Learning how to drive is harder than it looks. There is more to it than sitting behind the wheel and pressing the gas pedal. Driving lessons are essential, of course. Teaching yourself will most assuredly end in disaster.
Driver’s education is a formal class or program that prepares a new driver to obtain a driver’s license. Topics of instruction include traffic code or laws and vehicle operation. Typically, instruction will warn of dangerous conditions in driving such as road conditions, driver impairments, and hazardous weather. Instructional videos may also be shown, demonstrating proper driving strategies and the consequences for not observing the rules.
Driver’s education is intended to supplement the knowledge obtained from government-printed driving handbooks or manuals and prepares students for tests to obtain a driver’s license. In-car instruction places a student in a vehicle with an instructor. A car fitted with dual controls, which has pedals or other controls on the passenger side, may be used.
The oldest existing driving school is considered to be the British School of Motoring, founded in 1910 in Peckham, London, England. Queen Elizabeth II learnt to drive with the British School of Motoring.
Choosing a driving school in Ontario
As a new driver, choosing professional driving instruction may be the best way to put yourself safely in the driver’s seat. A Beginner Driver Education (BDE) course (in a driving school or high school driver education program) which has been approved by the provincial government can teach you the skills and attitudes you need to be a safe and responsible driver. The BDE course may also make you eligible to take your road test sooner and allow you to save money on insurance premiums.
As well as teaching the basics, driver training emphasizes strategic driving techniques, positive driving attitudes and behaviour, avoiding driver distractions, risk perception and management, freeway driving, night driving and driving in adverse conditions. Most programs are designed for new drivers, but many driving schools also provide courses and services to upgrade your skills.
If you graduate from an approved BDE course, the course completion information in your Driver’s Licence History will reduce the time you must spend at Level 1 by four months. It may also bring you savings on your car insurance.
All ministry licenced driving schools (private or high school program) offer in-class and in-car training for a fee. All lessons are taught by a ministry-licensed driving instructor.
Ministry approved BDE courses, offered by driving schools and high schools, must last a minimum of 40 hours. This may consist of at least 20 hours in-class, 10 hours in-vehicle and 10 hours of flexible instruction that may include the following:
- Classroom Driving Instruction.
- Computer-Based Instruction.
- In-Vehicle Instruction.
- Driving Simulator Instruction.
- Homelinks (homework).
The ministry licences all driving schools offering a BDE course in Ontario. Licences are renewed every three years, if driving schools continue to meet legislative and program requirements. Only licensed instructors working for licensed schools can teach the BDE course.
All ministry-approved driving schools (i.e. schools which are licensed by the ministry) are listed on the ministry’s public web-site under http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/driver/gradu/approve.shtml
NOTE: The ministry also lists revoked driving schools that are not on the list of approved schools, http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/driver/gradu/revoked.shtml
Look at the web-site for an active ministry-approved driving school that offers high quality instruction and a comfortable learning environment. Please make sure the school offers a ministry-approved BDE course of a minimum of 40 hours. The school should also be equipped with up-to-date videotapes, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, projectors, overheads, computers, and other audio-visual aids.
To help you choose the best driving school and course for you, please use the following checklist:
- Course information package
- Personalized program
- Adequacy of classroom facilities and related amenities
- Low student/teacher ratio
- Audio-visual equipment
- In-class topics covered
- In-vehicle topics covered
- Flexible instruction covered
- Instructor qualifications and experience
- Regular instructor upgrading
- Student progress and evaluation reports
- Minimum 20 hours classroom instruction, 10 hours behind-the-wheel instruction and 10 hours flexible instruction
- Modern training materials
- Use of vehicle for road test
- Tuition receipts
- Clear school contract statements regarding the cost of every aspect of the course including use of vehicle for road test and any subsequent road test
- Testimonials/References – history of excellent teaching, proper treatment and respect of all students with no discrimination of any type (see the Ontario Human Rights Code)
- Number of years in business
- Consumer protection insurance
Be a Responsible Driver!
Being a safe and responsible driver takes a combination of knowledge, skill and attitude.
To begin, you must know the traffic laws and driving practices that help traffic move safely. Breaking these “rules of the road” is the major cause of collisions.
Traffic laws are made by federal, provincial and municipal governments, and police from each level can enforce them. If you break a traffic law, you may be fined, sent to jail or lose your driver’s licence. If you get caught driving while your licence is suspended your vehicle may be impounded.
But you need to do more than just obey the rules. You must care about the safety of others on the road. Everyone is responsible for avoiding collisions. Even if someone else does something wrong, you may be found responsible for a collision if you could have done something to avoid it.
Because drivers have to cooperate to keep traffic moving safely, you must also be predictable, doing what other people using the road expect you to do. And you must be courteous. Courteous driving means giving other drivers space to change lanes, not cutting them off and signalling your turns and lane changes properly.
You must be able to see dangerous situations before they happen and to respond quickly and effectively to prevent them. This is called defensive or strategic driving. There are collision avoidance courses available where you can practice these techniques.
Defensive driving is based on three ideas: visibility, space and communication.
Visibility is about seeing and being seen. You should always be aware of traffic in front, behind and beside you. Keep your eyes constantly moving, scanning the road ahead and to the side and checking your mirrors every five seconds or so. The farther ahead you look, the less likely you will be surprised, and you will have time to avoid any hazards. Make sure other drivers can see you by using your signal lights as required.
Managing the space around your vehicle lets you see and be seen and gives you time and space to avoid a collision. Leave a cushion of space ahead, behind and to both sides. Because the greatest risk of a collision is in front of you, stay well back.
Communicate with other road users to make sure they see you and know what you are doing. Make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and drivers at intersections and signal whenever you want to slow down, stop, turn or change lanes. If you need to get another person’s attention, use your horn.