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3 Ways to Decrease Car Fatalities

Start from the VERY BEGINNING.

  1. Revamp the drivers test.
  2. Revamp the drivers test.
  3. Revamp the drivers test.

In my last post Should Cars Drive Themselves, we recapped on my trip to NYC to the New York International Auto Show and autonomous driving cars, and now I’d like to talk about the horrible drivers that pilot these extremely safe vehicles and still manage to get into accidents.

I know, I know. You may have been looking for something crafty like, cell phone disabling devices. Maybe there could be a service created that supplies the back seats of every American with a nanny, prepared to can slap your children around at the first sign of a Cheerio falling onto the floor, or a mess being made. I’m not sure but we’ve got to do something, which is why I propose starting at the beginning and, revamping the drivers test.

Consider the elements of the average drivers test. From memory I recall:

  1. Stopping at a stop sign – definitely exceeding 3 seconds.
  2. The 3 Point Turn
  3. Parallel Park – leaving no more than 6” from the curb
  4. Reverse in a straight line
  5. Signaling before turning
  6. Basic Braking, Steering, Lane Usage blah blah
  7. Oh yeah and making sure you turn your head 20 times while stopped at the stop sign for more than 3 seconds. Look left, right, left again, right 3 more times, left until you snap your own neck.

Good Grief

I appreciate the drivers test being there. It’s better than nothing. But I really feel like we can do better than, ‘nothing’. The typical experiences that most people have on the road, aren’t usually pleasant ones. Signal-less lane changers, deer carcass avoidance, or pothole swerves to preserve the only vehicle you own.

How about when stuck in stop and go traffic? How to handle the person that thinks that constant accelerating and braking to prevent the casual merger? How should you handle aggressive lane changers? What about when you find yourself around 2 aggressive drivers that are coming closer and closer to trading paint with each other?

How to handle the construction crews working on the interstate, or the first responders closing in from the rear? All of these things should be covered, practically, in some form on the drivers test.

Now that I think about it. You came here for the 3 things, so here they are:

  1. The drivers test should be conducted by professionally trained (possibly certified) drivers.
    1. These guys have probably experienced things the average driver will never experience in their driving lives, and they have incredible amounts of wisdom to share.
    2. Bad practices can be pointed out and hopefully corrected, before they become habits.
    3. The pro-driver will likely not freak out if something “freak-out-worthy” happens in the car. Their cooler head, may even rub off on the new driver, helping them learn to deal with random occurrences on the road.
  2. Achieving Car Control
    1. Can you put your car in reverse and drive some intermediate level obstacle course without hitting anything?
    2. Speeding up quickly. You know 0-60 stuff.
    3. Slamming on your breaks from 60 miles per hour, almost hitting your head on the steering wheel.
    4. Putting your car into some sort of controlled skid. (Skid Pad – Wet parking lot where your car is more likely to oversteer and understeer.)
  3. Real World Simulations
    1. The typical 20 minute drivers test cannot prove if a driver is proficient, comfortable, or capable behind the wheel of a vehicle.
    2. Drive faster than 10 mph during the drivers test.
    3. Should you back into parking spots, or pull in nose-first?
    4. Randomness – Does the course change? People shouldn’t be able to prepare for a test where the real life situations will always be different.

In Maryland we’ve had no problem tossing up casinos, parking garages, ice rinks and baseball diamonds that I think we can spare a bit of real estate to create a fairly comprehensive environment to prepare the future pilots of 2000 lb. steel missiles.

Having 3 children and the idea that the roads could be safer for them, the elderly, and everyone else in general, I’d like to take steps to create this reality.

More Benefits

If we made the process of acquiring a driver’s license more, well, difficult.

  1. We would have fewer drivers on the road. (Less Traffic)
    1. Because a lot of people wouldn’t make the cut. Or they’d educate themselves and take steps to become safer drivers that are more aware, and prepared for the random experiences they’ll experience behind the wheel.
  2. More skilled drivers, driving with, more skilled drivers.
    1. Have you ever seen a person who is a good dancer, dancing with someone who is not a good dancer? It’s rather awkward. The more capable and confident drivers on the road together, the better.
  3. Accidents could decrease.
    1. The Maryland car accident rate of 2.9% could decrease.
    2. I know that’s not a large number but with 0.02% of those accidents resulting in death, I think we can do better.
  4. Commitment to learning how to drive may increase.
    1. I know measuring commitment is difficult, but pursuing a more stringent drivers licensing process would show a serious commitment on the part of any hopeful drivers.
  5. Deeper respect for the automobile.
    1. Respect is also difficult to measure, but understanding your vehicle and understanding how fast you might go, or what aggressively turning the wheel will do.

Maybe I’m just wishing for something that will never come. But I feel like it would be much more reasonable to start at the beginning, to solve this problem vs. continue to build tech at the end to help protect humans from being human.

Humans are more than ugly creatures that need to be controlled. Humans can learn and project what they’ve been taught. Good in, and I believe you’ll get Good Out. Maybe we should give it a try. Our vehicles are very “safe”, but undereducated drivers should probably be our next priority, instead of trying to send us into the future of cars that prevent people from being people.

Stay Reasonable Friends!

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