Mercedes-Benz revolutionises driver education
Launching at Mercedes-Benz World in June, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy offers three main modules: Pre-road module (age 12 – 16yrs), Provisional Licence module (age 17+yrs) and Post-test module (for those who have already passed their test). With the handling circuits at Mercedes-Benz World, in Weybridge, Surrey, students as young as 12yrs can enrol in the Academy and start mastering driving skills in a safe environment off the public roads, under the expert tuition of certified personal coaches. This allows them to get familiar with the car, gain confidence and focus on controlling the car before they have to deal with traffic situations out on the public roads. Concentrating on one thing at a time in a stress free environment eventually leads to more effective learning and better driving habits.
The positive impacts of learning to drive at a younger age have been demonstrated in Sweden where the introduction of the Swedish Young Drivers initiative reduced accident rates by 40 per cent in the first year amongst drivers who started behind the wheel 18 months earlier - at 16yrs3.
Mercedes-Benz has been working with Dr Mika Hatakka (Turku, Finland), an internationally acknowledged expert of driver education, to develop an innovative curriculum-based programme. The structure of this programme takes into account recommendations from a series of EU road safety research projects that look at the benefits of learning to drive younger and earlier, as well as best practice tuition techniques.
With over 190 different skills, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy takes a holistic approach to learning to drive. Passing the driving test focuses on two key areas - basic vehicle control and mastering traffic situations. The new research-based Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy curriculum goes far beyond car control with two completely new ‘psychological’ modules covering journey planning, dealing with peer pressure in the car, personal motivations, time pressures, health and wellbeing and social influences - all of which are adapted according to relevance, age, module and ability. Example tasks also include practical lessons in car maintenance, first aid and the best ecological and economical ways to drive.
As well as coaching students to master driving skills, the Driving Academy will also teach risk assessment and prevention via practical experiences and role playing exercises. These exercises will include training on how to avoid losing control of a car, the importance of eliminating distractions and what to do with a car full of noisy friends or loud music. Using a variety of techniques from practical tuition on the handling circuits and on the public roads as well as classroom seminars and peer group discussion sessions, students will be tasked with actively thinking about driving as well as learning to drive. Self-evaluation and effective use of feedback are given extra emphasis in the programme via in-car cameras and post-session interactive discussions. In addition, a web-based skills tracker will allow both students and parents to monitor progress throughout the different levels of the Driving Academy curriculum, and to see exactly what has been achieved in each lesson.
The Academy’s holistic approach also offers ‘Parent-Partner-Sessions’ where parents are given practical advice (on the handling circuits) on how to become the best possible in-car advisors when they are with their children outside of the Academy.
The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy also recognises the importance of supporting young drivers after they have passed their test as their driving experience in traffic develops. The Post-Test Module offers students a series of refresher courses which go beyond ‘Pass Plus’. It includes practical simulations of emergency situations as well as discussion seminars to review and self-evaluate driving experiences in traffic.
Peter O’Halloran, Managing Director Mercedes-Benz World commented: “Learning to drive should be like learning to play an instrument. The more practice you have the better you master it and the more confident you become. With Mercedes-Benz, students start learning to drive at a younger age, which removes the stress of passing the actual driving test. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy provides young people with the skills and thought based experiences that go beyond the requirements of just passing the driving test and prepares them for the actual demands of driving on the public roads, making them better and safer drivers when they have their licence.”
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service welcomes initiatives that attempt to raise driving standards in the local area, Area Manager Leslie Dodd said " Last year 14 young people died on our roads and 10 of their passengers were killed. Any scheme which equips drivers with the skills and knowledge to stay safe on our roads deserves our support."