Of all the different levels of driver training we provide at Advanced Drivers of America [AD0NA], “Gold” courses are often the most gratifying because we can guide and watch people achieving the highest levels of safety — far above the standards that other drivers are even aware of.
One of the biggest contributory causes of serious-injury and fatal road crashes in the USA (and the rest of the world) is speed.
Typically, speeds in excess of the posted limit, or that are within the limit but are inappropriate for the circumstances, are factors in around 28-30 percent of collisions where people are ‘Killed or Seriously Injured’ [KSI]. In American terms, this represents about 11,000 people killed and approaching a million people injured each year as a direct result of those who drive too fast.
Clearly then, excessive speed, even when below the posted limit, truly is a killer — big time — despite all of the people who emptily argue that this situation is mere propaganda and is untrue.
If excessive speed is dangerous, and it is, there is still an additional aspect that defies any logic or any excuse, and that is speeding in bad weather. And for our purposes, bad weather extends to include any situation where visibility is reduced, either through simple low-light or darkness, and also airborne view limitations such as mist, fog, dust, smoke or falling rain and snow, together with any cause of slippery road surfaces.
We hope the photographs that accompany this article give you pause for thought. The driver of the silver pick-up truck in this incident could very easily have caused the deaths of several people. All it would have taken was for an oncoming vehicle to loom out of the misty murk at the wrong moment and a collision would have been inescapable. Was he driving at a speed inappropriate for the circumstances? You betcha!
Even without a vehicle coming the other way, the pick-up driver caused significant risk to ourselves by unnecessarily throwing a large quantity of snow up onto the windscreen of our car as he passed and then pulled directly in front of us with less than a car length between the vehicles (see more on this aspect), and that alone was unforgivable.
Please don’t ever be ‘that’ driver, and equally importantly, be prepared for the day when you will encounter somebody as incompetent and brainless as this particular pick-up driver was. Naturally, this involves getting your wipers onto maximum speed — in advance if possible — slowing down promptly but safely (there may be another vehicle close behind, and of course the road is slippery). Then hold a steady course as you do this and don’t allow the situation to panic you.
Finally, please note that these are general comments and do not amount in any way to specific advice. Please see our Disclaimer in this context.
Which is better on winter roads: a two-wheel drive car with winter tires or a similarly-sized four-wheel drive vehicle (such as an SUV or pick-up truck) with all-season tyres?
How much do you genuinely know about tire grip and traction — and therefore about safety — on winter roads?
Training drivers to have the insight to avoid emergency situations, not the skills to overcome emergency situations
Emergency situations are situations that require immediate action to regain control over the vehicle and/or that require immediate action to avoid a crash. Driver training that aims to enhance the skills to regain control in emergency situations such as skid training, evasive swerving and emergency lane changes has proven not to be effective. Moreover, there is a plenitude of evidence that crisis evasion courses can actually increase crash rates. However, driver training that aims to enhance risk-‐ awareness, self-‐awareness and the acceptance of low levels of risk can reduce the crash rates of young novice drivers. As driving is predominantly a self‐paced task, technically skilful drivers are not necessarily also safe drivers. A not too technically skilful driver (i.e. a driver who has moderate vehicle handling skills) who does not overestimate his or her capabilities and/or does not underestimate the risks, drives safer than a skilful driver who overestimates his or her capabilities and/or underestimates the risks.
The Driver Behaviour, Education, and Training Subcommittee has declared that training programs aimed at enhancing the skills to regain control in emergency situations should not be included in basic driver education or in advanced driver training programs; because, the learned skills in such training programs erode quickly, and such training programs result in more risk taking due to overconfidence. Basic driver education and advanced driver training should be aimed at improving the calibration skills of learner drivers and novice drivers. Well‐calibrated drivers can detect latent hazards in traffic situations, do not underestimate the likelihood that these hazards will cause their adverse effects (i.e. they are aware of the risks), and do not overestimate their own skills (i.e. they are aware of their own limitations).
The full paper is available here as a pdf:
Vlakveld, W. & Wren, E. (2014) Training drivers to have the insight to avoid emergency situations, not the skills to overcome emergency situations. International Road Federation (IRF), Washington, DC.
Corresponding author: Dr Willem Vlakveld, at SWOV.
See also: When Extra Driving Courses Are a Bad Idea (first posted in 2005)