Ever since the invention of the motorcar in the first decades of the 20th century and then on to its widespread adoption for transportation and commerce in the century that followed, there has been a constant need to provide adequate driving lessons to would-be motorists, a kind of skills training that conforms to issues of public safety. It’s almost ironic that in public transportation, one of the greatest facilities of the modern era, government-mandated technical training for drivers only started very recently, when the motorcar has been on the road for more than 50 years already.

For example, in the United States and in other developed countries, driving lessons were not incorporated into the school curriculum until the 1970s. Prospective drivers were trained in public schools only when instructors and resources were available. By and large, driver training was not a requirement for public school students.

Institutionalisation of driving lessons

The 1970s saw the start of systematic, government-mandated driver lessons in the public school curriculum. The lessons drew inspiration from the book Drive Right, which covered the basics of driving and road safety regulations for a teen audience. Lessons were given in lectures and in practical tests. These lessons were often supplemented with videos and audiovisual material, which often showed graphic images of road accidents meant to ‘scare’ students to drive properly.

A paradigm shift then occurred in schools in terms of the way to approach driving lessons — the concept of defensive driving. This model of road driving is viewed as more adaptive than the prevailing methods; it aimed to ‘save lives, time, and money in spite of the conditions surrounding the driver, and despite the action of other drivers on the road.’ However, while lauding the progressive aspects of the concept, its targeted learning audience was seen as too broad, and not focused enough for the particular concerns of teen learners.

Recently, driver education was moving away from the domain of public schools. More and more new drivers are getting driving lessons from private driving schools. The typical driving school, which is operated as a business, is primarily focused on helping teens get their driving license, and less on teaching driving techniques beyond the minimum proficiency required for a license. Issues such as car control, proper management of distractions when driving, attitude, and other related concerns are almost never covered in this ‘license-focused’ teaching method.

The future of driving lessons

Summing up the experience of 40 years of driving methods resulted in much scientific research. The result of this research is now slowly being incorporated in programs of driving schools, both public and private. With driving lessons well-grounded in scientific research, there is hope that there will be fewer road incidents in the future.