Recently I’ve been getting asked a lot why I started Driving in the Real World and if there was any singular incident (like an accident or loss) that made me want to change the way people drive.

Although I have known a couple of people who were killed in auto accidents, their fate is not what’s feeding my passion. My motivations are much more simple, and I’m reminded of it every time I get behind the wheel: I am simply tired of sharing the road with so many bad drivers who endanger me and others every day. And I feel like I can and should do something about it.

But I have no illusions of how long and difficult a task this will be, because at least 80 percent of our population feels that they’re already good drivers. To effect any real change in our lackadaisical attitude toward driving on a national scale is going to take a systematic, persistent, and collaborative approach over many decades and across numerous channels of media, products, services, and campaigns to multiple age groups. It may take at least 30 or 40 years to see its cumulative effects, and it may not even be fully accomplished in my lifetime. But by steadily partnering with others and chipping away at this massive task little by little, I do believe that we can start changing life on the road. The role of Driving in the Real World is to make bad driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.

I’ve been asked about my plans to make this website a larger one, and when that will take place. That is still a ways out yet, possibly a year or more. My vision for DITRW is enormous and long-term. Ultimately it will include the following:

  • Apps for mobile phones and tablets relating to driver information/feedback
  • Training tools for teens, parents, immigrants, and the elderly
  • Ad campaigns across all media
  • Online driver forums that cater to the unique navigation and safety needs of different communities
  • Road safety/driving concept games for children as young as kindergarten all the way to high-school age
  • Fun products that promote better driving
  • Intensive curricula for driving schools and instructors

I hope to build DITRW over the years into a major player that has some sway in state legislation, laws, and licensing. I’d also like to see it involved in the creation of a national driving safety center, similar to the one in Teesdorf, Austria, that has nationally reduced beginner accidents by 17 percent and young driver fatalities by 34 percent.

This is all horrendously ambitious, given the current American cultural attitude toward driving. But I still think it is not totally impossible if enough dedicated stakeholders chip away at it in effective, intensive ways over time. With strong leadership and consistent vision, I believe we can innovate driver and road safety education in ways that make people not only want to learn the right way, but even have fun doing it, and remember and use what they’ve learned for the rest of their lives.

I must acknowledge that hundreds of entities, from private citizens to government agencies, are already devoted to these causes, and their good intent, hard work, and often passionate fervor should be recognized. The problem is that very few are willing to tackle our completely broken system of driver-focused road safety consistently and over the long term by its true root causes. An alarming fatality statistic is cited here, a call to end distracted driving is shouted from another mountaintop there, and everywhere there is emotional hand-wringing.

But too often these are small disparate elements that are isolated from why our collective driving skills are so bad:

  • Little acknowledgement of the huge role of cognitive science and driver personality influencing behavior behind the wheel
  • A lack of truly good driving training available in America
  • A severe shortage of in-car time spent learning superior technique and good habits
  • The very weak knowledge and testing standards that enable us to get a license
  • Our own huge underestimation of driving’s complexities and overconfidence in our abilities
  • A deterioration of our social conduct in general
  • The very low sense of priority we place on driving safety
  • The subsequent lack of money assigned to doing something about it, whether it is a parent investing in good driver education for their teen or a government agency running a graduated licensing program

Until these larger issues are addressed in meaningful, substantial ways, US roads will continue to be dangerous places, ranked well below other developed nations when it comes to traffic fatalities and accidents.

What are your thoughts? Do you have ideas? What do you think is necessary to change our driving culture? Do you have experience in it? I would love to hear from you.