Why car manufacturers should offer driver training as standard on all new vehicles

by Jill Boulton

The recent tragedy of the little Spanish girl killed by a tablet computer in a car crash is a sobering reminder of how dangerous road travel can be, even in the apparent safety of a modern vehicle.

Isn’t it shocking that, in this era of obsessional car occupant safety characterised by crumple zones, driver assist everything, ABS, airbags, soft surfaces and child safety seats – that an innocent traveller could be killed so easily?

Ironically, this 3-year-old girl would probably have been safer had she been in this same situation 10 years earlier, before it became the norm for young car passengers to use tablets as toys and after car manufacturers really upped their game in terms of in-car safety.

Ironic, too, that this little girl may have survived this crash if she’d been born 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years earlier – with or without a child safety seat or seatbelt.

There are a number of other points that arise from this very, very sad case.

Firstly, it’s highly likely that some entrepreneur, or the tablet manufacturers, will very quickly come up with some kind of cover or accessory which makes the tablet a bit safer to interact with while in a vehicle. It’s difficult to see how a very hard product constructed mainly of metal and glass can be made a lot safer as well as enabling the user to use the touch screen, but you can bet that there will be a new product on the market before long.

Secondly, car manufacturers will be very quickly on the case, trying to make sure that no one dies using a tablet while in one of their cars … no doubt there will be a ‘safety tablet pack’ offered by your car’s manufacturer soon.

But the inevitable manufacturer activity, new products, and warnings that are likely to arise from this sad case will miss the point, I fear.

The reality is that while car manufacturers can make their cars as ‘safe’ as possible, there is little they can do to control the behaviour of the occupants, or the objects we choose to take with us on our journeys. Or is there?

While the exact circumstances and facts that led to this crash are not known, it’s a pretty widely held belief that driver training reduces the chances of an accident, or the severity of one.
If the child’s mother had been highly trained, could the crash have been avoided? Her car collided with the back of a bus. Training improves concentration, and awareness of the circumstances around us, giving the information we need as soon as it’s available, so that we can take the appropriate action.

I would like to see the high-profile manufacturers such as Volvo offer and promote driver training – because this is the only way to reduce accidents today, whatever dangerous projectiles we carry in our cars with us.

Sadly, any reference to training on the Volvo UK website refers to staff training and not driver training.

So while car and tablet manufacturers will inevitably congratulate themselves when they launch their clever new option or safety accessory, and the nanny state will want us to ban the use of tablets in cars, the answer to making our roads safer is far, far simpler and is available to us all – today.

Meanwhile, I wonder if there will soon be a case of a car driver or white van man being killed by their phone or tablet while using it? It’s bound to happen at some point – and they won’t be so innocent.