Dumb question of the year?

Does driver education and training produce safer drivers and reduce crashes?

Might that qualify for the dumb-question-of-the-year award?

Certainly, a lot of British Columbians must be buying in to the notion. ICBC lists 54 driving school businesses offering approved driver education courses at 221 locations. 

The courses run at approximately $1,000 per student. 

Before you dismiss the question, consider that the effectiveness of driver education and training has been researched and the results are far from overwhelming. 

Here are links to reviews of scientific studies from 2011 and 2013.

Why? One conclusion pointed to skill as being a primary focus of driver education. The final paragraph of the 2011 article notes:

  • “…yet skill as measured by on-the-road tests has never been shown to be correlated with driver crash rates.” 

No surprise there. Inattention and distraction cause most crashes. Precious little skill is required to keep a vehicle between the lines. Perhaps even less is required to bring your vehicle to a stop when the traffic ahead of you comes to a stop.  

Have I mentioned, recently, that 50 per cent of the personal injury claims I prosecute arise from rear-enders?

In fact, teaching young people how to skillfully manage emergency driving situations might cause more harm than good. Here is a very interesting article on that point

Again, no surprise when you put your mind to it. Is a teenager’s level of care likely to go up or down as a result of developing skills for managing a skid!?

I hate to say I told you so, but what I’ve been preaching for years remains true: driver safety is all about driver attitudes. 

Quoting from the same concluding paragraph of the 2011 article:

  • “…there have been numerous studies documenting the highly significant role of attitudinal and lifestyle factors in the high crash rate of young drivers…”

So I looked at ICBC requirements for an approved driver education course

An ICBC approved driver education course must include at least:

  • 16 classroom hours 
  • 12 practical hours
  • four discretionary hours. 

The curriculum requirements list four broad goals, each of which with clearly listed learning objectives.

My heart was warmed seeing that the majority of learning objectives focus squarely on driving attitudes.

Well done, ICBC!

Are those learning objective being effectively taught by 54 independently run driving schools?

The most basic of crash data collection should allow ICBC to provide statistics of the numbers of crashes caused by those with and without the approved driver education course. 

Care to provide those statistics, ICBC?

Let’s assume that a driving attitude-focused education course produces safer drivers and reduces crashes.

If so, why is it not mandatory?

Is it our goal for only the most affluent of drivers (those who can afford the $1,000 price tag) to have good driving attitudes?

What percentage of new drivers fork over the $1,000 for the course? 

Care to provide that statistic, ICBC?

British Columbia’s graduated licensing program requires almost nothing of driver education and training. New drivers must simply:

  • pass a written test;
  • allow time to pass while holding an “L” licence (requiring adult supervision along with other restrictions)
  • pass a road test, qualifying them for an “N” licence
  • allow some more time to pass while holding the “N” licence (passenger and other restrictions).

Unlike some other jurisdictions, there is not even a requirement for any actual driving to occur during the “passage of time.”

If you can afford the ICBC approved driver education course, you shave six months off the time requirement.

Road safety in British Columbia has never reached the priority it should have. Perhaps soaring ICBC rates will cause British Columbians to demand an effective road safety strategy.

Will our new government step up to the plate?


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About the Author

Paul Hergott began practicing law in 1995, in a general litigation practice. Of the various areas of litigation, he became most drawn to, and passionate about, pursuing fair compensation for injured victims. This gradually became his exclusive area of practice.

In 2007, Paul opened Hergott Law, a boutique personal injury law firm in the Central Interior, serving personal injury clients from all over British Columbia. Paul’s practice is restricted to acting only for the injured victim, never for ICBC or for other insurance companies.

Paul became a weekly newspaper columnist in January of 2007, when his first column entitled “It’s not about screwing the Insurance Company” was published. 

Please feel free to email or call Paul (1.855.437.4688) with legal issues you might like him to write about in his column, or to offer your feedback about something he has written.

Email:   [email protected]
Firm website:  www.hlaw.ca
Achieving Justice Legal Blog:  http://www.hlaw.ca/category/all-columns/
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