Bad Habits are “Caught;” Good Ones Must Be Taught

Most drivers drive on autopilot based on habits they’ve unknowingly caught. But, to excel in the performance of anything requires practice of specific behaviors that have been properly taught. The more clearly a single action is defined and the more it is consciously practiced, the stronger our brain’s network of neurons forms it into habit.

Because driving or riding in a motor vehicle is our most deadly social activity, I would like to take a positive approach to increase public awareness of how to take control of the critical second before a crash.


We have a very effective way to prepare teen drivers with the skills needed to avoid crashes, and it begins when they are in the middle school. It requires the involvement of your family working together to develop the Ten Habits of Zone Control for Zero Crashes. Please email for more information

Do You Ride with a Guillotine Next to Your Head?

Some forty years ago, in addition to teaching Traffic Safety Education courses at Southern Connecticut State University, I was a driver risk-management consultant for various corporations. I would evaluate the crashes that took place and develop behavioral patterns as counter-measure against future crashes.

One of the crashes I evaluated is still very memorable. The woman ran a red light and was T-boned by my client’s driver. Her driver’s-side window was half open. Although she had a safety belt on, the force of the impact lifted her body and slammed her head down onto the edge of the open window. The top of her head was cleanly cut off, just as though someone had sliced it off with a guillotine.

That crash prompted me to recommend to all of my clients and driver education teachers that windows should remain closed, or if they must be open, have them fully open.

What is especially scary to me is when I see kids in the back seat with the window half down and their heads sometimes partially out of the car hovering over the edge of the window. And, the parent is zipping through the intersection like it’s a matter of life or death to get through the intersection. Sometimes life ends!

Next time you get into your car take your fist and tap it against the closed window; then open your window halfway and tap on the open edge of the window. Feel the difference. Which surface would you want your head to slam into at 40 mph?

Twenty-five years ago I was asked by the California Department of Licensing if they could video tape some of the demonstrations that I would perform when I conducted workshop presentations. The following YouTube is the video they produced.


Who Wants to be Involved in a Crash?

Driving or riding in a motor vehicle is our most deadly social activity. In no other daily task are we unknowingly confronted –– in one critical second –– with life-ending, or quality-of-life altering, situations.

With so many drivers texting these days, a new set of awareness skills is needed. Drivers need a coach to help them acquire space-management habits.

You can learn how to become your own space-management “coach.” Just like learning to play a piano the results of your practice will determine the enjoyment and rewards to be received. Pounding on the piano keys mindlessly will not produce beautiful music –– it only produces the fingers crashing into the keys with ugly sounding results.

We have hundreds of programs available to help drivers get the proper practice to manage space for a lifetime of beautiful results.

Take a look at this introduction, and if you agree with it and would like to learn more,  please email

View Space Management for Zero Crashes!


Changing the Image of Driver Education

Let me ask you a few questions: Is it possible for driver education to teach drivers how to stay out of crashes? If so, what should the training consist of? As I wrote in my last blog, “driver education is the only formal opportunity a person has to learn how to acquire habits that act as safeguards against the millions upon millions of ways that crashes can and do occur.” Traditionally, driver education is seen only as a path to driver licensing. How can we make it a training process for drivers to cultivate crash-reducing habits that will last a lifetime?

If driver education was effective in guiding the habit development of teen drivers, we would see fewer crashes from adult drivers. Each year in the United States there are approximately 11,000,000 crashes, and over 90 percent of those crashes –– some ten million –– are the result of the wrongful actions of adult drivers. Driver education needs to step up and assume a greater responsibility for insisting that each teen exiting driver education has demonstrated the ability to process every traffic situation, and has acquired skills to find, solve, and control the critical seconds that all too frequently result in crashes (see my previous posting about “critical seconds”).

All Drivers, Not Only Teens, Get into Crashes
Analysis of top causes of motor vehicle crashes, not only for teen drivers, but for all drivers includes: 1. Inadequate visual search, 2. Lack of attention, 3. Too fast for conditions, 4. Inadequate following distance, and 5. Failure to detect hazards in a timely manner. Drivers need to be trained for where to search, what to search for, how to manage speed, how to control separation space from the vehicle ahead, and how to detect critical seconds that deteriorate into hazards with adequate lead time to defuse the potential danger. With effective training all of these causes can be eliminated. The fact is, the root cause of all crashes is drivers’ failure to manage space! The majority of teen crashes are caused by the same space management errors that cause “experienced” drivers to crash. They can be avoided!

