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Review: Driver Skills Australia – Defensive Driver Training

March 18th, 2004
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Defensive Driver Training… Who needs it?

The simple answer is that we all do.

No matter how skilled of a driver you are, or that you think you may be, it’s no easy task to correctly react in a situation that could put your own life at risk, or even others. With some easy-to-learn techniques that you can master in the span of a few hours, you could save yourself and others from an accident and more importantly death.

So why do it? Being an automotive journalist, I drive all sorts of vehicles day-in-day-out as part of my job, spending most of my hours on public roads. Making the time to get around to do a refresher in the course after completing the training many years ago, is a great way to re-cap as road rules change rapidly and vary from state to state. Driver training is an important step to learning the ropes when driving, especially on public roads where so many accidents take place and the unexpected often happens. People spend countless hours driving daily, whether it be for work, commuting or simply just fun. Yet, no time is taken to actually learn the basics of car control. The majority of drivers don’t know the difference when driving in various conditions, simply just wet and dry, Defensive Driver Training helps with this, providing practical insight as to the capabilities of a vehicle in various conditions and scenarios.

Driver Skills Australia Defensive Driver Training Driver Skills Australia Defensive Driver Training

The DSA Level 1 Defensive Driver Training Course has been developed to provide drivers with a greater understanding of the risks associated with operating vehicles in a variety of environments. Most cars these days have a much higher standard in safety than that of previous years, it's important to remember that no new safety systems are bulletproof and do require the driver to have a large contribution in avoiding an incident.

It’s no surprise that DSA has identified that most car crashes are associated with -

•         Disregard to road conditions
•         Speeding
•         Driving when tired
•         Trip and time management
•         Not wearing seat belts
•         Vehicle loads

It’s amazing how many drivers take unnecessary risks when driving to achieve very little. DSA train drivers to understand what the ideal driving methods are, and emphasise the importance of road etiquette and obedience. A common risk many road users don’t realise; can be as simple as an incorrect driving position which immediately reduces the drives capacity to correctly balance and operate a vehicle at its optimum, a problem almost all drivers where made aware of during the training day.

Covered in the course provided by Driver Skills Australia are the following:

Knowledge -

•         Concentration and Attitude
•         Risk Taking Behaviour
•         Fatigue Awareness and Time Management
•         Effects of Speed
•         Vehicle Loading / Trailer Towing
•         Trip Management
•         Road Law
•         Alcohol Awareness
•         Drug Awareness
•         Common Crash Scenarios
•         Safety in the car
•         Driving Position
•         Steering Techniques
•         System of Vehicle Control
•         Braking Systems
•         Tyres
•         Emergency Procedures
•         Defensive Driving Techniques

Driver Skills Australia Defensive Driver Training Driver Skills Australia Defensive Driver Training

Skills -

•         Achieve a safe emergency stop on a wet road
•         Apply hazard avoidance techniques
•         Experience the effect of speed on stopping distance
•         Apply vision skills
•         Apply correct car control techniques

The course provides theory and practical demonstrations to reinforce the importance of these common road safety issues and works towards achieving a responsible attitude to road safety. In particular, I was surprised by the number of drivers on the day who didn’t know how to utilse the highest level of breaking performance from their vehicles in an emergency, a simple task you may think, obviously not. DSA also goes to great lengths to make divers aware of the various degrees of breaking distance required at various vehicle speeds, another example that found drivers dumbfounded on the day.

Mark Butcher, Director of Driver Skills Australia says:

“My experience in driver training indicates that 'the thing we fear most we have already experienced'. This recognised learning pattern can be related to our child hood when you are often told not to do something but still do it to find out for yourself. Once you have been burnt once you tend to be a lot more cautious.

Isn’t it time that the Government and Road Safety Authorities realised that if we keep sending drivers out on the road with only basic skills and some experience gained along the way with mum and dad that we won’t see any significant reduction in the rate of crashes and fatalities? How much can we spend on advertising and improving the roads before someone has the balls to realise its poor training that is the common denominator in the majority of motor vehicle crashes.

To draw a simple parallel, a student pilot can be trained to take off and land in only a few hours – but they must understand the theory behind the aircraft, rules and regulations and practice emergency techniques before they are allowed to fly solo. They are also assessed by a competent instructor for the duration of the training. Often this can be achieved in about 20 hours of practice and a few weeks of part time study. How can we expect to 'test' our learner drivers in 45 minutes driving around the block?

Drivers need to be provided with an opportunity to experience firsthand the effect of speed, reaction time and road surface before they drive on the road. And this needs to be done in a safe controlled environment to enable drivers to experience how easy it is get into a difficult situation – even at speeds of less than 50km/h. No simulators or skid cars – the real thing is the only way drivers will learn.”

Driver Skills Australia Defensive Driver Training Driver Skills Australia Defensive Driver Training

On completion of the course, drivers will be able to demonstrate:
•         An awareness of how risk taking and motivation can affect your safety on the road.
•         How to identify potential hazards and avoid them.
•         Improved vision while driving.
•         An understanding of the risks associated with Alcohol, Drugs and Fatigue.
•         The importance of correct tyre pressures and condition of tyres.
•         The importance of seat belts and other safety devices in the vehicle.
•         How to minimise distractions and loose objects in the vehicle.
•         How to identify different braking systems and how to use them effectively.
•         How speed can effect stopping distances
•         A responsible attitude to self, other road users and community.
•         How to apply defensive driving techniques.

Above all the many safety advantages to completing the Driver Training Course, you will receive a Certificate of Achievement for attending the course which may be required in certain occupations. Also, the certificate may be used to considerably reduce Vehicle Insurance Premiums from certain Insurers, so be sure to contact your insurer in regards to this.

I always recommend that car buyers don't disregard safety options on vehicles just to save a small amount of money in comparison to a life, and that philosophy doesn’t take a turn here either. If there is something you can do, as simple as taking a few hours out of a day to drastically improve on your or your child’s driving skills, I hope you make the smart choice and do it; after all, there's no price to a life.

If you are interested in the Defensive Driver Training Program, please find the contact details below:

Driver Skills Australia Pty. Ltd
Phone: 1300 880 956

Training is available Australia wide.

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