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Curriculum, Examination Methods That are
Used to Teach Driving Needs an Overhaul

Coastweek -- The last few weeks have seen a huge escalation in the number of fatal accidents on our roads, writes Teti Kamugunda.

Several have caught the headlines especially those that have resulted in multiple fatalities.

Most of these attention catching accidents have happened in areas that are known as accident black spots and have been identified as for very many years.

A few of these accident black spots have been in the news but there are several others that continue to have fatal accidents that do not hit the news because they result in fewer fatalities or simply in damage of vehicles – and the latter does not make the grade for newsworthiness.

The authorities that are taxed with matters to do with driving infrastructure, driver training and ensuring driver compliance have come out with a joint statement which primarily lays the blame on the driver - and quite rightly so.

Driving is primarily a science that one needs to learn well.

This encompasses the mecha-nics of handling a car as well as the rules of using the road.

These are taught in driving schools and the quality of this part is very dependent on having the right the curriculum and well as an examination process that is reliable and incorruptible.

The other part of driving - and to me the most important – is the art of driving.

In this, the driver’s interpre-tation of the driving rules when circumstances are slightly different from what has been taught in the textbooks and road practice, is what is important.

The things that can modify how a driver behaves include the way other drivers behave on the road, the condition of the road, the prevailing traffic conditions, the weather as well as the way passengers in the vehicle are behaving.

The other important behaviour modifier is the state of health of the driver.

All these are not taught in a driving school and cannot be examined.

They require the driver to understand and interpret their own role in making driving a safe activity.

The first signs that things are not well with a driver is when they start breaking the rules that they have been taught or are not able to manage the vehicle in the way they were instructed to.

So, what needs to be done to ensure that the science of driving is correctly taught and managed.

We have been saying for the last decade or more that there is need to completely overhaul the curriculum that is used to teach driving as well as the examination methods.

The driving schools in Kenya, including the premium ones, are all set up as businesses with the key objective of returning profits – and quickly.

The instructors and instruc-tions materials leave a lot to be desired.

A few months ago, I decided to go for driving instruction just to see what was available and went to two of the schools.

One is the largest school and the other is the national reference school.

I went through the training curriculum in both for five lessons (the minimum I was told) and found that the aids they use and teaching method has not changed since I first learned how to drive several decades back.

The technology of vehicles has changed and the driving conditions have changed.

The behavioural imperatives around driving have also changed.

None of the driving schools had a driving simulator.

All still used verbal instruction and the dreaded “board”.

In this day and age this is almost criminal.

A quick search on the internet showed up very cost effective simulators that can be hooked up even in a home.

They did not require any expensive items – a few monitors to create the surround effect, the purchase of a steering wheel and controls that could very easily be clamped on a table top and foot operations that can be properly spaced and mounted on a simple frame on the floor.

This is the first and most basic change that as to happen very quickly so that we do not turn out new killers on the road.

A new curriculum, more modern teaching methods and tools as well as a comprehensive and robust examination process – that is difficult to corrupt.

As far as the art of driving is concerned, we have also advocated that those who pass their test should drive with a learner label on their vehicles for at least year and then go for a full driving cycle test.

I underwent one of these in the name of defensive driving training and examination.

This required one to know how to drive in crowded urban roads, badly maintained urban roads as well as the sane in the countryside.

It also involved driving during a time when the light was changing – that is between the hours of six and seven (either morning or evening).

In my case, it rained so the examiner was able to also interrogate my driving in inclement weather.

The examiner was also able to simulate emergency situations going downhill, round blind corners as well as failure of different vehicle components.

These are the key causes of accident in the so called accident black spots in our country and there is a need to have a contin-uous bi annual assessment of driving – especially for those who are in charge of buses and mini vans used for public passenger carriage as well as drivers who are responsible for commercial vehicles used to transport goods.

Other drivers like you and me should also be subjected to re-examination at both science and art level every five years or so.

This may seem draconian but it is what we need to change the equation that we have.

However, for those of us driving over the holiday period, let us do a few basic things. First, make sure that the vehicles we drive are mechanically sound.

Drive during day times only when driving for long distances.

Do not be in a hurry and let other fools do their foolish things like overtaking when there is oncoming traffic, overloading their vehicles, tailgating and so forth.

Slow down when it rains and also when in heavy traffic.

Allow plenty of time for the journey. Have a Merry Christmas.

As Kachumbari says, draco-nian actions are required when we have the kind of crisis that we have allowed to develop on our roads.

             

 

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