NIDB’s Driver Awareness Training Model
NIDB has developed a mobile-ready e-learning training program that can be incorporated into any driver education course. Why not replace lectures and powerpoint presentations with dynamic, interactive, behind-the-wheel activities? Much like operating a driving simulator –– without the expense of simulators –– teens are able to cultivate space-management habits one situation at a time. The NIDB model for driver education programs provides a simulator for the mind, where teens are able to get thousands of experiences by doing mental activities, not by listening to lectures or watching movies.

All of the learning is “experiential” where the teens learn by doing what they need to learn. We have hundreds of “challenges” that provides the frame work for teens to experience one action at a time and be able to practice the action into habit.

Click this link take a sample Challenge.

03-300  Identify and correct an Off-Target Skid.

For more info:

I Want to Sell You One Second of Time

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration once stated that “If drivers involved in crashes had one additional second prior to the crash, 80% of the crashes could have been reduced in severity, or avoided.” How much would a family that lost a loved one in a crash be willing to pay to change the course of events during that last critical second? I am sure that having one additional second to detect the speeding car in time to make it a near miss, rather than a t-boned fatality of three, would be priceless. One additional second to detect a texting driver coming head-on over the yellow line would be worth millions to the family of the father of three who was killed in the impact. One additional second to control the off-road recovery to prevent the rollover that sent all passengers in the car crashing into each other, leaving the daughter paralyzed from the neck down, was a high price to pay for failure to control one critical second. Drivers need training on how to control the critical seconds –– and control of the critical second involves the mind, not the hands and feet.

Driving is a Deadly Social Activity
Driving is our most deadly social activity. In no other daily activity are we unknowingly confronted with life-ending, or quality-of-life-altering situations where –– in one critical second, in the blink of an eye or less –– the actions of others could lead to disaster!

I haven’t posted to this blog in a while; let me explain why. Based on the enormous and devastating cost that crashes inflict upon society, it became indisputably clear that it was necessary to do more than just write about the power of the mind. Therefore, I and NIDB have worked diligently to develop a new model for driver education that places emphasis on providing drivers with opportunity to acquire attitudes that value space-management behavior. With the correct attitude housing the desire to eliminate crashes, mental skills can cultivate space-management behavior into habit to control the critical seconds.

The need for drivers to learn how to control critical seconds was tragically brought to the public attention on July 14, 2015, when a teen behind the wheel of a driver ed car in NY attempted to make a left turn and failed to control the critical second needed to enter and clear the intersection. A tractor truck impacted the rear quarter of the driver ed car, resulting in the deaths of three teens in the back seat. One additional second and there would have been no crash. I can’t even begin to describe the suffering and pain that so many will have to endure for the remainder of their lives: the family and friends of the three lost teens; the teen driver; the instructor; the truck driver; the owner of the driving school –– all their lives changed forever because of one critical second. And, as tragic as that crash was, it was not an isolated event that had never happened before and won’t happen again.

Motor Vehicle Crashes are Not Only a Teen Problem
As a matter of fact, every day, even on that very same day of July 14, there are most likely, according to statistics, some 9,000 or more intersection crashes –– some fatalities, some resulting in permanent disabling injuries, some only property damage –– all because drivers never learned how to find, solve, and control the critical seconds that are there during every minute of driving. And, these crashes are not all caused by teen drivers. More than ninety percent of all crashes are caused by adult drivers, not teens.

We know what skills are needed to meet driver licensing standards, and we know that more than 99.9 percent of all drivers involved in crashes have met those standards. So, what skills are really needed to drive crash-free? The answer: mental training to control the “critical second!”

Bad Habits are “Caught”
Rather than focus solely on teaching teens how to physically operate a vehicle, we need to focus on finding the best way for them to learn space-management behavior so it can be cultivated into life-long habits. We all know that bad habits are caught by chance; do something once or twice without any repercussions, and soon, it becomes a habit. Good habits, whether they’re eating habits, sleep habits, study habits, or driving habits, are usually good only if they’ve been deliberately and repeatedly practiced – and valued. A driver education program structured in a hierarchy of experiential learning activities is capable of measuring the good habit development taking place to assure that bad habits are not being caught while GDL practice takes place.

