Knowledge and skills
The first column on Level One focuses on how to use the car and its controls in a technical sense. The issues to be covered include, for example:Use of vehicle controls
• Basic mechanics
• Starting the car
• Using the clutch
• Changing gear
• Braking (foot and hand brake)
• Seating position and seat adjustment
• Adjustment of rear-view mirrors
Knowledge of vehicle properties
• Tyre grip and friction
• Front wheel drive vs. rear wheel drive
• Manoeuvrability and stability
• Effect of in-vehicle load (on e.g. stability or fuel consumption)
Control of driving direction and position on the road
• Driving straight
• Keeping car in lane
• Under-steer or over-steer
• Reversing and parking
• Need of free space around the vehicle, turning radius
Risk increasing factors
Risk increasing factors in column 2 connected to vehicle manoeuvring include, for example:
• Technical faults of vehicle (e.g. neglect of car maintenance, insufficient tyre pressure)
• Insufficient manoeuvring skills
• Misunderstanding of vehicle dynamics and properties
• Unsuitable speed adjustment
• Human reaction times
• Non-use of seatbelts and other safety devices
• Blind spots (not checking surroundings before driving off, mirrors)
• Improper seating posture
• Effect of load
• Over-reaction, under-reaction, wrong reaction
• Over-steer, under-steer
• Effect of different braking techniques
Self-evaluation (Column 3) on this level is to a high degree about making connections between action and outcome of that action. When talking about manoeuvring, this insight is closely connected to the concept of risk-awareness, or ‘why am I doing X in this way and not in that way and ‘what did I do to make the car go so and so’. The idea should be that the learner reflects upon the risks involved in working the car as a machine but also, and most importantly, when manoeuvring this machine. Learners could also be encouraged to reflect upon such things as e.g. the ‘showing-off’ aspect of vehicle handling. An added bonus of this increased insight is that viewing a topic from different angles works as a reinforcement of the knowledge itself.
This column is concerned not only with evaluating and giving the learner a realistic picture of his or her personal strengths and weaknesses regarding vehicle manoeuvring. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to connect basic manoeuvring with behaviour on the other levels, mainly level 2, but also 3 and 4.
As far as driver training is concerned, the hierarchical perspective demands a wide range of methods in teaching / instruction. Skills for vehicle manoeuvring and mastery of traffic situations are the basis for successful operation in traffic and these aspects should be learned well during driver training. Psychomotor and physiological aspects are important as basic requirements for operations at the lowest levels of the hierarchy of driver behaviour. However, the skills that are applied and the choices that are made at the lower levels are under guidance of goals and motives on the highest level. The driver selects the style of manoeuvring and the driving strategy in a certain situation according to his or her goals. In addition to the training of basic skills, driver training should also deal with the higher levels in the hierarchy and take into consideration the driver’s goals connected with driving and, for example, skills for dealing with social pressure during a trip. Training that is targeted at the lower levels only will limit itself to just a narrow part of the total concept of driving. In order to be safe, a driver should therefore not only be skilled but also aware of potential risk factors and his/her own abilities and motives as a driver.
The contents of training should be meaningful and valid not only in training but also in real life. All exercises and discussions should relate to real scenarios that the learners can identify with. They should also be expanded upon to include other scenarios so that the awareness of associated risks is raised. Countermeasures must overall be taken to avoid overconfidence.
Overconfidence has been shown to occur:
• When there is too much emphasis on vehicle manoeuvring skills and coping with danger, and not enough on risk-awareness training (including risks connected to the higher levels)
• Where practical exercises are not followed up with sufficient client-centred discussions, designed to explain and deepen understanding of the message of the exercises.
• When a skill exercise ends in success
• When there is no connection between the practice and reality
• When the amount of repetition is great (strengthens the idea of practising).
If a learner is allowed to believe that he or she is a skilled driver who can handle hazardous situations, then these situations are no longer regarded as equally hazardous. These drivers are therefore unlikely to be motivated to drive more carefully than they feel is necessary. Overconfidence occurs easily if not actively counteracted.
Methods to avoid overconfidence include:
• Training of a skill, e.g. a manoeuvring exercise, should be followed by exercises and discussions aimed at highlighting the risks involved in using the skill (overconfidence)
• Making sure that a skill-based exercise does not end in success (a gratifying experience)
• Compare the exercises with situations that might be encountered on the road, linking them to reality through the learner’s own experiences.
My next article will take a close look at Level 2 of the GDE matrix and show the part it plays in developing safe and competent drivers.