When I took driver education in 9th grade, I was one of the first in my grade of high school to have a car, or even a license for that matter. I admit was very proud of doing so and tended to brag just a little bit about it. But I hated going through that class, which was by far the worst class that I ever had to take. We had both a driving instructor and a teacher. The driving instructor was ex-military and a really down-to-earth guy; he never put pressure on you and was surprisingly friendly and talkative. The classroom teacher on the other hand was incredibly boring and dull to listen to, and every Monday it was two hours of dribble the came down to “You ought to be ashamed” and “I’m really smart”.
So for years now I thought “Even I could make a drivers education class more interesting than that.”
Now, I’m not saying that it would be perfect or even a class that parents would actually send their kids to, but just anything better than writing down useless basic knowledge and hearing how “It’s all your fault” and how “Teenagers cause the majority of accidents”. I honestly wish that I could’ve just done the driving parts and ditched most the listening parts, but that’s not how it works here, so a while back I started dreaming up different ways to explain some of the things that are most talked about in drivers education, in ways that would still get the point across, but wouldn’t make you fall asleep, because telling someone that they’re going to most likely get into a car accident no matter what they do won’t help them become a better driver.
I guess the best way to start would be with basic knowledge about street signs and roads, that’s probably some of the most basic stuff we could start with, like types of signs and types of roads. Speed limit, stop, yield, etc. I could show a sign or road on a projector and asking the class exactly what it means and exactly what to do. Certainly that wouldn’t be a challenge for any high school students to understand, I wouldn’t make them write down so much unnecessary stuff either, other than maybe stuff like “Type Of Sign = Action”, “Type Of Road = Action”, and “When doing this, also do this” to memorize and use to study for the written exam, it’s good to introduce a vocabulary of driving/car terms and things that will eventually become second nature when driving.
Though, maybe remembering what every sign and road means would be challenging, do kids have problems remembering signs? Maybe depending on how someone learns they might have trouble remembering what sign or road means what, but I honestly still doubt it. It’s not hard to show the class which sign or road means what type of action, but getting into the types of drivers and situations that make driving more difficult would be more in-depth and more complicated, and maybe it’s not so much remembering than it is understanding in that case, but one thing for sure is I wouldn’t show my class any of the newer drivers education videos, I honestly think some of the older ones are better suited for this topic.
The video above I think is a very good example of the types of drivers and what they can cause, the one below wouldn’t be a bad choice to show either, and while both are a bit outdated and 1950s cheesy I think they show different types of drivers very well and I would definitely show one or the other to a class of students, as I think they could really gain some knowledge about different types of drivers from these videos and be least somewhat entertained. It’s good to know what type of driver you are and what may come with being that type of driver, and after having a basic idea of what type of driver you are or might be, it would good to consider if you should change your style, or keep it.
Of course, there are some types of drivers not mentioned in the videos, but there’s nothing wrong about talking about other types of driver or driving styles, I would advise the class to ask each other about maybe some tendencies they have while driving and if they’re good or bad, safe or unsafe, and how they normally feel when driving, to better understand what type of driver they are and why. Hey, what might be a cool project for a class would be writing an essay about what type of driver you are and why, and to go into detail about it too, to not only better understand what type of driver you are, but also to better understand yourself.
Next, it would be good to introduce the most common types of situations you may come across while driving, such as accidents, reckless drivers, road rage, etc. One thing I would also introduce is dash camera videos from Youtube, I’m surprised that they haven’t started using them already, considering that we live in a a time where we can have such moments in high definition, I would assume that it would make lots of sense to show the class a few dash camera Youtube videos and have the class point out what driver was in the wrong or at fault, rather than show them a bunch of stupid gory images and keep telling them “This could happen to you”.
Besides, considering how gore and car accidents don’t really seem to have that type of affect on young people that makes them either scared to drive or super attentive anymore (If they ever did), I can’t imagine that it would really do any good, considering how most of those types of videos don’t really do a great job at explaining what went wrong and why anyway. But maybe some of you actually had to watch some of these types of videos when you were in drivers education, and maybe they actually had some affect on you that truly improved your driving. But all the videos I remember watching were either really annoying or really lame, not gory or even trying to shock you at all.
So after introducing what are some of the major issues you may come across while driving, it would be good to explain to the class how to deal with them, the #1 problem being what to do if you do get into an accident, which is almost every driver’s worst fear. Because while some accidents can be avoided, sometimes things just happen that are unavoidable like a random mechanical failure or having the sun in your eyes, and the video above has a pretty good explanation of what to do in most situations. Again, it’s a bit outdated but I honestly haven’t come across anything better yet to explain what you should do if an accident occurs, so feel free to let me know if you find something better.
