x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Air Bag: Hands-on approach to driving lessons can save lives

If demonstrating is such a valuable aid, why stop at just seat belts? Why don't we make a few more things mandatory for new drivers to learn, first hand?

Here's a great idea. This past week, The National reported on an initiative by the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) to educate its drivers on wearing seat belts. But instead of just telling them, the company is getting them in a taxi that is mounted on a giant spit and rotating the car so the drivers can actually feel the forces of gravity and how the seat belt holds them in safely. The DTC plans to get all of its 8,000 drivers in the device. "If you just tell him through a PowerPoint presentation, they'll forget it," says Yousef Al Ali, the chief executive of the DTC. "If you feel it, you'll remember it 100 per cent."

I have no doubt they would, I think. And that got me thinking a bit more. Instead of just taxi drivers, why don't we get all new drivers into this device as a mandatory part of getting their licence? As Al Ali says, it would go a long way to demonstrate how seat belts save lives.

And then I got to thinking some more. If demonstrating is such a valuable aid, why stop at just seat belts? Why don't we make a few more things mandatory for new drivers to learn, first hand?

I started to jot down a few ideas; if you've got more, I'd love to hear them.

Driving classes

No, I'm not talking about the normal in-car classes around a city block; I'm talking about getting professional drivers on one of our race tracks here to show a new driver what it really takes to control a car, not just point it in a direction and press the throttle. And those classes would include a wet skid pad, to demonstrate how to regain control when the car loses traction. You might say that this would promote hooliganism, but I think showing people to drive within and to respect the limits of their cars would go a long way towards lowering the number of accidents, fatal or otherwise, on our roads. At the very least, experiencing losing control in the safe environment of a skid pad could help the driver keep a cool head if it happens in real life.

Courtesy classes

Let's be honest, our streets are filled with drivers trying to butt in to any spot, beeping horns as the signal turns green, parking in illegal spots and blocking others - the list is endless. Let's have new drivers talk with people on the other end and have them learn about manners and etiquette - hey, maybe some of them don't even realise what they're doing is wrong. Even if it just changes a few, that's a few more people who won't be following centimetres from your bumper on the E11.

Hospitals

The most sobering and controversial element: get new drivers to spend a day in an emergency room at some of our bigger hospitals and have them hover around accident victims. Get them to hear their cries and see their wounds and, worse, get them to spend time with the loved ones of those killed in their cars.

It's easy for a driver to feel cocooned and isolated within a steel-bodied vehicle; shocking them into awareness of the personal tragedies their recklessness can cause might make them think twice the next time they want to be irresponsible.

I'm not naive, I know some of these ideas will probably never come to fruition. They are difficult, costly and time-consuming additions to getting your licence, and the reality is that many new drivers just couldn't hack it. But maybe that's the point; if you can't face the responsibilities of driving a car with other people on the road, if you aren't able to fully control your car - or yourself - then should you really be out there in the first place?