The driving license – a starting block for educating motorists
The driving license is both a rite of passage and the perfect opportunity to teach and educate motorists. To obtain and keep their driving license, motorists must comply with certain conditions - a number of requirements that differ according to the country of residence:
A large number of national specificities
From one country to another, or from one region to another in federal countries, what you need to learn to pass a driving test may vary quite considerably. In Germany, for example, unlike in most other European countries, learner drivers must have a first aid qualification before they can enroll in a driving school. In France, the notion of eco-driving was recently added to the skills required by candidates and, in Switzerland, this aptitude is actually part of the driving test. In New Zealand, new drivers with a "learner license" must carry out 120 hours of accompanied driving before they can take their "restricted license" test. Within this diversity, two principal types of license are linked to two different teaching methods:
Graduated licenses – learning in stages
Graduated Driver Licenses (GDLs) work according to the principle of conditionality. New drivers are initially given a “learner license” with a quota of driving hours under the supervision of a driving instructor, as well as various restrictions – limited to a certain speed, forbidden to drive at certain times (night, for example) or on certain roads (highways, expressways etc.), required to be accompanied by an adult who has held a full license for x number of years, forbidden to drive with passengers, etc. At the end of a certain period, if the learner driver has not had any incidents during that time, and sometimes only after taking another test, they get a probationary license with fewer restrictions. Then, after another trial period, they are given a full license. GDLs are used in many countries, each with differing rules (even between provinces or states within the same country) – for example, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Hong-Kong and New Zealand.
Licenses with points – reeducating motorists
Today, a points system license, first introduced in Germany (in 1974), is the type used in most European countries. The idea is simple – when a motorist has used up all the set number of points on his license (or when he has reached the maximum number of negative points allowed) due to repeated offenses, he loses his license and has to take the driving test again. Before losing all his points, he also has the option of taking a driving course to win some back. Or win them back automatically if he hasn’t committed an offense during a given period. In this way, the points system favors the idea of sending poor driving students back to school.
In many countries, new drivers are initially provided with restricted licenses characterized by a certain number of requirements and limitations (see above: graduated licenses). Special measures may also apply to senior citizen motorists, and prolongation or renewal of their licenses may be subject to a set of conditions of varying constraint – medical check-ups, new driving tests, a ban on driving alone, etc.
Example: In over half of all American states, certain restrictions or conditions govern whether senior citizens can renew their driving license (in the United States, drivers have to regularly renew their license – the validity of which varies from state to state – but this can usually be done by post). In Illinois, for example, motorists aged over 75 have to take a road test. In Maryland, drivers over 40 have to take an eye test each time they renew their license. In Iowa, motorists over 70 years of age have to renew their license every 2 years, instead of every 5 years. In the district of Columbia, senior citizens aged over 70 have to show a medical certificate confirming their physical and mental ability to drive. And actually, there is a law in some states enabling doctors, police officers, relatives and members of the public to contact the relevant authorities if they think that a person’s driving is inadequate. This person must then take a driving test.
Learning conditions get stricter and stricter
As road safety requirements and objectives get tougher, so new content or new tests are added to the driving license, or stricter systems of assessment are devised. This change is taking place in a large number of countries, yet often contradicts the political aim of making the driving license – considered a work tool and a means to reduce unemployment – accessible to a wider audience. Moreover, road safety authorities are constantly trying to find a middle ground between two traps – if they make obtaining a license too easy, they run the risk of allowing a generation of poorly trained drivers on to the road, increasing the risk of accident; if the license is too difficult or too expensive to obtain, it may encourage illegal driving, without a license, and also compromise road safety.
Example: In February 2012 the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) made it harder for new drivers to obtain a driving license. Now they must carry out 120 hours of accompanied driving (compared with the previous 50 hours) before they can enroll for their first, “restricted license” driving test, which has also been made more difficult. Some associations, however, have expressed their concern that the higher number of learning hours will make the driving license inaccessible for the poorest sectors of the population and will increase the number of young people driving without a license. According to statistics from the New Zealand Ministry of Transport, 22 % of the fatal accidents that occurred in the country between 2006 and 2010 involved a driver without a license. Among the other causes were alcohol (45 %), breaking the speed limit (12 %) and various combinations of alcohol, speed and lack of license (21 %).
New technology solutions for the clued-up motorist
New technology, social media, interactive services and in-car electronics have significantly increased and diversified the ways in which we can learn to drive. Now, at any given time and in any given place (even at the wheel), we can receive a piece of information or an instruction on the best way to drive.
Using social media
From Facebook to Twitter via YouTube, social networking and social media can be an excellent way of broadcasting a road safety campaign, particularly when targeting young drivers.
Example: In the Var département, the local police force has opened a Facebook page to announce the time and place of some of its road checks, promote upcoming road safety campaigns and broadcast road safety messages. Visitors to the page are welcome to post their comments, some of which have enabled the police to detect problems they hadn’t suspected, such as a particularly dangerous spot, poor signposting or an inadequately lit stretch of road.
With today’s multitude of media possibilities (smartphones, tablets, netbooks, screens in public places and public transport, etc.) comes the opportunity to increase the effect of traditional advertising campaigns and broadcast a message directly to motorists, or indeed target a particular category. For example, in France in the summer of 2012, the road safety authority used its character Sam ("the one who’s driving isn’t drinking") across all media and in all campaigns likely to reach young drivers – beach tours, promotions in discos and bars, video games, a Facebook page, flip books, YouTube videos, clips on giant screens at concerts, messages in promotional material for music festivals, etc.