You should try to avoid an accident at all costs, but what about hitchhikers? Should you avoid hitchhikers? Well, that’s honestly up to you since there’s really no wrong or right answer, because both sides have a good argument to make when you should or shouldn’t pick up a stranger in your car. As you don’t know who they are, but you also feel bad to leave them on the side of the road, but my personal opinion is to not risk it, he may be a nice fellow but you don’t know that for sure, and now that I think about it, when’s the last time you even saw a hitchhiker?
Something else I would like to talk to the class about is how to deal with pedestrians, people can do any number of things while driving a car, as they can outside of one. When driving in a city, town, or highly populated area it is best to exercise caution for people that might decide to work out into the road without looking, or decide to not even consider using the sidewalk or crosswalk. I have been in this situation more than enough times myself, so when driving in a highly populated area make sure to keep a look out for things moving around in the corner of your vision, not just for pedestrians but including kids running out into the street, cars pulling out from the side of the road, and animals trying to make it across the road too.
There are many ways pedestrians can improve their safety too, if you have to walk on the side of the road make sure to walk against the flow of traffic so drivers can see you more easily, and when crossing the street make sure to have eye contact with drivers before crossing, to confirm they can see you. Always try to be aware of your surroundings at all times, don’t get distracted when walking around a busy road or intersection, and make sure to have some extra space around you in case you have to make a quick move to avoid something that might injure you, and all these things also go for bicyclists as well. Except that bicyclists also should wear light or reflective clothing and signal their intentions well in advance.
Some will call it “Driving under the influence”, and others may call it “Drunk driving”, but I honestly prefer to group everything into the simple term “Distracted/Dangerous driving”. My reason for this isn’t just because I got tired of hearing the term in class, but because I feel that they now have too many terms for different types of bad driving, when you could just group everything into “Dangerous/Distracted driving”. Since alcohol is something that slows your reaction time, it could be classified as something that distracts you or influences you in a bad way, like falling asleep, having trouble reading road signs, texting, and having medical conditions or medications that may affect the ability to handle a car safely.
When driving, you should make sure that you’re feeling well and don’t have anything affecting your judgment or eyesight, and don’t drive when you’re impaired, tired, or sick unless absolutely necessary. And if you get lost, it’s better to pull over to a safe area to check your map or phone rather than do it while driving, because being distracted for any real length of time while driving can cause problems. Keep in mind that I’m not saying that something bad will happen for sure when you’re driving without completely paying attention, but it will greatly increase the chance of something bad happening. So if you’re concerned about being safe, don’t drive distracted or if something is affecting your judgment or eyesight.
The video above is a vintage 1970s scenario that provides driving tips to motorists, highlighting the hazards and preventive steps it takes to be a better driver. Topics include vehicle inspection and maintenance, speeding, concentration and being aware of your surroundings. As shown, some distractions maybe a driver unlawfully merging into your lane, in which to avoid you have to be somewhat distracted to make sure that an accident doesn’t occur. Basically, some distractions can be useful to you when driving, and some are not. A drunk driver maybe a distraction, but if they are in front of you it’s best that you still keep an eye on them as they might do something you’re not expecting.
On long and straight drives, sometimes you end up being put into a state of distraction sometimes known as “Highway Hypnosis”, where you’re not really tired but you’re not really paying attention either. So if something unexpected does come up, you either take more time to react to it, or you possibly might not react to it at all. This is another reason why you should be well rested before driving, so there’s less of a chance of this happening in the first place, but some of the ways to keep yourself more “in the moment” are to turn on the radio or roll down the window, those are the ones that work for me anyway.
Next up, I would like to talk about road rage, and why I think it happens, it was never really touched on in my drivers ed class but I personally think that it’s actually a rather important subject considering that it’s become a little more common recently. The driver who crossed three lanes, making you slam on your brakes – only for him to make a late left turn. The motorist who can’t seem to negotiate a right-hand turn from the right-most lane, making you wait for his imprecision, and the driver who blasts through a fresh red light or a stop sign. Things like that naturally make someone irritated or angry because doing those things are dangerous, but why would things like that cause someone to be so angry or enraged that they would go as far as to attack or injure the person that did those things?
Road rage is defined as aggressive or violent behavior from a driver’s uncontrolled anger at the actions of another motorist, a continuum of angry and aggressive behavior by drivers in response to mistakes or irresponsible or selfish driving behavior by other drivers. Some people say that it happens to the best of us, some days you get behind the wheel in a positive frame of mind, while on other days, you might be frustrated or running late. Then you see another driver do something stupid or act like a jerk and you lose your cool. However, I have a bit of a different idea when it comes to why road rage actually happens.
