Responses to "Drivers Training and Testing"

The point:

In one word its a joke. The biggest problem with American drivers is the lack of any real drivers education and testing. Driving around a small test course is hardly a test of a drivers ability; its a test of being able to stop at a stop sign, being able to back up in a straight line, and, if it is a really hard test, being able to parallel park. The tests need to be on the road and NOT in the equivalent of a parking lot. A potential driver needs to be tested on things like: merging into traffic, passing, staying too the right, etc. And how well they can handle emergencys like skidding, spin out, etc. Yeah, they (sometimes) teach it in drivers ed but they usually don't give a motorist any hands-on experience.

The responses:

From: Pat Hamilton <>
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 01:37:16 GMT

I believe driver training in this country is apalling. In many states 
there is no road test at all.

I am a pilot and believe that if the same type of recurrency training 
was done for drivers as is done for pilots the number of fatalities
on the roads would drop dramatically. I would be strongly in favor of
recurrency training being required as a condition of license renewal
every 10 years or so. This would be perhaps a required "check ride" with
a driving instructor during which the skills of the driver would be 
reviewed. If any were found to be lacking, renewal would not be allowed
until some retraining was completed.

We have people on the road that have been driving for decades without
any schooling as to rule changes or changes in the numbers of vehicles
on the roads or the increased complexity of the cars they're driving.
What we learn once we are licensed in this country we learn "on the fly"
No wonder there are so many killed each year. Cigarettes kill their
share and the political types scream. Aids kills it's share and the
country rallies for a cure. Thousands die each year on the roads as
a direct result of our failure to properly train drivers for the 
increasingly difficult task of maneuvering busier and busier highways
and nobody says a word. Something is wrong here.

Driving is a privelege, not a right. I believe that if a person is unable
to pass basic review tests every so often they do not belong on the roads
with us and our children. A recurrency test program could spawn a whole
industry of instructors who would also be empowered to "sign-off" on a
driver. The individual states would not need to do the testing or be
otherwise burdened by the process. As an example, when I need a check
ride to renew my flying priveleges, it costs maybe 50 or 60 dollars for
the dual time and this includes the use of the airplane. Surely such a
small outlay every ten years or so would be a small price for each of
us to pay for the safer highways we would certainly enjoy.

Think about it.

From: Mark W. Hill <>
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 17:00:58 -0400 (EDT)

I just read that 80+% of drivers think they're better than average
drivers, yet, 80+% of drivers think most other drivers on the road are
terrible.  What does this say about us?

I've spoken with numerous people lately who "occupy" the left lane at
rediculously slow speeds.  Their comment: "Hey, I pay my taxes and
have as much right as you to the roads"!  Now, isn't that quaint!
Again, we have an issue of rights, but no mention of responsibility.

Let's examine the German experience.  20 years ago they had 19,000+
fatalities on the autobahn.  20 years later, they have less than
7,500+ (and with more drivers and faster average speeds!)  This 60+%
decrease in their fatalities is due to very stringent drivers
training, strict seat belt and DWI laws, and a vehicle inspection
system that is "intollerant"!  (Funny how "intollerance" saves lives!)
They have more hours behind the wheel including cross country on the
autobahn and night driving, behind the wheel.  A very elaborate class
room and practical driving and Crash Avoidance training round out the
many hours of classroom and "behind the stick", for a cost of $1,500
average to get a license.  Yet, they have no speed limit and a lower
fatality rate per mile driven than we do in the USA.  Fact.

What has the NHTSA said about this?  Well, go to the NMA page on and check it out.  The NHTSA erroneously pulished
artificially high fatality rates for the autobahn by publishing only
the former East German stats.  They have, however, issued a letter of
apology (only recently) to the NMA.

Locally, the news is in on it.  They continually "tow the party line"
by always having the highway patrol on saying "slow down, wear your
seat belts, and don't drink and drive".  OK, yet, I've seen many a
slow motorist careen into the left lane from a merging lane (running
whoever was in the left lane into the median), then establish a below
the limit pace with the right lane, effectively creating a road block.
The highway patrol is many times in visual range of this, but they do
nothing.  We've had many recent fatalities on 4 lanes roads created by
people whipping into the left lane and running someone into the
median, although they still weren't doing the speed limit.

