6. Strange training system

In early 1991, just after the new Management took over the driving school, the government introduced the CBT (Competency Based Training) and VORT (Vehicle on road test) as part of its privatisation of driver licensing. Under this new system every instructor was to be trained to be also an examiner, conducting driving assessments with their own students and issuing driver’s licences. I expressed my concerns about the  logic of such plans very early on. I could foresee the problems of corruption, pressures from pupils, parents, etc. and therefore a drop in standards.

The essence of conflict, as I saw it, was this: You teach a person to drive to the best of your ability. You can be as strict as you need be. Customers like this from a teacher. But when you are also the examiner, you are not very popular, if you are very strict. The market will find instructors who are not so “picky”, who will bend the rules a little to keep a customer happy. Otherwise, who would recommend you to their friends? The constant balancing act between sticking to the high government standards and being reasonable to your clients caused me many hours of anxiety. Instructors who are honest, are the worst ones affected by this system. I raised concerns right at the beginning. I never received any response to my handwritten letter.

The MCA was the sponsor of the first edition log book, with its logo displayed on the plastic cover. We were told that our organization was in an ideal position to be the sponsor. The client was to have a choice as to which way to learn, by the log book method or the driving test. Needless to say, over 80 percent decided for the “no driving test”  log book method.

I believe our company was committed to this system regardless of how we instructors felt. We had no choice, but to go along with it. We were under the impression, that it was a trial (Australia and World first) and if it did not work, it would be abandoned. I felt forced into this progressive driver training method and not happy about it. Because it came on top of the radical changes in other work practices I felt my level of stress rising by the day.

Because the MCA logo was featured on the plastic log book cover many people thought it was a MCA program. Students liked the idea of “no driving test”, which of course was not the case. The last session in the log book was a driving test, except we were to call it an assessment instead.

We driving instructors suspected amongst ourselves that there was a secret agreement between government, the MCA and the driving instructor body to push this system through. As rank and file instructors we felt we never had a say. I kept writing to the government and the president of the driving instructor’s professional body and pointed out the shortfall and flaws in this new system. I was never taken seriously; my letters left unanswered, phone calls unreturned. The only reason for this I could think of was, there was no real argument against my logic.

We were told that reviews were to be conducted and the system revised, if it did not bring results.  Years later it turned out to be total failure. This truth, however, was never revealed, despite car insurance figures pointing to South Australia as the worst performer in road safety amongst young people. It would stay that way for many years. 

The following figures were taken directly from the insurance giant AAMI’s website. The Adelaide Advertiser reported a summary in Dec. 1999, which first alerted me to these statistics.

State by State Accident Claims (AAMI) The surge in claims by young drivers occurred in all States.

In the female under 25 years old category, the Crash Index Rate in 1999 were 

NSW was              21.5       compared to 15.0 in 1998.

Victoria were          21.3                    and 17.4,

 in South Australia  26.1                       to 15.3,

in Tasmania           14.1                       to  12.2,

on the Gold Coast  19.7                      and 16.1

and in southern Queensland 21.6          and 13.9.

Northern Queensland was the only area to go against the trend, the CIR falling from

16.6   to 14.5.

There were similar rises in the number of claims by male drivers under 25 years old.

The CIR in NSW in 1999 was 25.1 compared to 16.6 in 1998.

 In Victoria, the figures were  27.0                 and 21.0

South Australia                    31.5 and                25.5

 Tasmania                           18.1 and               15.6,

on the Gold Coast                18.8 to                 15.6,      

in southern Queensland         21.0      to           16.2

and in northern Queensland   16.7              and 13.5.

Following this discovery I went to see a local politician. I had hoped to get a group of instructors to support me. Only one turned up very late for the meeting. True to the reputation of politicians nothing came of it. I received no feedback whatsoever. Road safety traditionally has low priority, especially when the road toll (deaths) is in decline.

Later I supported this Member of Parliament in a move to install a set of traffic lights at a dangerous corner in a neighbouring suburb. The three colours of traffic lights would become another symbol of my struggle. The Member of Parliament got her lights, rewarding the small group of ten with a silver service dinner in parliament house. But still nobody listened to my concerns about the failure of new system of driver training.

Chapter 7

Index

1. More in number      2. A sound mind       3. Now I'm found       4. Candle and the Wind

 

  5. Realm of Nature      6. All in his Hand        7. The Wonder of it All     8. To Think God loves