Hooniverse Asks: How would you fix driver education in this country?

I’ve been fortunate to drive in Germany. It’s only happened three times and of those three times, two stretches included jaunts on the Autobahn. The first time was years ago when I went over to sample Volkswagen’s MkVI Golf GTD and the XL1. I nearly cried tears of joy as drivers used their turn signals, instantly yielded to faster traffic, and generally seemed to have complete awareness about the traffic around their vehicles.
Here in the United States, our driver eduction programs seem to be about providing the minimal amount of instruction needed to pass our licensing test. Can you parallel park? Sort of? Great, here’s your license. Now go out there and don’t worry about the folks texting and doing 90 mph on the 405.
I’d like to see more in-depth driver education with consistent messaging across our States. See that left lane? Use it for passing. Your turn signals? The automaker installed them for a reason. But that’s just the basics. We don’t need full on track instruction (though it wouldn’t hurt) but delivering the physical concepts of oversteer and understeer, a showcase of how to drive in changing weather conditions, and a general concept of spatial awareness would go a long way to improving our driver education in this country.
What do you think? What would you do if given the keys to fixing or changing American driver education?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

15 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: How would you fix driver education in this country?”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    Have all teens take at least two different teen safety programs offered/sponsored by Tire Rack, Ford, local racetracks, etc. They tend to teach the same concepts as each other, with instructor pools composed of a mix of law enforcement and competitive racers, but I suggest two different courses so that the lessons from the first course have a chance to sink in by the time the second one is taken.


  2. onrails Avatar

    Something beyond making sure you can do the speed limit and park without hitting anyone. A bit of time on slippery pavement with nothing around to hit wouldn’t hurt, either.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    A lot can be accomplished with a good simulator these days. It would be a good safe way to throw in things like driving on ice, sudden hazards, etc.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Or even just driving at night, which is rarely taught yet instantly used after getting the license.

  4. Maymar Avatar

    I don’t consider myself a phenomenal driver, but I have my motorcycle license, a minor enough accomplishment that makes me feel like I’m at least above average. At least in Ontario, our bike license is a marginally more intense process that requires a bit of situational awareness to pass, and some of the tests have to be performed in a minimum time (in other words, pushing something other than slow = safe).
    I’d like to see the same level of testing extended to all drivers, since it doesn’t feel like an excessively big ask.

  5. GTXcellent Avatar

    Lets make all the drivers’ ed vehicles 1-ton, dually, crew-cabs – They’ll figure out spatial awareness right quick (that and take their precious, precious phones away).

  6. M.Popotamus Avatar

    Should give civilians traffic enforcement powers or some effective way of reporting shite drivers

  7. anonymic Avatar

    Here in Florida? Actually teach driver’s ed. I don’t know what they actually teach here, but they’re beyond hope.

  8. John Goreham Avatar
    John Goreham

    My second son is just finishing up his driving instruction in Mass. 12 hours with a former cop instructor, 40 hours classroom, 18 observation hours with instructor, 40 hours parental supervised driving time, parents must complete a three-hour course. This is all after studying for and passing the Permit exam. Then you can take the test. If you pass, you earn a graduated drivers’ license. That has an 18 month evolution of responsibilities. Speed once lose license. Start over after state-mandated retraining class (6 month wait time). My feeling is that you don’t really know what today’s drivers are actually taught or how they earn their license. I’m a Skip Barber Driving and Intro to Racing Grad. New drivers are not even close to ready to take those courses (other than for fun). They need time to learn to navigate neighborhoods at slow speeds and then move up to other roads with more challenges. I know this because I I have put in 80 hours with two kids in the past couple years. Car control is the very last thing people need to safely drive a car. It almost never comes up and the basics do on every single trip. My $0.02

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      That is more than what is required here in Victoria Australia. Pass a multi-choice test to get your learner’s permit where you must have a licensed driver with you, then after 120 hours logbooked experience (that couldn’t possibly be faked, right?) you do another multi-choice test and a pretty basic driving test to get a graduated licence. Other than the logbook hours there is no requirement for any actual instruction, so plenty of people inherit bad habits.
      I agree that advanced car control type training is not needed, the main thing from a practical point of view is to get new drivers up to a safe standard before they hit the streets, and make sure they have an appreciation of how the laws of physics apply to vehicles especially when it gets wet. The rest is attitude IMO.
      I would add a requirement for new drivers to have to store their phones away from the driver’s seat, studies have shown young drivers subconsciously checking their phones when driving out of habit – something that needs to be disassociated with driving.