Driver Education is Essential
Driver education is the only formal opportunity a person has to learn how to acquire habits that act as safeguards against the millions upon millions of ways that crashes can and do occur. Traditionally, driver education is seen as a path to driver licensing. Driver education teachers need a new set of skills: skills for how to become “Driver Mind Coaches” with the ability to evaluate, cue, and coach the formation of space-management habits. The new NIDB model of driver education can provide such necessary training for adults, for driver education teachers, and for teens, by providing a new format of experiential learning activities that moves beyond the academic structure miring the driver education classroom into mediocrity.

NIDB’s new learning model for drivers takes advantage of the plasticity of the youthful brain and the power of building strong neuron networks for spontaneous and correct performance. Lack of brain development should no longer be used as an excuse for the high frequency of teen car crashes, nor should “lack of experience” remain a factor in those crashes. The majority of teen crashes are caused by the same space management errors that cause “experienced” drivers to crash, and they can be avoided. How good are the experienced drivers at controlling their critical seconds? Not very good; they account for more than ninety percent of all crashes. The reason teen crash rates are so high is, quite frankly, that young drivers’ minds have not been trained to acquire situational awareness essential for space management.

NIDB’s New Learning Model
The new learning model is structured for Experiential Learning, where teens are able to learn by doing, not by listening to lectures or watching movies. More than 1,000 space-management “experiences” are gained by participating in e-learning mobile-ready activities that can be acquired from online challenges, and then transferred to structured in-car deliberate practice activities. Experiential learning activities mentally prepare the teen for each driving maneuver before in-vehicle performance occurs. Teachers in the classroom are able to evaluate the effectiveness of teen and parent practice sessions. We can and must enhance the training process that currently takes place for novice drivers. If we don’t, how can we ensure that good habits necessary to control the “critical seconds” are formed?

Acquire the power of “Experiential Learning”
Here is where I want to sell you not one, but millions of critical seconds that can place you in total control of driving situations. Merely reading about how to control the critical second is not going to give you opportunity to discover the power of experiential learning activities essential to master skills that control the critical seconds. However, if you learn how to use the Selective Attention Matrix, just one technique for training the mind, it will increase your awareness of the power of your mind to control critical seconds. Your cost: The desire to achieve Zero Crashes.

Try this Game

For more information please email

Red-Light Cameras: Are You Willing to Pay?

The intersection –– or as we refer to it, the “Danger Square” –– is where the largest percentage of multiple car crashes occur. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, twenty-two percent of all crashes in the United States are caused by red-light runners. As a result, there is an increase in cities signing on with companies to have red-light cameras installed.

While there is no question about the high frequency of crashes that take place at intersections, there is wide-spread criticism about the companies that install and operate the camera systems. As time goes on you will be seeing more intersections with red light cameras (RLC) because they become a “cash cow” for the city.

Everyone involved within the municipality that is installing RLC, as well as the companies that manufacture, install, and process the data from the cameras, will say they are doing it for safety. Yet, they promote the shortening of the yellow traffic light cycle, and the lengthening of the red light cycle, both of which contribute little to safely and everything to increasing the number of violators. Red Light Camera Enforced

There are three major companies that provide RLC to cities, and most often they receive a hefty slice of the collected violator fees. One company received 19 million dollars to install RLC at 190 Chicago intersections; during the ten year period of their usage, the company received over 100 million dollars. Can we really say their focus was doing good for the betterment of mankind or that their focus was on reducing crashes?

Let’s analyze a few things:

A traffic light changing from green to yellow presents a tipping point for the actions a driver will take, or not take –– that is, providing there is perception of the traffic light to begin with. One of three actions is likely to occur during the lights transformation: a driver sees the yellow light and has a mind-set to stop; a driver sees the yellow light as an opportunity to increase speed to get through the intersection; a driver sees the yellow light as merely a continuation of the green light and pays no attention to the changing condition.

Now, I am not talking about drivers that go blowing through the red light with total disregard for the danger that everyone is exposed to by highly callous high-speed behavior. I am talking about the average driver who pays little attention to the yellow light as a signal to clear the intersection. I’m talking about the driver who ignores the yellow light and only thinks of stopping when the light has turned to red.

The reason all drivers need to be more attentive to yellow lights is to change the mind-set into a state of readiness to perceive a green light that is changing to yellow, and have time to control traffic to the rear. The duration of the yellow has a lot to do with whether or not a person will be detected as a violator by a red-light camera.

