Should eco-driving be part of driver’s education?
As awareness of the benefits of eco-driving habits builds in the US and around the world, there is also a growing interest in incorporating eco-driving techniques in early drivers education courses.
Until recently, professional eco-driving training has been a specialty course provided to already-experienced drivers, often as a work-related program for professional fleet drivers in an effort to reduce company fuel expenses and reduce preventable accidents.
Several studies done in the last 10 years indicate a direct connection between efficient drivers and those drivers with fewer preventable accidents.
One internal study at a major US-based trucking company indicated that their top fuel-efficient drivers were squarely in the top percentile of drivers with the fewest preventable accidents. It was also found that their drivers who routinely drove in an inefficient manner were among those drivers with the greatest number of preventable accidents.
How are eco-drivers safer drivers?
By practicing eco-driving techniques motorists maintain a high level of awareness to traffic patterns and the flow of vehicles around and ahead of the driver, allowing the driver to plan to minimize the loss of momentum while operating their vehicle safely and efficiently.
Eco-driving motorists are encouraged to “de-couple” emotionally from the circumstances of normal traffic, focusing instead on a competition between “themselves and the gas pump” verses jockeying for position with other drivers around them.
By limiting the top-speed and maintaining generous following-distances eco-drivers give themselves extra time to react to unexpected changes, providing additional decision making time and a greater likelihood of maintaining control in evasive maneuvers.
This correlation between efficient driving and safe driving creates an opportunity to apply measurable indicators to driver safety.
In the past an individual driver’s skill and risk was measured by referring to DMV records to count number and severity of traffic citations, or by referencing insurance records to measure the number and severity of traffic accidents on record. “Defensive driver” insurance discounts are provided to drivers who have had fewer accidents and fewer citation – without any real data to determine if the driver is truly driving in a safe and skilled manner – or has just been lucky.
With the advent of inexpensive on-board driver-behavior data-logging devices (like the CarChip Pro) we can build software systems (like FuelClinic) that are designed to analyse real-world driving behavior based on actual data. With the proper training and monitoring programs in place, this driving data can be processed in near-real-time with timely reporting in an on-going effort to improve both fuel efficiency and safety records.
Several states are currently working to add eco-driving to drivers education, including Michigan and Florida, with RFPs seeking qualified training materials to be added to their existing driver training programs.
What do you think? Should eco-driving techniques be added to the existing driver’s ed program in your state? Comments are welcome below, or join the discussion over at our Facebook Community.