Example: In 2011, Moscow’s department of interior affairs launched a smartphone application that hit the headlines. The app enables motorists to view accidents that have occurred at every junction and on every road they are used to taking, in the form of photos, videos (taken by CCTV) and re-enactment scenes. To encourage drivers to download the app, the agency that created the concept painted white silhouettes on the ground all over the city (like those used to mark the scene of an accident) with a blood red QR code. The idea is to raise drivers’ awareness of the dangers hidden behind their seemingly tranquil journeys and make them more careful in the spots where a lot of accidents have occurred. The app is currently in use in Moscow and several other large towns in Russia.
A smartphone that teaches... and enforces
Technology companies develop a range of car apps that transform the smartphone into a driving assistant, coach and instructor. The latest innovations include an application that uses the camera, a gyroscope, a GPS device and an accelerometer fitted on a mobile to warn the driver when he is too close to the car in front or to the white line; a device that recognizes the movements of the car and, when it is moving, automatically blocks emails, text messages and other web functions (and sends a message to the parents’ smartphone if their son or daughter unplugs the system); an electronic device that enables parents to set a maximum speed and a geographic boundary on the car their son or daughter is driving (again with a warning message if the driver exceeds these limits); an electronic breathalyzer that plugs into a smartphone to measure the driver’s level of alcohol and tell him if he is able to drive or not.
Example: The University of North Texas in the United States has developed a mobile application that alerts motorists to dangerous driving situations. Fixed to the driver’s arm, the smartphone contains sensors, a GPS system and artificial intelligence capable of detecting speed, weather conditions, sudden changes in direction and even the vehicle’s acceleration. If the device detects erratic driving, compared with its pre-recorded standards, it sends out a spoken message to the driver.
A car that is logged on - a source of information and advice for the motorist
A vehicle that is logged on and equipped with on-line services, a built-in computer and screen, and permanent links with the outside surroundings, provides countless opportunities for driver assistance and education (see also the section on "logged-on mobility"). These include so-called ecodriving systems, fitted to the car or available on GPS devices, which analyze the driver’s behavior in real time (braking, accelerating, use of the clutch etc.) and give advice on how to drive more safely and with a more economical use of fuel, or provide alternatives to a given route.
Educating via multiple channels
Road safety messages – information and instructions on how to drive more safely or more ecologically – can reach motorists by many different routes including government campaigns, community initiatives, insurance company awareness campaigns, training provided by businesses, etc. Coordination between these different players and methods of communication often determines how effective their messages and teachings are. Of particular note within this diverse range of action are:
National road safety campaigns
Usually launched by a country’s agency or ministry of transport, these campaigns have become customary or, at least, a regular occurrence. Their aim is to maintain a level of vigilance among motorists and continue to reduce the number of accidents (or, in emerging countries, start bringing numbers down). These campaigns can target a specific category of population (young people, senior citizens, passengers, pedestrians etc.), a particular risk (exceeding the speed limit, alcohol, forgetting to attach seat belts, etc.), or a set period that is considered higher risk (holiday departures).
Example: In 2004 and 2005, Dutch transport authorities launched a widespread multimedia campaign centered on a character called "Goochem", toy versions of which were given out in schools and could be fixed on to children’s seat belts. The aim was to encourage use of rear seat belts for 4-12 year-olds. The campaign was a success – the proportion of children using a safety device (seat belt or other) in the Netherlands increased from 75 % in 2004 to 82 % in 2005 and 90 % in 2006.
Awareness campaigns in schools
These campaigns are usually run by governments, local authorities, associations or NGOs. They usually have two main goals – to teach children good road safety habits and behavior in order to protect themselves as pedestrians, and to teach them the basic rules and procedures - to pass on to their parents if necessary – required to travel safely in a car.
Example: In September 2012 in India, the PVR Nest foundation and Delhi city authority launched an 8-month campaign targeted at 100,000 pupils in 1,000 schools in the city, with a view to raising awareness of road danger. Pupils were encouraged to participate in a host of activities - art workshops, puppet shows, films, dance, school trips, etc.
Educating and informing motorists is becoming a global affair. Large international organizations (the UN and its decade of action, the World Bank etc.), NGOs, associations, foundations and specialist funds - Global Road Safety Partnership, Make Roads Safe, SafeWay2School, Road Safety Foundation, to name but a few - regularly run various types of action, particularly targeted at emerging countries where there is a high incidence of fatal road accidents .
Example: The organization Make Roads Safe launched a global awareness campaign – the Zenani Campaign – named after Zenani Mandela, the great-granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, who died aged 13 in a car accident. As part of the campaign, bracelets and badges are sold in order to fund projects to protect children from road accidents throughout the world.
Training and awareness campaigns in businesses
Many companies now run information or training programs to encourage their staff to drive more safely and more efficiently. There are a number of objectives – to reduce the number of accidents at work, lower stress levels among employees, optimize time spent traveling to work, improve vehicle fleet management, lower greenhouse gas emissions, save fuel etc.
Example: The French postal operator, La Poste, has provided the most extensive training program on ecodriving in Europe. More than 60,000 mail carriers – using a fleet of 42,000 vehicles and covering 760 million kilometers a year – were trained to drive in a more fuel efficient manner. The company’s aim is to cut CO2 emissions by 1,000 tons a year and save 5 million liters of fuel a year.
Insurance companies help educate
In order to reduce the number of road accidents and boost their image, most insurance companies regularly invest in awareness campaigns and actions aimed at motorists, either on their own or in partnership with governments, NGOs, etc. These actions are also carried out at an inter-professional level, by federations or groups of insurers. In France, for example, the association Prévention Routière was founded by the FFSA (French Federation of Insurance Companies).
Example: In June 2012, the insurance company DirectAsia.com, in conjunction with Singapore authorities, launched their Road Courtesy Campaign to promote motorists’ civic-mindedness throughout the city. The campaign used mobile, press, radio and web advertising and focused on 5 key messages, symbolized by icons to display on cars.