The media will not get into this.  They tow the party line that slower
is safer, and report on speed limits, while showing fatalities that
occured in areas having nothing to do with highway speeds.  I have a
professional license in our state and if any of my clients complain,
the state will pull it hastily.  Yet offending motorist with licenses
are not held accountable as the system wants everyone to keep
ingnorant so they can promote revenue collecting enforcement actions.

From: Matthew T. Russotto <>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 1995 20:28:00 GMT

Sure, it's a joke -- my driver's test consisted of parallel parking
and a bunch of right turns.  Some people FAIL this test, and not just
the parking part!  Which brings me to the problem: People need to
drive.  Pretty much any place outside a city center, you need a car
just to do mundane tasks such as picking up groceries (especially in
bad weather).  And as long as people need cars, you can't have a
training and testing system that's going to exclude anyone.  It just
isn't politically and practically feasible.

Besides, I like to drive and am therefore opposed to any system which
would exclude me (like requiring good times on SCCA Solo II type

From: Bob Morrow <>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 95 23:12:04 -0800

I'm amazed that we even bother with driver's licenses in this country. A 
license to be a (doctor, lawyer, barber, etc) means you are qualified in 
some way to do whatever that license is for.  Can we honestly say that 
with today's licensing exams?  We're halfway there to the "no-license" 
condition, let's take it all the way.

When I took my driver's ed. course in 1980 in western NY, the classroom 
instructor (who's day job was as an English teacher at the local high 
school) told us he cut the seatbelts out of his car because he 
considered them dangerous!  I believe in seatbelts and they've saved me 
at least once. Good thing his views didn't carry the day.

The road test was a waste of time.  Never did we get over 35 mph nor did 
we go more than 10 miles.  However, I had to use hand signals and do 
parallel parking.  Good grief, who does parallel parking in suburbia?  
That's why we have parking lots.  To this day I avoid parallel parking.
For reasons I've since forgotten, I failed the test the first time. 
Probably didn't use hand signals. (Gee..)

Fish or cut bait, America.  Make the test mean something or get rid of 
licenses altogether.

From: Randolph M. Eccles <>
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 1996 19:40:08 -0400 (EDT)

In my business and many others the "80/20" theory applies: 80% of revenue
comes from the top 20% of accounts. It seems that this theory or something
close to it could also apply to driving: 80% of accidents, obstructions,
and other problems of consequence are caused by the worst 20% of drivers.
I truly believe that 15 to 25% of the drivers out there should NOT have a
license. The testing and qualification standards should be raised a great
deal. Driving without a license should be punished severely. I drive 35
to 40 thousand miles a year, usually at an illegally high rate of speed-
never a ticket or accident.

From: Jeff Guida <>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 20:50:38 GMT

I have a simple solution for the ridiculous driving tests used by states
today.  The autocross.  Set an upper time limit for the course and 
require every driver to beat it in order to get a license.  It could be
scaled according to the car driven just as the SCCA does.  The skill
required to pass the test is just what almost every US driver lacks - the
ability to control a vehicle at the limit.  Much more relevant than the
ability to parallel park.

From: Dan Calle <>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 08:53:10 -0500

I definitely agree.  My driver's-ed class in high school wasn't bad - we did
actually go out and drive on all types of roads (those available in central
Virginia anyway).  There was no driving in bad conditions but that's pretty
much left to chance...I took the driving part of the class in late Spring.

But the driving test to get my license was absolutely *pathetic*.  I drove
out of the parking lot, drove around the block, stopped at a stop sign,
drove back into the parking lot, and backed the car into an angled parking
space.  This is in the sparsely populated residential area around the DMV
Lynchburg, VA.  It was so short and so easy, I could have shown up to the
test dead drunk and passed without difficulty (unless they smelled it on my
breath or something).  Ridiculous.

A friend of mine failed this test twice.  There's no limit to how much or
how often you fail it either...just manage to pass it once and they hand you
a license.

