Overview of the G.D.E – Susan McCormack

Article One 

GDE Overview

The Goals for Driver Education (GDE) are set out in a matrix, which helps us address our responsibilities as ADIs to our learner drivers by giving us a framework, through which to structure our coaching. If we coach across all the levels and columns of the GDE then we are far more likely to produce young drivers, who will be self aware and able to reflect on a ‘near miss’ once they pass their test, learn from it and take steps to prevent something similar from happening again.

Once we accept that skills- and fault-based approaches to teaching do not encourage learning to take place on a deep and meaningful level, we can start to tackle the learning to drive process more effectively. It does not take any extra time to coach the learner driver so that they understand how their personality, values and beliefs impact on the way they control the vehicle. Without a coaching approach the learner drives to impress their driving instructor and to get through the driving test; once they pass the test, their true personality emerges and they enter the ‘expressive phase’ of learning to drive – very risky if they are not aware of their strengths, limitations and development needs.

This is where the GDE Matrix is really helpful.

The framework consists of four levels and three competencies.


                The 4 Levels of the GDE

Level 1: Vehicle Manoeuvring

This level is all about vehicle control skills. The student learns:

  • Vehicle maintenance
  • How to use the controls
  • How to move away and stop on level roads and gradients
  • How to change gear and use clutch control
  • How to deal with junctions, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings
  • Where to position the vehicle
  • How to steer
  • Where to look
  • How to carry out the manoeuvres
  • Etc.


Level 2: Integrating with other road users 

This level develops the learner so that they can integrate with other road users and get to grips with different traffic situations. The student learns:

  • Visual scanning
  • Hazard perception
  • Use of speed
  • Judgement and decision making in traffic situations
  • Road holding
  • Vehicle limitations
  • Eco-safe driving
  • Etc.


Level 3: Goals and context of the Journey 

This level looks at journey specific considerations. The student learns about:

  • Motivation for the journey
  • Route planning
  • Distractions
  • Passenger influence
  • Eco-safe driving (specific to the journey)
  • Effects of alcohol and drugs on driving
  • Etc.


Level 4: Goals for life and skills for living 

This level focuses on the personality of the driver and how their thoughts and beliefs impact on their behaviour generally and driving behaviour specifically. The student learns about:

  • Crash statistics
  • Typical risky personalities
  • Attitudes to risk
  • Personal belief systems
  • Personal goals for life
  • Personal skills for living
  • Etc.


The 3 Competencies of the GDE

There are three competency columns that run across all four levels. For each level the student must:

  1. Learn the knowledge and skills relating to that level
  2. Understand the risk-increasing factors relating to that level
  3. Know how to identify and self evaluate strengths and development needs relating to that level.

Goals for Driver Education


Knowledge & Skill

Risk increasing aspects

Self Assessment

Goals for life and skills for living

(Level 4)


Lifestyle, age, group, culture, social position etc., vs driving behaviour

Sensation seeking,

Risk Acceptance,

Group norms,

Peer pressure

Introspective competence,

Own preconditions,

Impulse control

Goals and context of driving

(Level 3)


Modal choice,

Choice of time,

Role of motives,

Route planning

Alcohol, fatigue,

Low friction,

Rush hours,

Young passengers

Own motives, influencing choices,

Self-critical thinking

Driving in traffic

(Level 2)



Traffic rules,


Hazard perception,


Disobeying rules,


Low friction,

Vulnerable road users

Calibration of driving skills,

Own driving style

Vehicle control

(Level 1)



Car functioning,

Protection systems,

Vehicle control,

Physical laws

No seatbelts,

Breakdown of vehicle systems,

Worn-out tyres

Calibration of car control skills

Hatakka, Keskinen, Glad, Gregersen, Hernetkoski, 2002


Traditionally, driver training focuses on the lower levels of the GDE (Vehicle Manoeuvring and Integrating with other road users) because this is what the driving test requires. Traditional driver training doesn’t need to take account of the second and third competencies of the GDE framework (Risk increasing factors and Self Assessment), because the driving test doesn’t assess these.


As ADIs we carry a huge burden of responsibility, which is to do our utmost to ensure that the young people we teach to drive will have the skills they need to keep themselves safe once they are driving unsupervised. We are relieved of our burden as soon as they pass their driving test because, as far as they and their parents are concerned, we have addressed our responsibilities by getting them through their driving test. (Of course, we may see our students again, post-test, but this is not guaranteed and maybe the ones, who don’t choose to return for Pass Plus, are the very ones, who would most benefit). However, when the road crash statistics show us that one in five newly qualified drivers will be involved in a serious crash within the first year of passing their driving test surely we have to seriously consider where that burden sits and how we can reduce it before the learner even takes the driving test?

Addressing the GDE pre-test empowers students to take responsibility for their learning, their driving and their lives and, in doing so, reduces their risk of being involved in a serious crash when driving unsupervised.

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