  9. Tank Avatar

    teaching it in schools, My state has state run programs uniform in all public schools, the neighboring states have private run drivers ed schools… and, well… it shows.
    Also, I think that teaching how to drive manuals should be a part of it. Even if the test isn’t in a manual car, I think its important

  10. Eric Rucker Avatar

    My model is extremely extensive, but looks something like this.
    Start out in kindergarten teaching kids the rules of the road, using bicycles and tricycles. This way, the rules are ingrained from an extremely young age.
    Create a new class of vehicles, that is weight and speed limited, in between the current FMVSS 500 Low Speed Vehicles (25 mph top speed, 3000 lbs maximum GVWR), and regular cars. Let’s say 60 mph top speed, 2000 lbs maximum curb weight, 3000 lbs maximum GVWR, minimum of 50 lbs curb weight/hp, but with relaxed safety standards. (Note that an existing car can be detuned, have weight removed, and be restricted to meet these requirements.)
    At age 15 (instead of the 15.5 that it is in Ohio now), learner’s permits for driving become available. Learning driving can be done under the supervision of a fully licensed 21+ year old adult, as it is now. Accredited driver training and documentation of 50 hours of driving time, including 10 hours of night driving, are required for all drivers, not just those under 18, to get the license.
    Once the license is granted, a new licensee’s license is restricted to driving the new medium speed class, low speed vehicles, and mopeds. If a new licensee wants to upgrade to a full Class D license, this takes a minimum of two years (which also means that it’s impossible to do so under 18), and requires periodic proficiency checks in varying weather conditions.
    Class D licenses shall only apply to vehicles with a GVWR under 8500 lbs and a GCWR under… let’s say 10,000 lbs. If you want to drive or tow more than that, get a Class C CDL. (Currently a CDL is only required for 26,001+ lbs truck GVWR, and either 10,001+ lbs trailer GVWR, or 26,001+ lbs GCWR (so the trailer can be over 10,000 if the truck is light enough that the GCWR is 26,000 or less).)

  11. nanoop Avatar

    To give some perspective, the minimum requirements for the German B license (cars up to 3.5t no trailers) are:
    * 8hrs city and regular roads (of which 3hrs in darkness)
    * 4hrs on the autobahn
    As a rule of thumb, your age = number of practice hours.
    The failure rates of the theoretical test was 36.8% in 2017 (a recent rise) and 28.1% for the practical test (a steadfast number).
    Expect to pay 2kUSD on average for the whole package.
    You want people be able to sustain themselves, and mobility is a factor. For this reason, a society would like to have a low threshold for mobility access. At the same time you have to tackle the dangerous aspects – much is done by initial training, so the people don’t die/kill in the first five years. Experienced drivers can only be reached by awareness campaigns, where billboards with “use a seat belt and let people merge” are in competition with high dollar media campaigns for consumer goods and services…

  12. Zentropy Avatar

    They don’t even require demonstration of parallel parking these days! It’s ridiculous. They practically hand out licenses with proof of residence.
    We stuck my teen in a local driving school. I’d seen him play Forza and knew beforehand he had no inherent driving ability whatsoever.

  13. Krautwursten Avatar

    You can’t. Foremost it would require a shift in general social attitude from egoism towards consideration and solidarity. People who think “why should I pay attention to traffic, I’m safe in my 5000 lbs SUV” are the same people who think “why should I pay attention to social well being, I’m safe in my suburb”. This simply isn’t going to happen.
    Even if it did, you would have to sit through decades of changing urban landscapes and housing habits so that people physically or intellectually challenged to drive or simply not interested in it would have alternatives in movement and wouldn’t be forced to rely on driving anymore.
    Then, and only THEN you can raise requirements for examining, and accordingly the extent of education which will inevitably be tied to increased costs. European driver’s licenses cost in the thousands with all schooling, materials and testing considered, not $50. You can not possibly implement such a system in the US without offering alternatives, otherwise people will start screeching about discrimination of the poor and of minorities. You’re basically a racist in modern America if you want to make driver’s education harder without offering anything in return. And if you’re trying to offer something (public transport, walkable cities) people view it as a burden, not a chance.