount and all of our defensive driving and advanced-level training at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] is not only built around it, but importantly is also tailored to each individual’s challenges and not just mass teaching.

Nor am I even remotely pretending that driving is anywhere near as technically complex as flying a plane. But as an important counterpoint I will say that there are far, far more opportunities for what the experts call ‘conflict’ — meaning potential collisions — on virtually any drive than there are on any piloted flights other than perhaps combat missions. And any assertion that it is somehow acceptable to not properly know and use the safest ways to deal with such driving conflicts, preferably in advance as a preventive measure, simply beggars credibility.

A good attitude, in isolation, could not properly protect everyone in this scene. As just one example, stopping a car at an inappropriate location in order to be courteous to a vulnerable pedestrian could potentially trigger a secondary bad scenario. (Copyright image, 2018.)

Researchers may howl with protest at my next statement but frankly I defy them to prove me wrong, and it is this:

Claiming that drivers do not benefit from training in appropriate and proven techniques but they do from attitudinal guidance in isolation is as implausible as making that same claim about pilots.

However, the fact that I was the only driver trainer invited to speak at the
International Conference on Road Safety at Work was warning in itself of the direction which academia was and still is taking on this topic. Instead, they would have us believe that it is only attitude which governs a driver’s crash likelihood and not a person’s knowledge, ability and use of proven safety skills which matter (as opposed to inappropriate skills such as skid recovery or evasive swerving). Really? I am almost always in full agreement and support with researchers on traffic safety issues but presumably this is the so-called exception that proves the rule.

Report: Road safety strategy for the United Nations and its personnel: a partnership for safer journeys

The introductory page to the new UN report includes their aim “to develop a new approach to safer journeys for United Nations personnel and people in the communities they serve [and that by] implementing this strategy, the United Nations aims to lead by example.

In the relevant section 3.1, are two key statements:

It is… extremely important that all personnel and drivers of mission vehicles are properly briefed and provided with necessary familiarization training both on their entry-on-duty and at specific times during their service to the Organization…

And: “Defensive-driving training in particular should be a mandatory and standard requirement for drivers of all types of vehicles.”

Huge differences in the standards of driver training globally

The UN states, in the aforementioned section 3.1, that people “come from a wide range of societies with different cultures and varying driving skills, experience and habits.”

This legitimately can be phrased another way as: The standards of pre-test and post-test driver training differ very widely from country to country. And the resultant standards of driver-knowledge and actual driving in various countries undoubtedly reflects this situation.

The Sad Fact about Driving Standards in the USA

Even though I have openly been condemned for daring to speak out on this issue, it must continue to be said that the following relevant issues in America fall well below international best-practice standards and that this situation will continue to play a part in the very poor standards and excessively high road casualty levels in the US:

  • State Drivers Manuals (official guidelines for new, young drivers);
  • In-school “Drivers’ Ed” (education). This link is to a 2003 event I attended which highlighted great incompetence and inadequacies which are unlikely to have been much improved.
  • The very limited curriculum for pre-test driving schools (not their fault);
  • The remarkably low standards required by driving tests in most if not all states;
  • The unregulated post-test driver training industry — both inadequate and even inappropriately dangerous.

For corporations and organizations in North America, ADoNA uniquely operates to global best-practice standards and offers four levels of behind-the-wheel driver training, in addition to specialties such as chauffeur training. We can also provide various formats for workshops or short, enjoyable, punchy presentations on specific aspects of safe driving (ideal for large groups).

For additional details, please see our ‘Courses‘ page or directly Contact Us.


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Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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