How Important is Experience?

This week I have driven the same route half a dozen times.  The only difference from usual was the fact that a set of traffic lights at one junction was not working with none of the lights illuminating.

The road layout is a 40 mph urban dual carriageway. The right lane filters off to turn right and is traffic light controlled. As you would expect, when lights change to green, on coming vehicles on the opposing dual carriageway stop and it is safe to turn right.

However, with the traffic lights not working this should be treated as a give way to on coming traffic and a turn right when safe to do so.

Interestingly, I noticed one driver in front of me stop behind the white line and not move forward despite the traffic lights not working. The driver eventually moving forward and turning when safe. Later, I watched as another driver started to turn right failing to give way to the oncoming traffic, stopping in the live lane and causing oncoming vehicles to brake.

So what is my point when I ask how important is experience?

Both above drivers appeared to be unsure what to do when dealing with a junction when the traffic lights were not working. The situation was unexpected and maybe they had never encountered a similar situation before. One driver hesitating and the other turning into live traffic.

Whilst not knowing anything about the drivers in terms of their experience, both should have passed the driving test which demonstrates they have attained the minimum required standards to drive unsupervised. Both drivers should therefore already have the skills and ability to deal safely with the situation they had encountered. One of the drivers was middle-aged and driving a large Jaguar which is unlikely to be the type of vehicle a novice driver would choose. So why did they struggle?

Does passing a driving test or having experience really mean that you are safe?

What do we mean by experience? Experience of what? Doing the same thing the same way for years because that is what we have always done or the way others do things? Experience for experiences sake which is blind to the alternatives which could improve our performance? 

The reality is that if you are a poor driver, but you have many years of driving experience, you are still a poor driver. 

Getting the right experience is important. Providing opportunities to learn, to evaluate our own performance, experiment with new ways of doing things, stretching us to achieve goals, helping us to reflect and get better at what we do. 

  • Better driving =  higher MPG
  • Less accidents and  incidents =  less time off road
  • Less stress for your drivers =  more productivity

How sure are you that your drivers have the skills to stay safe? Experienced or not? How confident are you that your drivers are safe if the only measure of performance you are using is number of years driven?

We learn by doing. We get better by trying new ways, finding out what works and what does not.

Driving is something many of us do every day and take for granted.  However, it is the most dangerous actively most of us will do unless we are into extreme sports.

What training have you or your staff had since passing the driving test?