Van Driver Training Programs
April 08, 2011
Choose a comprehensive Driver Education Program that is available when you need it.
Associate Director of Programs
Recreation and Wellness Services
University of Akron
Policies and procedures for travel need to include many elements including driver screening, insurance review, purchasing vehicles with higher safety ratings, proper maintenance and driver training. The University of Akron Department of Recreation and Wellness Services wanted a passenger van driving education program that increased safety and reduced preventable incidents. The program needed to
- Provide flexible scheduling for driver testing
- Provide accountable results
- Meet the expectations of the University’s Department of Risk Management
- Be cost effective.
The program selected was the six hour ‘I-Drive Safely’ passenger van course from FLEET corporate driving (http://fleet.idrivesafely.com/index.htm).
The I-Drive Safely program addresses basic defensive driving techniques as well as more detailed driving tips in emergency situations. The program is set up in twelve sections (see below) with five review questions at the conclusion of each section. Each section contains seven to ten pages of text the driver must read. Some sections contain optional animations to help illustrate the material. About half of the sections contain 30 second to three minute videos that the driver must watch. The interaction required to keep progressing from section to section prevents the driver from starting the program and not paying attention. The final graded exam focuses on safe driving practices.
The program is broken into the following sections:
– Driving is a Privilege
– Defensive Driving Strategies
– Traffic Signs, Signals, and Roadway Markings
– Safe Driving Practices
– Driving in the City
– Driving on the Highways
– Challenges of Driving
– Vehicle Safety and Maintenance
– Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol
– Sharing the Road and Driving Responsible
– Final Exam
Pros and Cons of the I-Drive Safely program:
- The ability to start the course and stop at any place not just at the end of sections allows individual drivers to take the test at their convenience and from any computer with internet connection, macromedia and Flash 6 player plug-in.
- Even very educated and experienced drivers will learn new things. The section on dangers of low water crossing includes an eye opening video on the physics of how vehicles get caught in flood waters including the tremendous force of the water and the amount of water displacement needed to make the vehicle buoyant. Small vehicles can loose control in just six inches of water (I-Drive Safely).
- Mixing of animations and video keep the material interesting and easy to understand and includes one click closed caption button so it can be viewed without sound and used by those with hearing impairments.
- One person identified as the administrator collects Driver’s License number and e-mail address for registration. Administrator can set the score for passing the exam such as 80%. Administrator is informed of exam score when course is completed.
- Drivers receive a certificate of completion in the mail.
- Includes a vehicle pre-trip inspection sheet if department does not have one developed yet. As a result of completing the program, a first time trip leader/driver for the University of Akron noticed low tire pressure and would not leave until the situation was corrected.
- Addresses some of the most common differences between driving large vans and normal sized cars. Provides practical advice and demonstrated techniques for making right hand turns without running over curbs or striking objects.
- Up-to-date information includes risk factors for cell phones and GPS devices. The ‘AAA’ and the ‘Network of Employers for Traffic Safety’ found one in four crashes is caused by driver distractions. Glancing from the road to insert a CD makes driver six times more likely to have an accident than glancing at a fuel gauge (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute), and programming a GPS navigation system while driving increases the risk of accidents by 30 times.
- Drivers have to plan time in their schedule to take a six hour course and some complain.
- Some of the material is ‘driver education 101’ and is too simple. Most drivers should be able to recognize stop signs and railroad crossings!
- Detailed section on child restraint devices and car seats may not be applicable for most universities.
- Program is not customized to include specific information for state laws that may be important particularly when trips include multiple states, Canada or Mexico.
- Program does not address the difference in definition between a 15-passanger van and a 12-passanger extended van – which can vary by state and insurance carrier.
- Does not address trailers or towing.
- Cost: Thirty dollars/ driver to administer test may be cost prohibitive for individual club sport teams which may need two or more drivers approved but only travel once or twice per year.
There are other programs available that provide similar services. Some require larger upfront cost but may not charge per driver. Also, not all programs have an option for specific passenger van training. Also many insurance carries and brokers now provide comprehensive loss control services and products including driver education programs at little to no cost to their clients. I-Drive Safely also has a one hour program that is normally used by companies for annual refresher courses, or for employees convicted of traffic violations.
Van driver training is important! While nothing may be an adequate substitute for hands-on driver training programs and experience, consider an online education program such as I-Drive Safely, and incorporate it into your department’s risk management plan.
(The author acknowledges the research contribution made for this article by John MacDonald, Asst. Director Sports and Adventure, Recreation and Wellness Services, University of Akron.)