Now get this:

There is no differentiation in fines levied for those who just missed the end of the yellow light compared to those who willfully go blowing through a red light at high speed. The fine and administrative add-on fees for running a red light in California is reportedly $490 plus cost for attending a “traffic school” course. Or, a judge may grant a violator the option of performing community service at the rate of $10 per hour, which means 49 hours of service. Amazing! The driver who intentionally failed to spend one minute stopped for the red light, will be subjected to the option of surrendering 2,940 minutes doing something that may be far worst than sitting for a minute at a red traffic light! The $490 fine and the $50 for traffic school would amount to the driver paying the fine for that one minute at the rate of $32,400 per hour. Do you see how the scale is grossly tipped against you as you try to save one minute at a traffic light? Even when the fine is a more typical $175, as many states levy for running a red light, it equates to spending $10,500 per hour for the purchase of one minute of indifference to conditions at the danger square.

Facts and factors:

There are four factors that determine when and where a vehicle will stop: Perception time, Reaction time, Braking time, and Volition time. Of the four, the one that a driver has the most control over is “volition” time. Volition time is the period of time that one deliberates on the “willingness” to detect and stop for a yellow light. If the yellow light is seen as opportunity to have control of your vehicle and to save money by not getting caught by the red-light camera, then the proper treatment of the yellow light could be seen as putting gold into your pocket.

Here is how you can change a yellow light into gold. When you approach a green traffic light all you need to do is have the “volition” to stop at a certain point if the light changes to yellow before you get to within two seconds of the intersection. If you are at the two second point, which we refer to as the point-of-no-return, then you are committed to going through the intersection and you will never receive a ticket by the red light camera being activated and not need to pay upwards of $10,000 per minute. The red light camera will only activate if you are entering the intersection when the light is red. What constitutes entering the intersection is when your vehicle passes the stop line.

If you are intent on running red lights, then nothing but pure luck can prevent you from getting into a crash and not getting caught by a red-light camera. However, if you are like most drivers, and not aggressively attempting to beat a red light, then you may need to change your habits on how you approach a green traffic light. In addition to making certain the “danger square” is clear, be prepared for the green light to turn into gold.

You are in control:

What will make you feel better: stopping for the traffic light and waiting one minute for the light to change; or, getting caught by the RLC and having to pay hundreds of dollars? In the latter case, there are two things you will feel bad about: getting caught, and wasting money for no good return. So, tilt the game in your favor so that you are always the winner. Think of the green light as ready to change to yellow, so you are never surprised. If it does turn to yellow, you are prepared to save yourself from paying a costly fine. If the light stays green, you will have more awareness of conditions in the danger square, and you didn’t have to make a stop. Either way, a win-win situation, and you are in control!

So You Think You Can Text: Dangerous Driving, Dangerous Walking

By Professor Frederik R. Mottola,
National Institute for Driver Behavior

There are dozens of research studies, each telling the same story: the majority of drivers know it is dangerous to text and drive, but more than half of them still do it. Why?

The problem of texting-related crashes is not limited to drivers. After years of declining traffic crashes in which pedestrians were being killed, in 2009 the trend has reversed directions; each year since, more and more texting pedestrians are being killed. In New York City, pedestrians comprise 51% of all motor vehicle deaths.

Why do drivers and pedestrians believe they can text and manage a traffic situation at the same time? The answer is within their unconscious mind. What people don’t realize is that over years of walking, or driving, there is a learning experience on the unconscious level for how to process information of where one is traveling. Everyone knows that vision is the most important sense for detecting, and for traveling, a safe path, while driving and while walking. Out of all of the disabilities a person might have, the only one that a driver cannot compensate for is loss of sight. And, for a blind person, it takes many months of extensive training to acquire the skills necessary to learn how to walk in a traffic environment and safely navigate a traffic situation. When people walk or drive while texting, they are unknowingly rendering themselves sightless. They lose their ability to use central and fringe vision effectively.

Central vision is a narrow cone of clear vision that is capable of bringing objects sharply into focus to identify details. Central vision is the vision used for reading these words. While driving or walking, central vision is used to search ahead to detect if the path one is going to travel is clear of obstacles. Surrounding the central vision is our peripheral vision, which increases our field of vision to 180 degrees or more. The part of peripheral vision that is closest to central vision is what we refer to as “fringe vision.” Fringe vision is used to monitor our placement within the travel path, whether walking or driving.

