Can an Experienced Driver Learn New Tricks?

question mark imageI've been watching a series of comments on an article I wrote titled Yielding on Left Turns. The discussion has involved a driving instructor, a former driving examiner, a professional commercial vehicle driver and myself. There has been considerable debate over what should and should not be done in the circumstances. The rhetoric hasn't gotten to the point that I would consider closing comments, but it's edging closer.

We all should be aware of what is required to drive properly and hopefully follow the same essential steps when we maneuver in traffic. Why should there be differences in opinion between four experienced drivers? The answer probably lies somewhere in what we think that we know, how we were taught to drive and what we have forgotten over time.

Learn to Drive Smart, our provincial manual for those who are learning to drive is a worthwhile read for experienced drivers along with the Tuning Up for Drivers. They can serve to refresh our basic driving knowledge. I say basic because these manuals are introductory publications meant to get drivers started and are not comprehensive guides to driving. If you are familiar with all of the content contained in them, bravo! You have a good start and can now consider learning more.

The Motor Vehicle Act is our provincial rulebook. That, along with case law interpreting it produced by the courts is how we are expected to drive legally. This can be difficult to understand and will evolve slowly over time as our legislature changes the rules. I hope that my DriveSmartBC web site can be helpful in keeping you up to date here.

Finally, we need to keep an open mind. There is a small possibility that we haven't learned something, haven't learned it correctly or think that it is proper because "everyone else does it." There is always something more that can be learned after some consideration!

I have no problem being wrong, that's one of the best things about being human. When I was younger I "knew" I was correct about certain things, all to find out later I was wrong all along, and now why I like to double & triple check to see if what I think I know is in fact correct.

In regaurds to the thread, yeilding on left turns, everything I have researched from professional drivers manuals that clearly show what I have claimed, to other links that show during exams it's wrong and demerit points are marked against you for making such wrong actions, and too many demerits you fail to obtain a licence. To laws that police can ticket and issue fines & points on your licence for failing to turn into your correct lane.

But hey, If I am incorrect and read & researched incorrectly and missunderstood wrong what I have read over & over and was taught wrong, I sure would like to know, not just for me but for those that I teach, I don't like to pass on incorrect information.

Just because I have driven over 5 million kms crash & ticket free by no means makes me correct or means I still can't learn,,,,, I certainly still can learn new tricks:-)

I'll always remember the time when I was working as an ICBC Driver Examiner, and a spry elderly gentleman who I didn't immediately recognize walked up to me in the license office and declared 'I want to thank you!'

Well I've always thought of myself as a wonderful person and a boon to mankind, but this was totally unusual and unexpected. But after speaking with him for a moment or two, I realized that I had conducted a Class 5 Re-Examination on him a few weeks earlier. He had failed, and at the time had been quite angry and belligerent about it. I recalled that in the few minutes one would have as the DE to provide some feedback on the test result, I had been quite blunt. Something along the lines of 'You're perfectly capable of handling a vehicle, and your observation is excellent. But so long as you behave as though Stop Signs only have to be obeyed when there's a car approaching on a collision course from the other street, or that the way to make left turns at traffic lights is to bull your way through by intimidating the oncoming driver(s) into yielding to you, then there isn't a Driver Examiner in the province who's going to pass you on a Road Test. Why don't you take a couple of remedial lessons from a good Driving School on how it should be done, and then come back for another try?'

Well I hadn't thought any more about it, and in those days a DE would be doing a dozen or so C5 tests a day; mostly on new teenaged drivers but a fair number of adults from other countries, and the occasional Re-Ex which would often come to a sad conclusion as the applicant had reached the stage in life where it was time to consider their future transportation options. But that fellow was the happy exception; he had taken my advice to heart, and taken the lessons suggested; so at the time that I met up with him again, he had just re-taken his test, with a happy outcome.


As I've remarked before in other threads on this site, I have held a BC Driving Instructor license continuously since 1987.  So although I spent a two-year period between 1997 & 1999 on temporary assignment as an ICBC Driver Examiner, and have been operating my own independent Owner/Operator Driving Training School since March 2013, in between times I acquired some 23 years of instructional experience with a wide variety of drivers with one of the largest Driver Training Schools in BC.

This wealth of experience - that included everything from training teenagers to retraining drivers who had become disabled to training drivers from other jurisdictions and countries to would-be Driving Instructors - provided me with considerable insight into whether an experienced driver can in fact learn 'new tricks'; particularly as a Training Assessment Officer; that's where you get to either/or teach and test applicants for the license they're seeking.

In September 1994, the BC legislature approved a complete overhaul of MVA(R) Division 27 - Driver Training.  The new rules brought in more stringent regulations regarding record keeping by Driving Schools (such as Vehicle, Employee, and Student records) as well as basic training & testing standards for potential Driving Instructor applicants.  Take the time to read through the regulations, and the reasoning behind them should be self evident.

So obviously, anybody expecting to be accepted to apply for instructor training would be required to have a certain minimum amount of experience just as a driver, and the requirements were also adjusted to make certain that the class of Instructor License they were seeking would require an even greater amount of experience as the holder of such a license themselves.

In BC, the way that Driver Licensing is structured, is that one cannot apply for a higher/professional class Driver License without having already passed the Knowledge and Practical tests needed to obtain and hold a Class 5 Driver License as a minimum.  Instructor Licensing mirrors this.  So applicants for a Class 5 Instructor License would need to complete an 80 hour course (typically conducted over a two-week period) including passing the necessary testing procedures, while applicants for a Class 1 Instructor License would have to complete a further 40 hour course (typically conducted over the following week) including passing the necessary testing procedures.

So for the initial couple of weeks of the course, every applicant would be required to learn and demonstrate their ability to teach at a Class 5 level, in order to qualify.  And there would be a wide range of applicants; some would be ex-RCMP officers who had taken early retirement, others would have come from other walks of life - old and young - who had the desire to open their open business.  

A surprising number of applicants would have come from one of two disparate backgrounds; on the one hand, there would be Hong Kong immigrants holding a Class 5 license, eager to establish a business and potential residency in BC.  On the other hand, there would be BC truck drivers who were in possession of a Class 1 license.

I think it's fair to say that the former group were motivated by the then pending transfer of sovereighty, while for the latter group it was a chance for injured truck drivers to obtain retraining through Work Safe funding for a new career.

Without a doubt, and probably due in large part to the high standards the Hong Kong Transport Department had set (based on the UK Highway Code), as well as the fact that they were personally paying for the course, the former group proved much more willing to 'learn new tricks'.

But unfortunately, despite the fact that their training was paid for, the majority of the Class 1 applicants seemed to think that they knew it all; many were stunned when they came to grips with the fact that if they couldn't attain the minimum Class 5 qualification, they would not be successful with the course and thus would be right back where they came from.  They would be the hardest to train, in comparison.

Which has to make you think about every individual's ability to 'learn new tricks', doesn't it?