I freely admit that from the ages of 16-20, I was a bad driver.  I drove too
fast and without much skill - I had the reflexes and agility of a teenager
of course, but real driving skill, a good awareness of the traffic around
me, the conditioned reflexes to deal with trouble, and the right kinds of
alertness, eluded me for years.  Then I had a nasty traffic accident shortly
before my 21st birthday.  It wasn't my fault but were the same circumstances
to occur today, I probably would have avoided it or at least greatly
diminished its severity.

I then drove much more cautiously, but still without skill (or so my parents
relate) for a couple of months longer.  But somewhere in the next six months
or so, I found the skill.  I now consider myself a very good driver, and my
parents (very good, safe drivers) agree with this.  

My point?  I want a driving test that would have kept someone like me off
the road, driving only with a licensed adult driver in the passenger seat,
until I learned more safely the lessons I ended up learning in a severe car
accident that could have killed me.

The current test only checks to see if you can get in a car and drive it for
10 minutes without crashing.  What about drivers like the 16-year old me who
could drive forever without crashing....until something took me by surprise
and I didn't react properly to it?  I would have reacted, and reacted
quickly, but with completely unschooled reflexes.

The test would include things like: putting you in an unfamiliar car, taking
you to a slick road surface, and telling you to take a particular turn at a
particular speed and sitting back and letting you figure out how to deal
with the resulting skid.  A test like this would not only have forced me to
learn beforehand how to deal with unexpected situations under non-ideal
conditions, it would probably have given me a head-start on learning the
more subtle driving skills that make me a good driver today, if only because
I would have taken driving more seriously.

The fee for such an elaborate test would also be pretty high - thus making
it unattractive for people to take the test repeatedly until they passed it.
They'd try to get it right the first time and, if they didn't, they'd make
damn sure they did the second.  Unlike the friend I mentioned above who took
the test three times in three days...she must have passed basically by
trial-and-error, not something you want to see in someone piloting a ton of
fast-moving steel and plastic.

Another point, I don't understand how anyone can get a license without
having had a learner's permit first.  How can any sane person justify giving
a full driver's license to someone who has never had the right to drive
legally anywhere but their own property?

From: Dick Kanda
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 1996 16:58:08 GMT

Let's look at the linkage of drivers training and speed limits.  Our
speed limits are too low for people who follow the rules of the road
and know how to drive.  In other words, I have no problem with opening
up the speed limits if and only if we also demand better training with
regard to and adherence with proper driving procedures.  People should
be ticketed for not driving in the right (starboard) lane, not using
turn signals, not yielding to the right hand car at stops, etc.  There
is also a linkage to speed and condition of the automobile involved.
Inspection standards should be rigorous in their application as well
as enforcement.  In other words brakes, steering, tires, suspension,
lights, belts, bags, signals, etc. should be in top notch condition or
the car is not on the road.  If such is car is on the road, it should
be impounded until repaired and the driver and owner fined.

Well trained and responsible drivers in well maintained automobiles are
what we need along with higher speed limits (if any).  Treat the issue
holistically and we could be "safe at virtually any speed."

From: Richard Rogers <>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 17:54:25 -0400

Maybe so, but nobody I know learned strictly from behind-the-wheel.  I
know I spent a lot more time driving with my dad before I got my license
(and before I took behind the wheel), including a trip to New York up
the Jersey Turnpike.  Maybe that's why I was used to ignoring the speed
limit by the time I got my license...I learned from my dad! :-)  In
behind-the-wheel, they almost NEVER take you on the highway (I was on
the Beltway once).  Considering the number of people who spend most of
their time on the highway, that's absurd!  I think I learned a lot more
from my dad than I did in behind-the-wheel.  (This was some six years

From: Bob Baldesari <>
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 23:27:36 GMT

Traffic education is a joke.  I live in Maryland.  Many drivers (young and
old alike) have no idea what the lines in the road mean.  They don't
realize that you don't cross a solid line.  They don't understand what a
YIELD sign means and, worst of all they don't observe STOP signs and RED
lights.  It is sad because many lives are lost each year to people running
red lights.  We need to slow down where the traffic needs to be slow; but,
keep up the speed where it is safe to do so.  Unfortunately it comnes down
to common sense.  
Many drivers don't have any.  Courtesy is another lost art.  Thanks.

