National Safety Council’s multi-media “Defensive Driving Course”

Here’s a brief review of a useful app, if you want to call it one. That is, the National Safety Council’s six-part online Defensive Driving Course (DDC), which some auto insurance companies provide link to in exchange for a discount on premiums upon completion and passing a final exam, which comprises 25 multiple choice or true-false questions and requires a score of 80%.

The sessions present a variable number of panels (from 16 to 147) that play videos or easel-like lists. Some break into subpanels which take longer.  The entire course is supposed to take four hours, but it is likely to be closer to take six.  You may want a full weekend day or two successive evenings.

Defensive driving means a driver’s preparation to avoid collision even given conditions beyond the driver’s control, including other driver behavior, road hazards, and weather.

The second part places a heavy emphasis on vehicle care and encourages car owners to be able to check their own oil and all other fluids, as well as belts and battery connections, frequently.  I usually leave these to scheduled oil changes at a dealer.

There are some interesting points along the way. For example, there is no such thing as a “right of way”.  There is only a “duty to yield right of way”.  Also, road rage is presented as more related to stress than to hostility or mental illness.  And excessive speed is seen as contributing more to fatal collisions than failing to yield right of way or running lights.

There are some areas I think the course should have covered.  I’ll mention a few.

Although the course covers the problem of blind spots well, it doesn’t cover the best lane to drive in.  In some states, like Pennsylvania, it is illegal to stay in the left lane of a divided highway except to pass.  But when you are on a freeway and see someone trying to merge from a short lane, should you get over, or simply slow down and let him in?  I don’t like lane changes until necessary.  But many localities have many disappearing lanes and require sudden lane changes (too abrupt).  Many states fail to inform you which side of a highway you need to be on to exit (as often there are exits to the left or merges from the left in Virginia and Maryland).

Occasionally some highway accesses have no merge areas but have yield rather than stop signs. This needs to be covered, as these locations cause read end collisions.   US 175 (the North Central Expressway) in Dallas was one of the nations worst (near downtown Dallas) in the 1980s. Another problems is that when trying to merge or change lanes some drivers do not slow down and let you know that it is all right to merge;  some expect to race to beat them, and there may not be room to do that.

Another topic that could be covered better is particularly readiness for cyclists riding the wrong way (salmoning).  Still another is right turning on red.  Sometimes right turn is prevented where the sight distance really isn’t sufficient for the speed of traffic.  I will refuse to turn right on red in such situations, and drivers behind will honk. In one or two cases, road rage nearly resulted, and once a driver barely missed a wreck turning around me (and then got caught and ticketed).

Another topic needing more coverage is “stale green” and how to deal with the idea that a light goes yellow at the last second.

The Venus Williams accident in Florida, where it has not been possible for police to charge anyone and where liability is very much in question, could use attention in a course like this.  The course does cover the Princess Diana accident in France in 1997 in Part 2.

(Posted: Saturday, January 6, 2018, at 1 PM EST)

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