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The opinions expressed in the studies are those of the consultant and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.

Content of training: Best practice

Content of training: Best practice

The fundamental goal of the education, training and licensing process should be to create drivers who are safe, and not just technically competent, by the time they are permitted to drive unsupervised and unaccompanied. Essential to this is a training process that engages novice drivers personally and emotionally, increasing their awareness of their own limitations and of the dangers inherent to driving. It is important to focus on the fundamental beliefs about driving, including assessment of the trainees own skills and motives for driving, as well as the basic skills needed for driving.

In order to provide an overview of what the licensing process should cover, the GDE Matrix was initially developed in the context of the EU's GADGET project [33], and later frequently updated [8]. This GDE can be seen as 'best practice', as it was developed on the basis of the knowledge of risk conditions and learning processes.

Table 2: GDE Matrix

It provides a hierarchical schema of the driver's task and addresses on four different levels:

Level 4: Goals for life and skills for living

This level refers to personal motives and tendencies that may influence attitudes, decision-making and behaviour in driving and, consequently, crash involvement. Examples of such tendencies are a person's desire to experience thrills, or to impress others. The basic message is 'the way you drive as a reflection of who you are, or who you want to be'.

Level 3: Goals and context of driving

This level focuses on the goals behind driving and the context in which driving is performed. Examples include the type of car you want to drive, the trips you make, and the choice to drive with alcohol or not. Clearly, level four elements might affect decisions at the third level. In turn, choices made on the third level have an influence on situations that will occur in real traffic, the level of risk (level 2) and how well the driver will be able to handle specific traffic situations (level 1) .

Level 2: Driving in traffic situations

This level is about mastering driving in specific traffic situations. The ability to adjust his or her driving to constant changes in traffic, as well as the ability to identify potential hazards and to act correctly in order to avoid them, are both included in this level.

Level 1: Vehicle control

This level focuses on the vehicle control skills. It includes the ability to control the vehicle, even in difficult situations, as well as the functioning, use and benefits of injury prevention systems such as seat belts.

These four levels are considered hierarchical, because the higher levels directly affect the lower ones. On the basis of expert opinion and literature reviews, the EU BASIC project concluded, that by focusing on the higher levels in the model in driver training, more inherently safe drivers could be produced [12]. The current training systems primarily focus on levels 1 and 2.

These four levels make up the GDE Matrix in Table 2, which defines appropriate goals for driver education, when combined with three key training areas:

  • Knowledge and skills. This area describes the basic skills and knowledge a driver needs for normal traffic situations.
  • Risk increasing factors. The driver needs to be aware of risk increasing factors, such as the effect of fatigue, worn-out tires, alcohol, and peer pressure.
  • Self-assessment. This domain deals with how accurately a driver assesses his own competencies. This is particularly relevant as this self-assessment will be the basis on which a person selects his driving speed and following distances (safety margins). Young drivers tend to overestimate their driving skills.

In 2006 Norway has based its training and testing system on the GDE. An evaluation study is expected in a few years.