Driving safety and education

12/09/2010  | 

In this issue, we talk to AAA’s driving safety expert, Dr. William Van Tassel, about AAA’s involvement in driving safety education and training, and the special challenges of promoting safe driving habits among young drivers.

Q: Everyone has heard of AAA, especially related to emergency roadside service. However, AAA also has a long history in promoting traffic safety. Tell us a bit about that part of AAA.

Van Tassel: “Although we are indeed best known for roadside service, AAA has been active in promoting driving safety since it was founded in 1903. In fact, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of our first driver training materials- AAA released its Sportsmanlike Driving program in 1935. Since then, AAA has steadily increased its efforts to promote traffic safety through outreach, advocacy and education.”

Q: How would you describe the current scope of AAA’s driving safety initiatives?

Van Tassel: “In a word — comprehensive! New teen drivers, young adults, fleet drivers and senior drivers- each of these groups has its own needs and faces unique safety issues. That is why AAA offers programs tailored to each group’s needs. Although our competitors often advocate a one-size-fits-all program, such programs cannot really be expected to get the job done.”

Q: What is the latest development in AAA resources for experienced drivers?

Van Tassel: “We’re very excited about the latest version of the AAA Driver Improvement ProgramTM, the training program designed specifically for drivers already driving, whether still young and inexperienced, or with years of experience. AAA’s flagship POV driving safety program, it includes prevention-oriented strategies to address:"

  • Distracted Driving
  • Speeding/Aggressive Driving
  • Fatigue Prevention
  • Occupant Protection
  • Night Driving
  • Alcohol-impaired Driving
  • Collision Avoidance

Q: What can commanders do to promote safe driving among the young soldiers?

Van Tassel: “Of course, many soldiers will have completed a basic driver education program. That is a good start, but it’s only that- a start. Training needs to continue to achieve maximum prevention and protection. First, commanders can recognize that their commitment to protecting their soldiers from POV crashes is well justified. They very likely know that traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for drivers age 18-24, and that the application of specialize training to protect the force is a good investment.

“Second, commanders can work to keep the issue of driving safety front-of-mind among their soldiers. Young males especially need to continually receive driving safety messages- they admit that there is really no way to overload them, and that they actually need continuous ‘doses’ of driving safety information.

“Lastly, commanders can adopt a POV safety training program that meets their needs, as well as the needs of their soldiers. The program should support consistent delivery over the long-term, and effectively integrate into the military’s existing training infrastructure.”

Q: Earlier you mentioned AAA’s Driver Improvement Program.  Is there any connection between the U.S. military and this program?

Van Tassel:  “Actually, U.S. military trainers provided valuable input for the latest version of the Driver Improvement Program (DIP).  They helped us enhance the program’s modular structure, improving its ability to span up to eight hours, delivered in 60 minute sessions, as time and deployment schedules allow.  They also helped us increase the interactivity to help raise the students’ engagement even higher.

“Commands currently using the program have shared that it’s a good match with the military’s existing infrastructure, and that the program is very cost-effective to deliver.  They have also expressed an interest in an online version of DIP, so we’re seriously exploring that as well.

“We are proud that some commands are using the program, and we’re hoping to get the word out about the program to more military commands to see if it meets their needs.  Safe soldiers are essential to protecting our country, and we hope AAA can be a resource to ensure the safety of all soldiers.”

Dr. Van Tassel (a.k.a. “Dr. Bill”) manages AAA’s driver training program and has been quoted in The New York Times and USAToday on driver safety and training issues. He has also taught graduate courses in POV safety at the U.S. Combat Readiness/Safety Center.
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