I believe that it actually has to do with not only a lack of courtesy and self-control, but a lack of basic morals. I also think that it could be linked to a feeling of entitlement or being directly threatened, like if someone feels like that person who ran the red light at that intersection deserves to immediately get brake checked and a beatdown because in their mind that action was an attack targeted directly at them. Or if some guy cut them off in traffic: “Clearly they don’t know who they’re dealing with, I’ll get a weapon out and show them who’s boss.” And that type of thinking usually doesn’t end when they step out of their car either. Everyone has experienced anger or annoyance when driving, but not everyone has outlandishly acted upon those feelings.
From what I have seen and experienced, road rage is perpetuated by the belief that it is warranted, the belief that the person that cut you off did it just to piss you off and for almost no other reason other than it was because he wanted to make you angry. But in reality, very few mistakes or irresponsible actions that people make when driving are actually against someone in particular, and it’s surprisingly easy to see the difference when you’re thinking straight. But the more important question is what makes some people more vulnerable to behaving in an hostile manner and how they can take more responsibility and maturity when it comes to the reactions to the driving mistakes and behaviors of others.
From someone laying on the horn at the idiot that didn’t go when the light turned green, to deliberately tailgating the old lady driving slow in the fast lane, you’re likely to encounter aggressive driving in some form or another every time you’re on the road, and sometimes the aggressive driver might be you, even if it wasn’t on purpose. Aggressive driving is one of the leading causes of crashes and fatalities on our roads, and many drivers don’t realize they’re driving aggressively until they get into a dangerous situation. Sometimes, it’s very easy to get mad at someone for doing something stupid or annoying, but instead of demanding perfection from other drivers, expect imperfection and be forgiving of mistakes rather than taking them personally.
Yeah, even if it’s your right-of-way, letting them go is your way of staying in control of your situation. However, if someone is actually trying to aggressively get you to rear end them or run you off the road, that’s a whole other matter and you have every right to defend yourself or try to calm the situation. But the number one thing to combat road rage is courtesy, be patient and acknowledge your mistakes. Being understanding and courteous can go a long way when preventing aggressive behavior and also increases the likelihood that your actions will be reciprocated. What can also go a long way is not driving with complete disregard for other people in the first place, unless it’s absolutely necessary, which it almost never is.
And finally, there would be the written test, which is probably one of the most toughest things about drivers education. Not really because the questions are difficult, but because there’s almost 100 questions and you have to remember at least 80 of them correctly. Luckily enough most people usually pass their written test on the first, second, or third time. Would I change up the written test for my class? Definitely, I would only have 60 or so questions, but the questions would also be a little more important and you could only get 10 of them wrong and no less. Because anyone can answer what a stop sign or speed limit sign means, but not everyone can answer would you should do if you encounter a drunk driver.
However, I don’t think I would change anything about the actual driving test, as it does cover all the basics. But I wouldn’t take off points for hitting the curb when parallel parking, because I feel that’s just a little too harsh, however I would take off points if it took too many tries, other than that I honestly can’t think of anything else I would change. Also, I would tell everyone in class that those school zone speed trap signs are not meant to be used as actual speed zones to catch your speed, they’re meant to tell you to slow down, just when I was writing this someone flew down the road I live on at over 50 MPH and I live in a 25 MPH school zone, but since the road is 5 blocks of no stop signs and just two of those electronic speed signs on each side, so this as a surprisingly common thing where I live.
So, that’s basically how my drivers education class would look like, or at least be close to, it’s far from perfect and I’m sure I missed a few things. But I truly think that it would be better than the class I went through. But some of you probably had a somewhat better drivers education experience than me, however if you think that someone you know would benefit from this article, then please show it to them. I’d like to think that this article would do some good for other kids who are going into drivers ed, as much of the things mentioned in this article were never talked about in my drivers ed class. But regardless of that you should still look back at the things you already learned in your own drivers ed class, because some of it was useful information, even if it was painfully boring and they didn’t know how to correctly teach it.
Vermont doesn’t administer a written test for a driver’s license or at least didn’t in 1990, the logic being that you had to take just such a test a year or less before to get your learner’s permit. (The examiner can and does ask questions about road signs and other such things that may not appear on the test route, however).
I’m not sure about how unique that is, I already knew California (at least up through the ’80s) gave a written test immediately before the road test since that’s how it was always shown on TV and movies. “License to Drive” (1988) even showed driving tests being administered in state-owned fleet cars.
