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s o l u t i o n s D r i v e r I m p r o v e m e n t P r o g r a m s : W h a t W o r k s ?

A fTer sWapping a license anD regisTra- tion for a freshly printed (or written, depending on which road you’re traveling) ticket, many drivers continue down the road at a slower pace than they were traveling moments before, or at least more weary of not running stop signs and red lights, while pondering whether they will show up for an all-day driver improvement class, or allow a print deduction from their driving record.

nomic value of crashes prevented vastly ex- ceeds the cost of the program.

Missouri also uses a system of deducting points from a persons driving record. Most violations are assessed a minimum of two points, but grow with the seriousness of the offense. Once a driver reaches four points within an 18-month period, a warning no- tice is sent—alerting the driver that they are headed toward a suspension, or complete revocation of their license to drive.

The Two Methods In California, the aforementioned classes are taught in a traffic violator school* (TVS) where drivers are provided a refresher course on the rules of the road—all for the small fee of not having points deducted from their record (which in many states, helps avoid a hike in insurance fees, courts fees, etc.). Afterwards, they can show proof of their course completion to the court and have citations completely removed from their record.

However, studies done on California’s TVS Citation Dismissal Policy show that, as educational as they may be, often they are not a strong enough force to offset poor driving behavior. That is where the Negli- gent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) comes in. California’s NOTS adds different points to a persons driving record, depend- ing on the traffic law violation.

“All levels of intervention have a signifi- cant (i.e., real and reliable) effect in reduc- ing the rate of subsequent traffic citations,” said Mike Gebers, California Department of Motor Vehicles, Research and Development Branch. “In general, the size of the citation reduction increases with the intensity of the intervention, with warning letters pro- ducing the smallest effect and probation violator suspensions producing the largest reductions.”

Evidence indicates that all NOTS inter- vention levels probably reduce the subse- quent rate of collisions as well, Gebers said. In addition, evaluations have shown NOTS to be highly cost-beneficial, in that the eco-

“I believe the warning notice serves as a wake up call, if you will, and most people that are safe drivers will change their be- havior and not commit further traffic vio- lations,” said Kelly McClanahan, Missouri Driver’s License Bureau. This works well, because in Missouri, you only get the one warning, and then your privilege to drive is put in jeopardy.

*offered online and in classrooms

Begin the Improvement Process Before Bad Behavior Starts While NOTS and other systems of point de- duction may have a more detrimental af- fect on the general driver population, some states have found classes like the TVS work well on a younger crowd of cruisers.

For example, in Florida, similar courses are called Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education Courses (TLSAE). These class- es, largely aimed at teen drivers, provide instruction on the physiological and psy- chological consequences, the societal and economic costs and the effects of alcohol and other drug abuse, on the driver of a mo- tor vehicle and traffic laws in Florida. And a helpful bonus…courses are mandatory for all first time licensees, according to Mike McGlockton, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Since its inception, an effectiveness study has been performed every five years to determine if the course has any impact at all on Florida’s 15-19 year old drivers,” said McGlockton. “Our studies have shown the course has had a considerable affect on vio-

14MOVE | Fall 2008

Louisiana’s Behind the Faces program helps deter poor driving behavior in a unique way.

lations and DUI offenses among 15-19 year old drivers in our state.”

Stopping young drivers from practicing bad behavior before they are even given a chance to start is a pro-active way to ensure that they carry those messages with them onto the road and into the future.

Media Messages California and Florida are two of the few states to see the benefits of researching these driver safety issues. And while there is little other statistical information on wheth- er or not the basic driver improvement pro- grams are capable of influencing drivers to change bad habits on the highways, the gen- eral consensus is that a penalty or a chance to improve should exist, and does impact future driving behavior. Losing points on a driver record may sometimes prove a better deterrence to bad driving behavior because of its physical presence—a flaw on a record, a hike in insurance costs, etc. However, driv- ers making mistakes need to know what they were and how to correct them once they get back on the road.

Courses geared at more specific causes seem to show positive results. For example, in Louisiana there are some programs aimed directly at young drivers, and other victim- based programs that go beyond the typical protocol of re-teaching proper driving tech- nique, and supplement that with showing real-life examples of the devastation poor driving habits can lead to. For example, graphics of accidents paired with survivors of crashes, or talks with the families of vic- tims of traffic crashes.

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