Want to drive safely? It’s the thought that counts

In 2010, the EU Coaching Project, HERMES, released its findings on driver safety, including a newly developed set of Goals for Driver Education (GDE). We called on John Jacobsen of Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy to help us understand this new approach to safe driving.

“If you’re a golfer, when you play golf, you’re thinking about golf,” says Jacobsen. “And chances are, when you’re driving you’re still thinking about golf! Often, we’re not thinking about the driving task when we’re behind the wheel and we’re easily distracted, which has a significant inherent risk.”

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The HERMES project lists the following Goals for Driver Education in order of least important to most important. With proper instruction, says Jacobsen, these levels can become second nature to any new driver:

1.     Skills for vehicle manoeuvring (basic skill requirement)

2.     Skills to drive safely in traffic

3.     Management of trip-related influences

4.     Developing safe attitudes and beliefs

5.     Skills to self-evaluate the previous four levels (most important)

“External influences affect the way you think and behave behind the wheel” says Jacobsen. “What if you’re late for an important meeting? Would you make a different decision about stopping when the light turns yellow?”  What if you’re not feeling well, or you’re unsure of route directions? We teach students to consider how factors like these can affect their decision-making.”

Levels 2 to 4 not only concentrate on the rules of the road, they deal with the right mental state for a driver in which to safely drive. This includes accounting for situational and emotional influences and increasing trip preparation. Situational influences can range from weather to number and type of people in the car. Emotional influences include factors such as peer pressure and stress. Preparation refers to things like leaving early or helping your newborn baby nap before the trip.

“Teens are especially at risk because of their still-developing impulse control,” says Jacobsen. “They make impulsive decisions, are prone to peer pressure, and they tend to emotionally swing from depressed to excited quickly. Any of these factors can lead to a crash.”

According to Jacobsen, the higher-level goals for driver education should be fully integrated into a new driver’s training. Level 5, for example, teaches new drivers to continue to develop their skills through on-going self-evaluation. “The process of continual self-evaluation develops drivers as lifelong learners” says Jacobsen.  “The learning process should not come to an end once you pass your road test.”

“All driving coaches at the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy teach the advanced levels of the GDE,” says Jacobsen. “There are so many types of distracted driving, but the distractions we can control, and the emotional distractions, are the most important for new drivers to learn. And we’re leading the country by incorporating this training in our curriculum.”

To learn about their programs, prices and availability, call Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy at 604-460-5004, visit their website or send them an email. You can also connect with Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy via Twitter and Facebook

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