21st Century Driver Training Challenges
Many current driver-training curriculums have been built on outcomes from driving challenges of the 60’s and 70’s. However, current understanding of cognitive learning principals, as well as the technology used to control a vehicle, has changed. Exercises identified as skills-based are giving way to a modern cognitive learning lesson validated by a physical exercise.
Ultra high-speed vehicle operations courses are becoming a questionable strategy, given the constant need for in-service training and the cost of equipment and facilities to operate this kind of training safely. Not to mention the public outcry following accidents and potentially catastrophic events from speeding patrol vehicles being driven by inadequately trained officers. The idea of, “When in doubt, stand on the gas!” no longer applies.
Another consideration of high speed, high-risk driver training is the lack of qualified instructors needed to deliver a very technically correct and highly disciplined lesson plan. A very good advanced driver instructor takes years to develop, after they already have considerable, technically correct experience. Not all good drivers make good driving instructors. Can we blame new drivers for their performance if trained inadequately?
Perishable skills that are easily part of the training mandate for Control Tactics and Firearms courses are often conceptually forgotten in driver training exercises. All physical disciplines require a solid knowledge of the basics. A very smart student once said that “being advanced is just knowing more about the basics.” Are we certain that the basic physical and cognitive concepts are being addressed in current driver training curriculum? A good example of this is using a seat belt. Obviously we have failed the challenge of adequately training for seat belt use which is 99% cognitive.
It is a very real question why we are spending hundreds of hours repeating exercises of vehicle control when the cognitive side of learning is arguably more important, as it influences the decisions drivers use when an event goes wrong. It may be entirely feasible that future driver training will not require so much attention to the physical aspects of control. We will need to develop new cognitive learning materials that are easily validated and fiscally responsible, and should look at all driver training technologies available in order to meet this goal. After all, “A superior driver is one who makes superior decisions to avoid situations requiring superior skill.” But to produce these drivers who make better decisions will take superior reevaluation and modernization of their curriculum and training.