On the way home a while back I rounded a corner and came upon a Nissan Armada up in the grass on the side of the road.
I immediately recognized the driver as our neighbor’s daughter and pulled over to offer my assistance.
Upon inspection, the Armada suffered no damage from the impromptu romp over the curb, but the driver was visibly shaken. Apparently while rounding the corner she ran through a patch of water from a nearby sprinkler system and, simply slid wide of the corner and in to the grass.
This wasn’t a distracted driving incident, she wasn’t texting, nor talking on the phone, by all accounts, she is what I would consider a very attentive and responsible person. It was simply one of those unexpected moments that occur in normal driving you have to adjust for. What was most surprising to me was that she simply had no clue how it happened, much less what to do when faced with what I would have called, a normal situation.
Driver control is often a key factor missing in driver’s education and she was the prime example of the system failing. While looking over the truck before sending her on her way, I learned a few interesting tidbits. Although she is a college aged straight “A” student, the terms oversteer and understeer were foreign to her. With all of the standard nanny systems onboard modern cars these days, many driving courses are simply glazing over driving dynamics assuming that the onboard systems will intervene and save the driver from themselves.
In reading over some of the excellent comments in the numerous automated driving posts, it is immediately obvious that a fair share of our readers share that common misconception as well. I started driving before these systems were available, and I vividly remember discussions on oversteer and understeer and how to correct in such situations. My driving instructor, the coach at my high school, even went so far as set up pylons in the football stadium parking lot, and made his students experience the issues in a safe and controlled manner. Basically we were given the building blocks of driver safety and we all survived just fine.
Today however is another case, and I argue that we are failing to equip our first time drivers with the most basic sense of driver control. After all we have all of those safety systems in place to take care of that for you, don’t we? So why bother?
Let me put it this way. Would you fly from Los Angeles to New York with the stewardess at the helm of your jumbo jet? After all, a modern jet has the capability of taking off, flying, and landing without pilot intervention. To most of us that would be absurd. Even with all of the redundant safety systems, we still feel the need to have a pilot in control just in case all hell breaks loose. That pilot is trained to “fly” the airplane. So why is a motor vehicle any different?
You have to remember that having systems in place help us all, however they are NOT there to save us from our own errors in judgment. I guess I think of these systems as safety net, there to help but not to live by. Like unemployment and welfare they are tools to give you a helping hand when the chips are down, and were never meant to be long term.
So am I right, or wrong? Have we taught a whole generation that technology will be there to save them. Have ABS, Traction Control, and Stability Control made our newest drivers “dynamically challenged”? Like welfare have we created a nanny system we simply can never get out of?