Should road safety become part of the school curriculuOn we recently ran a news story about IAM to 15-17 year olds in the Scottish borders.The ‘Drivewise’ training, backed by a £73k grant from the Scottish Road Safety Framework’s Strategic Partnership Board, will be delivered to 15 to 17-year-old students at five secondary schools in the Borders.
The course aims to equip young drivers with a basic knowledge of driving and road rules through simple manoeuvring of a vehicle, and instil in them good driving attitudes and habits.
Students will start off in the classroom, before being shown by an instructor the basics of manoeuvring a vehicle safely, and getting to have a try themselves.
Upon announcing the new training, Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart chief executive officer, said: “IAM RoadSmart has long campaigned for road safety to be a part of the National Curriculum, and through this pioneering scheme in the Scottish Borders, it is starting to happen.
“It is crucial that the ‘safe driving is fun’ message is brought into the lives of young people at school age and encouraged as part of the school system. We believe that simply leaving young people at 17 to handle this all by themselves increases the risk tremendously to the driver and those around them.”
This news got me thinking: should road safety become part of the school curriculum? This is not a particularly new question to ask. In 2011, writing in a blog for the Telegraph, Ian Cowie commented: “Nobody wants to burden teenagers with more exams but, given the scale of the carnage among the young, improved education about road safety seems a sensible step.”
Just last year a petition was launched by a roads policing inspector, calling on the Government to introduce road user education into the National Curriculum. The petition stated that: ‘Pilot studies in Europe show a 40% reduction in accidents for those who train at school’.
Of course, in the United States, drivers education was introduced in schools many years ago, as far back as 1940. Drivers education has evolved over the years and in many states it is now compulsory young drivers to complete a state-approved drivers education course. Some states let teens take online drivers education, while others still require drivers education to be completed in the classroom.
In the U.S., drivers education forms one part of a wider Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, credited with saving thousands of lives every year. Reportedly, 16-year-old drivers in the U.S. who are subject to GDL have 37% fewer crashes per year. When GDL was introduced in New Zealand, car crash injuries reduced by 23% for 15-19 year olds.
So, should we push for a full GDL system in the UK? There have been calls for such a system before, and it is estimated that GDL could prevent more than 400 deaths and serious injuries every year in Britain.
The evidence is there. And now IAM is introducing pre-license driver training in schools. Could this be the start of a new approach to teaching young people to drive?