From: Felix Bartl <>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 23:45:07 GMT

Couldn't agree more. The driving test should be much, much tougher.
It should include both city and freeway driving. But beware of making
driving schools compulsory. They'll turn into mere cash cows soon enogh,
just not (only) for the government, but for the business. We should just
make the test hard, and how the drivers acquire the necessary skill is
their problem.

From: Dan Parker <>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 09:08:04 GMT

I absolutely agree. I did my drivers ed. training less than three years 
ago and it was a total farce. We drove around in circles and learned
nothing we couldn't have learned from a video game. Skid training 
consisted of being told (on the last day, I believe) to "steer into the 
skid." This means nothing, of couse, unless you've actually been in one.

From what friends have told me, this experience was not unique to my 
drivers ed. school. They are all fairly similar.

Were it not for SCCA autocrossing that I started this year, I would still
in the "point-the-car-and-give-it-gas" mode of driving, which is the 
-real- reason so many kids kill themselves on the country's roads.

From: Robert W. Rood <>
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 20:03:34 GMT

You are indeed correct in saying the typical driver's education curriculum
is lacking.  I, personally, have taken Skip Barber's two-day High
Performance Driving School and then an advanced activity Car Control
Clinic.  Even so, there is alot I still need to learn.  One of the big
problems of normal driver's ed is that it fails to show a student their
real capabilities.  I, for one, was always confident of my driving ability
(who isn't?) until I took these advanced classes. With the help of Racing
School instructors, I was able to better appreciate my "limits" and RESPECT
them. The beauty is, I now enjoy driving far more today, because I
constantly practice and improve those areas where I previously had
problems. I had the opportunity to drive with "real" race car drivers who
proved to me that smoothness is fast, and I assure you, we could all
benefit from such instruction.  I'm from Michigan(snow and ice driving),
and I was NEVER taught skid control until Skip Barber. Something is VERY
wrong with this...

From: Todd G. Westlie <>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 15:05:19 GMT

Isn't it funny how little most people really know about driving? Thank
the sorry state of our so-called "drivers ed." for that. I totally
agree with the need for better training. I am a graduate of The
Bondurant School (4-day Grand Prix and two-day advanced road racing)
and all I can say is that it's the best thing I've ever done for myself! 

From: Harley H. Dietrich, Jr. <>
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 1995 05:21:41 GMT

My daughter started driving last September and I was scared to death.
Although she passed her written test at 15 and drove with me for a
complete year, I still felt uneasy when she climbed behind the wheel,
fastened her seat belt, adjusted the mirror, fixed her hair, played
with the radio, and drove away.  Call me crazy, but who's watching out
for her now?

This uneasy feeling prompted me to start The Watchful
Eyes. Association.  Soon to be a nonprofit organization and endorsed
by the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Committee, this
program will help all of us keep an eye on our youngsters.  Much like
the community watch program, where neighbors join together to protect
loved ones while in our neighborhoods, Watchful Eyes. help observe and
protect while on the road.

The program is simple: it provides a Responsible Driver's Agreement
for the family members and a "How's my driving ... MY PARENTS WANT TO
KNOW...  call 1-800 Tel-Them" bumper sticker for our subscriber's
vehicles.  The Agreement, between the teenager and parents, sets
expectations, makes promises, and delivers rewards and is best
implemented just as the child turns 15 and is issued their permit.
The bumper sticker, applied shortly there after, alerts other drivers
to drive defensively and provides a 1-800 number for anonymous reports
by concerned people, this helps insure unconditional accountability.
Everyone--parents, teachers, and any concerned citizens--will help
keep us informed by reporting our teenager's positive and negative
driving habits.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16
and 17 year old drivers have twice the fatality rate of older
teenagers and four times the rate of adults. Earlier this year, the
Cary News suggested that this program, coupled with the pending
changes in licensing, might save some lives.

I developed the program to help protect our children and alleviate
some of the stress experienced while they begin to mature.

Fell free to add your own response as long as it is Constructive! It can be anonymous if you want.

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