What to do about hitchhikers?
When I officially made residence in Michigan in 1986, I had been a licensed driver for 6 years. To transfer my license, I had to take the written test only.
The question that I got wrong was the exact same question as #3 in the NJ test pictured above. What you do in case of a skid is not universal; it depends whether your car is FWD or RWD. I guessed that it was an old question, developed in the days when 99% of cars were RWD. I guessed wrong.
A lot of great ideas!
The chart of road signs reminded me of an interestingly philosophical sign I saw in the Mojave National Preserve in California a few weeks ago (no picture unfortunately).
“Rough Roads May Exist”. There were a few patches and potholes but nothing worse than many California roads.
I only remember one nugget of information from my Driver Ed teacher in 1972. Talking about tires, he expounded on the fact that a 6 ply rating was not necessarily a 6 ply tire. He was very skeptical about ply ratings. This was before standardized load ratings. But in the search for durable off-road tires I have been frustrated by most tire manufacturers’ lack of published information about actual tread and sidewall construction, I can hear him, with his Swedish accent, warning us that a “rating” wasn’t the same as the real thing.
I like question #17. Use hand signals to communicate with other drivers. Oh, I’ve done that!
When I took driver’s ed in 11th grade (driving age in NJ in 1971 was 17 – unique in the country AFAIK), the teachers were all gym teachers, and my instructor behind the wheel was the football coach, who made sure the jocks got dibs for the early places for behind the wheel. His best advice was the day we drove on a newly-built and almost-empty section of freeway, when he said, “Now I’m not saying I want you to lay rubber when you’re entering the expressway, but for God’s sake get up to highway speed before you try to merge!”
When I took the driver’s test, I did fine at the parallel park (didn’t hit the sawhorses marking the size of the parking space), except I was about a foot from the curb. After I wiggled the car around a couple of times to get closer, the state cop said, “Okay, I know you know how to get closer. This is good enough for today.” The only thing I would change about the NJ driving test would be to do a couple of miles on a freeway and a couple of miles on a divided surface highway (including a traffic circle back in my day), rther than confine the test to in-town 25 mph driving.
I think more car control training would be helpful, for instance a session in a skid car like many high performance driving schools use. When I took driver ed in NY in 1981 they taught to the test so parallel parking got more time then snow and ice. I think maybe some autocrosss type maneuvers would help too. The NY motorcycle test required you to ride circles and figure eights to demonstrate low speed control as well safely making it to the corner and back.
When I moved to Oregon I had to take the written test again and only missed the question on moving over for emergency vehicles. Fortunately this was a one and done for car and motorcycle.
To fast-track the drivers’ license process here in NZ (6 months less to get a “full” license”), you can take a defensive driving course. This combines classroom teaching. and in-car session and online learning. I haven’t done the course, but I understand that it is a decent course that covers a lot of “how to be a good driver” rather than just “how to be a driver”.
I love the Warm to the Touch training video. I saw a TTC sign in downtown Toronto at a subway station entrance, several Toronto Police in uniform, and several Ontario license plates from 1966. I couldn’t figure out the out of town plate on the car that front ended the other in the crash – it was white on burgundy.
Most of the license plates were all numeric Ontario plates, which passenger cars carried before 1973. The format was 123-456.
The Simpsons delivery truck better hurry, they went out of business years later. Simpsons had the best Christmas displays in their downtown store.
As for George, he was demonstrating an active voice throughout his driving, much like the Smith System that I learned at drivers ed. Always a running monologue to keep tuned to the road ahead, behind, and to the sides. I don’t recommend the brake checking or even the high beams he used on other cars though, could cause road rage in 2022. George was a bit too busy in his driving commentary on other cars though, commenting on their condition and such. Just focus on the road, let other drivers worry about their cars’ maintenance. That camera he had looked like it might have been a 35mm SLR, but hard to tell.
That Chevy driver changing his flat tire in the live lane – holy smokes a few more feet off the road and he would have been safe. As it was, he was taking his life into his hands doing that in a live lane.
I wonder what station George was listening to on the radio – talk radio or the latest hits by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Maybe they played Tiny Bubbles.
Thanks for sharing these.
I just watched this a bit more again – The Are You Warm video.
I noticed George used his left foot for the brake pedal when he had to do an emergency stop. Um, no, not recommended. It’s at 4:25.
For that matter, that brake pedal wasn’t that wide, compared to what we drive today.
Here’s the training film I’d want to include:
It’s also a pretty good ad for Chevy trucks, just as many of the early films were Chevy ads.
I would 100% use that video! That’s crazy, GM really used to make good vehicles back then.