Drivers don’t realize how dependent they become on the use of lower fringe vision to monitor the placement of the vehicle in relationship to the lane they are traveling in. You don’t consciously pay attention to where your feet are stepping as you walk along a sidewalk, but when you lose sight of lower fringe vision it becomes difficult to detect when you stray off course

While texting, the head is bent down, which results in a loss of central vision, so one cannot detect anything blocking the path the vehicle is traveling; and, lower fringe vision is lost, which prevents the driver from monitoring the accuracy of the vehicle within the lane. The loss of central and lower fringe vision results in three major crash potentials:

1. Drivers crash into something that blocks their path of travel, such as stopped traffic or a crossing pedestrian. Or, they fail to see stop signs and red traffic lights.
2. Drivers veer off the road to the left into oncoming traffic, or into a ditch, often times taking the wrong steering actions and losing control while attempting to get back into the travel lane.
3. Drivers veer off the road to the right into parked vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, utility poles, trees, and ditches, resulting in crashes or fatal rollovers.

In London, texting pedestrians stray so often into utility poles that the city has placed padding on many of the poles to reduce injuries to the pedestrians. The major difference between the crashes of texting-pedestrians and texting-drivers is that the pedestrians are usually only hurting themselves. However, in a large percentage of the texting-driver crashes other innocent people are getting killed. And, the problem is only going to get worst before it gets better.

The major reason that more texting drivers will get into crashes as the years go by is because the more experience one gets texting and driving, the more callous they become to the danger they are exposing themselves and others to. Drivers can convince themselves that they have no issue with being able to text and drive. In a 2011 Ad Council survey, 55% of young drivers stated that, “it’s easy to text and pay attention to driving at the same time.” Yet, I am certain that every driver who has the habit of texting every time they drive has been in situations where they found their vehicle had inadvertently drifted outside of the lane markings –– perhaps two or three feet onto the shoulder of the road. However, there was no pedestrian, bicyclist, jogger, utility pole, parked car, or other object there to crash into. The “crash” was in empty space, so it was perceived as a non-event.

Texting and driving is a societal problem. The way I see it is that society views the problem of texting and driving today in a similar manner as how acceptance of drinking and driving was thirty years ago. Crashes then by intoxicated drivers were accepted as merely being an “accident” that happened by chance. Intoxicated drivers would swerve into and out of their travel lane, and often that behavior would be incorporated into comedy shows on television as “entertainment.”

In 1981 the “town drunk,” who had been cited several times for driving under the influence, had drifted his vehicle out of the travel path onto the shoulder of road and crashed into a bicyclist. The bicyclist was a forty-one year old clinical psychologist –– and he was my brother, Dr. William C. Mottola. He died thirteen days later. The punishment for the drunk driver: $150 fine and thirty days in jail –– after all, it was only an “accident.”

How many texting drivers and their innocent victims will need to die before society –– before you –– see this as a serious public epidemic? What can you do? The obvious is don’t text and drive. The more difficult, don’t participate in texts when your friends are texting and driving. Give some true love to your friends while they are alive by letting them know that you will not text while they are driving. Your love for them while they are alive is more rewarding than placing flowers at their roadside memorial. Society is composed of people, and one person at a time can make a difference. You are that person!

Here is an activity for you to do to experience the effect that loss of your central and fringe vision has upon driving. Please feel free to share this blog with others.

About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.

Backing Up: 50 Children Crushed Each Week –– Four Habits Can Save Them!

By Professor Frederik R. Mottola,
National Institute for Driver Behavior

For Greg Gulbransen and his wife, Leslie, life as they knew it ended one evening eight years ago.

After feeling a bump under the wheel, his headlights lit up a scene on his driveway that would change their lives forever. Their precious 2-year-old son, Cameron, lay sprawled, clutching a blanket and bleeding heavily from his head.

Jennifer McLogan of CBS2 news reported the Gulbransen’s tragedy and their dedication to reducing the likelihood of such hardships from happening to other families. After years of effort, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act was passed by Congress in 2010, which called for a backup camera in all cars by 2014. However, as of September 2013, the Department of Transportation has continued to postpone implementing the mandate to auto manufacturers.

With fifty children each week being treated in United States emergency rooms as a result of being crushed under the wheels of a family member’s vehicle, and until all vehicles are equipped with backup cameras, drivers need to examine the techniques they use when backing.

