Road Safety: Training vs Technology

Innovation in car safety is now firmly focused on reducing human error: reversing cameras, automatic parking and parking sensors, lane departure warnings, collision warning systems and automatic braking are all features being introduced more widely by car manufacturers.

There’s no doubt the technology will make life easier for drivers, and should contribute to reducing accidents involving serious injuries and fatalities, but how will it affect young people’s skills as they learn to drive?

The purely physical aspects of driving aren’t too difficult to pick up – which foot works which pedal, how to steer, change gear, accelerate, brake etc. – those “mechanics” test the student’s co-ordination skills to begin with, but they become automatic with enough practice.

The real skill lies in a driver’s ability to pay close attention to his surroundings, adapting his driving to different circumstances and reacting quickly – and correctly – to unforeseen situations. These essential skills are acquired with time, experience and exposure to real-life situations.

So is driver technology the key to confident driving? Or will a growing reliance on it slowly erode a driver’s capacity to learn and apply those vital skills?

Road safety campaigners like RoSPA and the RAC Foundation are pushing hard for reforms to driver training, so learning to use the new technology fitted in cars could become part of the curriculum. In July 2016, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) published a consultation which included proposed changes to the practical driving test such as using a sat nav.

But technology’s not infallible; it’s vital that new drivers are also taught to drive well without high-tech safety nets, and given the time to develop their perceptive and peripheral skills. If the time should come when a blind spot detection feature replaces an ingrained habit to glance over our shoulder, or automatic braking replaces our judgement of a safe distance from the car in front, innovation will surely have done road safety a disservice.    

Released On 28th Jul 2015

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