GDE Crash Risk
Dan has just finished college and has a few options up his sleeve, including joining the Army or going to university. He’s already 19, having taken a couple of years longer than most people to get to this point because he re-did a year and then travelled. He also didn’t choose to start learning to drive until very recently. He has a part time job as a chef in a local cafe and generally appears sensible and level-headed. As a driver, do you think Dan is likely to be high risk?
We know that inexperience, gender and age are contributory factors in road crashes. We also know that having a thrill-seeking aspect to one’s personality can lead to close following or speeding when driving and that these two factors greatly increase the risk of being involved in a crash. Driving when tired or ill or under the influence of alcohol or drugs is risky. Distractions, including negative passenger influence and peer pressure, as well as listening to the radio or music, or hands-free mobile phone use, add to the risk of a crash. Driver error, far more than mechanical failure or poor road conditions, is the cause of the majority of traffic collisions. And one in five newly qualified drivers will be involved in a serious crash, DfT statistics tell us.
Well, Dan certainly sits squarely in some of these areas. His age, gender and post-test inexperience statistically make him far more susceptible to crashing than someone over the age of 25, female and with more than 250 miles on-road driving experience under their belt. On the plus side, he has ambition and has identified his goals in life; pays for his own driving lessons from the money he earns working part time; doesn’t appear to be a thrill-seeker; and doesn’t drink excessively or use drugs recreationally.
For Dan to have the best possible chance of remaining crash free once he is driving solo, he has to take responsibility for his life (GDE Level 4) and, in order to do this, he has to be able to self evaluate and identify his personal strengths, limitations and development needs (GDE Competency), understanding how these impact on his ability to control the vehicle (GDE Level 1), integrate safely with other road users (GDE Level 2) and plan his driving (GDE Level 3). I know this all sounds familiar if you have been reading my articles over the past few months. I am, again, justifying the need for Coaching and delivering the Goals for Driver Education (GDE) when teaching people to drive.
Here’s what happened on Dan’s lesson earlier this week. He doesn’t say a lot but suddenly stated, ‘I wish I had started to learn to drive a couple of years ago. I love driving.’ I wasn’t going to let that little gem go unremarked and, within a couple of minutes, requested he park at the side of the road. I asked him what he loved about driving and he responded that it was the feeling of control. He sees himself as a leader and believes he is good at managing other people at work. He agreed that the feeling of control is the same whether at work or driving. This sounded positive because it is obviously important to feel in control of driving situations and to manage the traffic around you. Having identified this as a strength in his personality, I was keen to explore with him whether there were any downsides. When people do as he asks and everyone is pulling together, under Dan’s direction, to get the job done well, things are hunky dory. However, when people have different agendas and don’t do as requested Dan struggles to cope and feels frustrated. Bingo! How might that relate to driving and how might that increase his risk? What if, as the designated driver, his friends, with a few pints in them, do not behave as he would like? Could he cope with the potential distractions or would he feel that things were getting out of his control? We spoke about where his focus of attention is at this point in the scenario and he quickly recognised that it is certainly not on the road and the potential dangers of this. We spoke about how quickly things change on the road, especially if travelling at speeds over 30mph, and how necessary it is to keep his attention focused on the task in hand.
A conversation like that takes no more than three minutes. With coaching there is an understanding that learning comes from within. I have no doubt that Dan learned a valuable lesson about himself, which will go a long way to helping him remain safe once he is a qualified driver. However, it is not enough, through self evaluation, to identify strengths and limitations; it is critical that the way is then paved for development. I asked Dan to go away and reflect on this conversation and perhaps recognise that he needs coping mechanisms for the times when people will not behave according to his expectations. If he feels distracted when driving and not in full control of the situation, he should pull over and take the time to regain the control he needs in order to be able to drive safely.
By engaging Dan, raising his self awareness and helping him take responsibility for his life, I had hopefully reduced his risk of being involved in a road crash.HiHHis skills