Enhancing Force Readiness with Online Driver Safety Training

02/16/2011  |  William E. Van Tassel, Ph.D. AAA National Office

Upon the release of AAA’s new online Fleet Driver Safety Training program, the value of ongoing driver training, including computer-based training, is explored. Key considerations are discussed, toward achieving the desired goal: risk management to maximize force readiness.

“Driving is risky, and many soldiers are at even higher risk when they drive.” This sentence may sound simple, but it’s true- every time a solder gets behind the wheel, he or she is at risk of experiencing a collision, and injury or death. And people who drive as part of their job, in addition to driving while off duty, drive even more miles than the average driver. The bad news- the costs of crashes is very high. The good news- action can be taken to reduce soldiers’ risk behind the wheel.

Why Train to Manage Risk?

Most organizations underestimate the real risks involved in driving, as well as the actual costs incurred when a crash happens. While personal injury is obviously the primary cost and concern, other real and significant costs could include property damage, vehicles being out of service, and increased insurance costs.

Although risk is always present when driving, fortunately training is available to help minimize and manage the risk associated with operating a motor vehicle. Risk management and reduction through training is a smart approach, and an important part of a command’s overall risk management strategy.

Why Online Training?

Even though traditional, classroom-based training is still relevant and effective, many organizations are also utilizing online training. Since the military operates ‘round-the-clock, online training can be a great way to accomplish training and safety goals. Several benefits of online training worth mentioning include:

  1. Schedule Flexibility. With traditional classroom instruction, soldiers generally need to be completely pulled off other duties for one or more days at a time. With online training, however, this is not the case- each soldier can complete the courses of study at his or her own pace, fitting study time in between other responsibilities.
  2. Distributed Learning. Ideally, any training would occur only once, and its effects would be realized for a lifetime. Unfortunately, it generally doesn’t always work that way. A safety training event rarely turns out to be a one-time “inoculation” against harm. Rather, it is perhaps better viewed as part of an ongoing investment in enhancing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Online training supports this by allowing a given course of study to be spread out over time.
  3. Ability to Customize Course of Study. Not all soldiers drive under identical conditions. By utilizing online training’s ability to offer many different module topics, an individualized course of study can be created for each driver, if desired. Although most soldiers could benefit from a core set of online driving safety modules, customized courses of study can be created, with little additional effort, resulting in a truly customized individual training program.
  4. Cost Effective. Online driver safety modules can be cost effective. First, the cost-per-soldier can be quite low, especially when obtained in larger quantities, to take advantage of volume discounts. Second, many of the costs associated with traditional classroom training (travel to and from the training facility, housing, meals, brick-and-mortar classroom facilities, instructor costs, etc.) are simply not incurred with online training. Either added to an existing classroom-based driving safety training program or comprising the complete course of study, online training can be quite cost effective.
  5. Freshness of Course Content. Fortunately, traffic safety researchers are constantly releasing new research studies which can significantly benefit driver safety training programs. For example, one organization found that text messaging while driving increased crash risk 23 times among truck drivers. It is this type of finding that can be utilized to educate drivers, and that is where online programs can really shine.
  6. Ease of Program Administration/Management. Most online driving safety training systems now feature an easy-to-use administrative management system. Such systems allow designated leaders to assign courses on a person-by-person or a group basis, with just a few keystrokes. Those not keeping up to pace with their assigned progress/completion schedule can be flagged and counseled; the mantra of “What gets measured gets done” is still as applicable as it ever was. For day-to-day management of even a large number of students, an online training system makes sense.

The Next Step: How to Learn More

First, be sure to identify those that have a strong background in safety. Just because a provider has technical experience in delivery and offers online driving safety training courses does not mean that the content within the courses is of high quality. At AAA, we integrate the findings of scientific research to the maximum degree possible, resulting in the most current and impactful content possible.

Second, look for providers that are known to you, with safety as a sincere and verifiable part of their mission and reason for existence, beyond merely the profit margin. Seek out providers whose programs are based in research, and whose subject matter experts continue their own training in order to stay well ahead of the field. Since there is a constant flow of new transportation research findings to be applied to training, updates should be frequent and meaningful. In sum, explore only those with both a true commitment to safety and experience developing research-based safety programs. On AAA’s part, our experts stay current by personally conducting research and attending transportation conferences all over the world.

Third, take advantage of many providers’ free trial offer. This is easy with AAA; just visit AAA.biz/OnlineDriverTraining, and click on a course to get started.

Moving Forward

Since 1935, AAA has offered driving safety programs to help protect drivers. With the release of its online Fleet Driver Safety Training program, commands now have a proven resource to bring to bear on the driving safety issues faced by the military. Featuring research-based content, efficient administrative systems, and a customizable course of study, the program is designed to help you protect you soldiers, when both on- and off-duty. We invite you to explore the program, available at AAA.biz/OnlineDriverTraining.

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