The blind area to the rear of most cars and SUVs is dependent upon the configuration of the rear window and the height of the driver. The lower in the seat the driver is, the greater the blind area directly to the rear of the vehicle. There are very few drivers who have less than a 50-foot blind area, and many have an even greater blind area. To conceptualize how large an area that is, picture this: the average blind area would contain fifty adults laying on the ground shoulder-to-shoulder to the rear of the vehicle and the driver would not see a single one. And, imagine how many toddlers could wander into that space.

The old method taught in driver education (and required on most states’ licensing exams) of turning the head rearward and looking over the right shoulder should be discontinued. Looking out the rear window does not give the driver any more information than is gained by looking into the rearview mirror. And, looking over the right shoulder makes the driver’s side of the vehicle totally blind to the driver. When preparing to back into an area where vehicles and bicyclists may travel, such as crossing a sidewalk, backing into a street (to be avoided when possible) and backing out of parking spaces, turning the head to search out both the left and right side windows is a necessary supplement to using the mirrors.

Drivers should be taught how to effectively adjust the outside mirrors and how to use them, as well as how to acquire habits for using the rearview mirror. A proper adjustment of the outside mirrors should give the driver a slight view of the side of the vehicle, which will allow the driver to detect a child approaching the vehicle. And, if add-on convex mirrors are placed in the lower outside corner of each mirror, the viewing angle will be greatly increased. Speed must be at a slow walking pace. By continuous use of all three mirrors, and with a slow movement, the driver will be able to see anyone wandering into the vehicle’s backing path.

Even when a vehicle has a back-up camera, drivers must develop these four habits to help avoid the tragedy that the Gulbransen’s, as well as hundreds of other families each year, have experienced.

1. Check to the front and rear of the vehicle before entering it.
2. Back at a slow walking pace.
3. Check the three mirrors continuously, in this sequence, with no more than one-second pauses: rear, passenger side, rear, driver side, rear, passenger side, rear, driver side, etc, until the vehicle is stopped. If the vehicle is equipped with a backup camera, substitute the views of the rearview mirror with views of the backup monitor along with use of the outside mirrors.
4. If you feel any resistance to the rolling of the vehicle, STOP MOVING! Secure the vehicle, and check to see what is impeding your movement. Stopping may make the difference between broken bones or fatal internal injuries to a toddler.

About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.

What! Four-Hour Driver Education Classroom Sessions???

Yesterday I received an email asking my opinion on whether there should be four-hour classroom sessions allowing a teen to complete a driver education program within 8 days. Such a contemplation would be equivalent to saying, “we should teach teens a foreign language in eight days and expect them to read, speak, and understand complex subject matters in that language even though their lives may depend on it.” That is more than ridiculous! It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding for how a teen should learn the mental preparation of risk-prevention and space-management, which is the equivalent of learning a foreign language. An effective space-management curriculum cannot be poured into teens’ heads as a continual flow of knowledge. The jug would overflow within five minutes of the four-hour class.

William Glasser and others have cited the following statistics: a person retains 10 percent of what is read, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 80 percent of what they experience, and 95 percent of what they are able to teach to others. Every lesson in an effective curriculum should provide activities that allow students to become teachers and to use risk-prevention, space-management behaviors in such a way that they can be nurtured into life-enduring habits.

The major function of a classroom session is to prepare the student for in-vehicle performance. The more preparation the student is given in the classroom, the more responsibility he/she should assume for knowing what is correct behavior while operating in the vehicle.

An effective curriculum takes into account brain-developmental concepts such as providing the learner with meaningful problem-solving opportunities in a non-threatening environment, and giving the learner positive feedback within seconds of successful performance. Classroom activities must give students an opportunity to learn and apply the concepts and behavioral patterns they will be expected to perform during the next in-vehicle session.

There are truck loads of research clearly demonstrating that lecturing to teens, or reading to teens from the text book –– which is most likely to happen as the period of classroom time increases –– has little to no educational value. And, the average attention span for a teen is 8 minutes. If they are interested in the topic, their attention may leap to 20-30 minutes. When a teacher is confronted with a four-hour time period, it would take a highly energized and extremely effective teacher to turn the 240 minutes into 30 dynamic 8-minute student-centered activities. It most likely will not happen.

We at the National Institute for Driver Behavior are adamant in our belief that the content of a typical driver education classroom should not be presented within four-hour classes over a period of 8 days. Perhaps a driver education curriculum should be presented in 8-minute activities spaced over a period of FOUR YEARS –– which will be the topic of a future posting.

