This week The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency announced that they will be changing the road test for drivers in England, Scotland and Wales starting December 2017. As part of that change drivers will be required to drive for a full 20 minutes, answer vehicle safety questions while driving, prove the ability to drive in reverse by doing certain maneuvers and follow directions from a navigation device.
It is the first time I had ever heard about incorporating technology into a driving test. In the United States, driver safety tests are developed at the state level.
In Washington State for example, you can obtain an instructional permit at 15 years old if you can prove that you’ve enrolled in a driver’s training program. You must drive for at least 50 supervised hours and complete the driver’s training program before you can apply for your license. To ensure that young drivers complete this requirement, they must hold a permit for at least 6 months before becoming eligible to take a driving test. A driver is typically required to demonstrate a number of things, including the proper use of turn signals, how to checks mirrors when merging, the ability to stop behind a crosswalk at stop signs, successful parallel parking and smooth highway maneuvering.
With such strict driving rules in place you would think that we would have some of the safest drivers in the world. However, research has shown that drivers in the United States are much more likely to drive while distracted than drivers in Europe. It is estimated that over eight people are killed involving an accident with a distracted driver every single day in the United States.
Considering these statistics, it seems that we should be following the United Kingdom’s lead and incorporate training on the proper use of an in-vehicle GPS device. According to Tacoma license suspension attorney Mark Treyz, most drivers in Washington will lose their license for offenses such as driving while under the influence (DUI), fraud and repeated traffic violations. However, for drivers caught using a cell phone while driving, the fine for a first-time offense in Washington is $124. In Montana and Arizona there are no cell phone restrictions or fines at all.
Some states are working on making repeat cell phone violations a felony, complete with a hefty fine. In the UK using your phone while driving earns a driver six penalty points and a $200 fine. Fee. In addition to this it’s possible to get banned from driving or lose your license if you are a new driver. The numbers are proving that what the UK is doing seems to be working, and they are now taking bigger leaps ahead of the US by adding additional driver training.
In the meantime, we can all work together to take our own steps to be safer drivers. Pledge to not drive while distracted and stick with it. New drivers will learn by example if they see that you are serious about not using your cell phone, eating or doing anything else that could take your attention off of the road. You can also teach your children how to use a GPS while they are learning to drive and how it can be unsafe to set up after you have already started your drive.
Ericka Murray grew up in Albany, New York where she earned degrees in Communications and Art History while attending the University at Albany. She loves to travel and recently settled down in San Diego, California to work as a public relations specialist.