According to a recent survey released by MoRTH (Ministry of Road Transport and Highways), over 77 percent of the accidents happen due to an error of the driver. In addition, WHO (World Health Organisation) has ranked Indian roads as the most unsafe in the world and that is why a formal training for driving is critical. Countries like China have enforced the system of keeping a formal training school mandatory before applying for a licence according to Mahesh Rajoria, Senior Advisor, Maruti Driving School and IDTR (Institute of Driving and Training Research). He further added that in case someone wants to learn by avoiding a formal training, the rules in China are such that one can teach a learner only if there a two-pedal configuration on a car. This system has a spare set of clutch and brake levers on the codriver's side override a learner's input and an instructor can use them in the case of an emergency. We recently visited Maruti's IDTR to understand how a formal training plays a key role in improving road safety, good driving habits and awareness about road signs and here are our key learnings.
The first aspect is to understand why driving schools are important. An instructor in a formal training school will, first of all, have a certain number of qualifications including rigorous tests and hours spent on a simulator as well as on public roads. Only after these parameters are passed by a prospective instructor is he allowed to become one for a driving school. The next aspect is that each driving school with proper approvals would have a certain number of two-pedal configurated cars which teach the basic as well as advanced habits to keep in mind while driving. Students who come to driving schools have to first go through theoretical sessions which tell them about the basics of road signs as well as inculcating safety as a priority when behind the wheel. They are then assessed on a simulator with real time driving situations as well as various weather conditions that would be faced in real time. The next step is to assess the driving capabilities in a closed course and finally, learners are assessed on public roads. All these parameters are accounted for where an instructor has to keep a close eye on the different kind of mechanisms that a learner operates and how well he or she does it. The process looks tedious and has a number of tests for a learner to go through, however, versus a local driving instructor or a relative teaching you the 'right' aspects of driving, it is much better.
A local driving instructor, even if Government approved has the convenience of bringing the service to your residence. This instructor would not have a closed course even if he or she has a two-pedal configuration on a car. What this means is that a person learning how to drive would be doing so on public roads straightaway which is extremely dangerous for other road users as well as the learner. In addition, there are some good practices that an instructor can pass on to a learner like fastening the seat belt before even starting the car. In case a learner opts to learn driving from a relative who doesn't engage the seat belt as soon as he or she sits in the car, the same would be inculcated into the learner. In addition, the knowledge about all road signs and what each one means is very critical as well. This would also be a challenge when learning from a relative in case they have limited knowledge as well. This is why driving schools play a key role.
There are a few major challenges though. A driving training school would impart the best methods about road signs, road safety and the best way to drive a vehicle and it comes at a considerable cost. Moreover, a learner would have to go to the driving school as opposed to a Government approved local driving instructor who would deliver the service to your door step and may cost less that a professional training ground with qualified personnel. If it is a relative teaching how to drive, there would no cost involved thereby saving a lot of money. But what people with such doubts need to consider is the value of life viz-a-viz a small amount of money. The amount of savings is simply not worth putting the lives of other road users at risk for no fault of theirs.
What is more of a surprise for a country like India where road fatalities are alarmingly high due to driver error, there is no set mandate for learners to join traffic schools or driving schools which a number of carmakers have started in order to improve safety by the Government. According to Rajoria, this should be enforced by the law so that people are encouraged to learn from such professional driving schools reducing road fatalities eventually. Another part where Maruti Suzuki's IDTR's Senior Advisor emphasised was the fact that driving safely should be a part of the curriculum in schools in order to inculcate a safe driving habit even before a person starts to drive. This would undoubtedly reduce the number of road fatalities that occur in India every year eventually making travelling by road a much safer affair.