About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.

Isn’t a Driver’s Life Worth More than $30?

Everyone talks about the dangers of texting and driving but most don’t see how texting affects their performance. The general attitude is “sure I shouldn’t be texting and driving, but I can handle it.” An AAA and Seventeen Magazine online survey of 1,999 teens ages 16-19 found that 86% had driven while distracted even though 84% know it’s dangerous. And, according to a 2011 Ad Council survey, 55% of teen drivers believe that is it easy to text and pay attention to driving at the same time.

The Florida legislators have just demonstrated that they are a microcosm of the values society has regarding the dangers of texting and driving: none! The legislators recently passed an anti-texting-while-driving law that clearly sends the wrong message to the motoring public –– a message implying that texting isn’t dangerous. Why is this not a good law? Let us count the ways. First problem: a driver cannot be stopped by a police officer for texting. The Florida law is not a primary offense, which means an officer can only stop a texting driver if the driver violates some other law, i.e., if the driver runs a stop sign, and the officer can see the driver was texting, then the anti-texting law is violated. The second problem: when a person is finally caught, there is a whopping $30 fine, or about the amount a person would pay for four packs of cigarettes, or four Starbucks. This inconsequential monetary fine is not the worst flaw in this law.

The worst is that the law allows drivers to text while stopped at a traffic light! WOW! Allowing drivers to text at a traffic light is the equivalent of saying, “don’t pay attention to the traffic scene; forget the need to manage space while stopped, don’t be concerned that there may be bicyclist or pedestrians crossing in front of you who are not seen as you start your car in motion.” And, “don’t be concerned if a driver approaching your stopped vehicle from the rear is also texting, because the law allows him to do so unless he crashes into your car.” Having a “law” that says it is okay to text at traffic lights encourages drivers to do so, and it is likely to get more people killed at intersections.

While stopped at a traffic light drivers should be encouraged to pay attention to conditions that are constantly changing. According to the Federal Highway Administration, each year 35 to 40 percent of all crashes take place at an intersection, which accounts for about two and a half million crashes at intersections each year. How could the Florida legislators believe that it is okay for a driver to sit at a traffic light and text? Intersections are so dangerous we refer to them as “Danger Squares.”

Picture this: A driver with his head down, engrossed in a texting conversation, is not likely to notice that the traffic light changed and the car in front is moving. At the same time, the driver to the rear is impatient and blows his horn to get the texting driver to move. The texting driver becomes startled, releases his foot from the brake while finishing the text and accelerates directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle that is making a left turn. Now, suppose the oncoming vehicle is a motorcyclist; the texting driver crashes into him; the results is a traumatic brain injury. Texting changes the life of another motorist, yet no law is violated! Or, the texting driver doesn’t see a pedestrian who is still in the crosswalk and accelerates into her. Little good would the law be for protecting the pedestrian. Now, if the pedestrian dies, a number of lives are lost, changed, and ruined because of the texting. I have family and friends living in Florida, I would not want to see any of them victimized by a driver “obeying” the law because someone believes the law is safe.

Perhaps no law will make a difference unless it takes away the temptation of texting, or the law has a consequence that a driver would not want to experience. What if, when a driver is caught texting, the phone is impounded for thirty days for the first offense? And, for the second offense, the phone and the car are impounded for sixty days. Such a law would be a countermeasure to our society’s addiction to texting. Well, is that too severe to save one life, let alone the hundreds of lives that are lost?

However, as blatantly as the government of Florida is turning a blind eye towards a solution to reduce texting crashes, there is hope from other States. New Jersey, for one, is forging ahead with consequences more than a thirty dollar fine. Fines in New Jersey range from $200 to $800 with possible license suspension depending upon past violations and outcomes of the crash. If cell phone users drive recklessly and cause injury or death, penalties would include prison time and fines up to $150,000. And, New Jersey just approved legislation that will post signs along highways warning drivers that there is an anti-texting law in effect.

For Florida, at the minimum, having the no-texting-in-traffic law as a primary offense will at least get drivers searching ahead for police officers so they can pretend they are not using the phone –– and maybe by chance they will see what they need to see to detect problems affecting their space management.

Oh, I forgot: most texters believe they can text and drive without problems. Who needs a “law” to give them permission to text at traffic lights?


About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.