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Driving as a Lifelong Learning Process

Passing a driving test and finally getting a license is a major milestone for many teenagers and even older people, signalling that they are finally able to handle the independence of operating a vehicle. However, passing the test is only part of the process, since really being able to drive safely is a process of lifelong learning.

The Oxford Handbook describes lifelong learning as a process that draws on people’s own experiences, skills, and motivation to teach them what they need to know for the challenges they encounter. As people become more experienced in dealing with various issues, they also face physical and mental challenges that might not have been problems earlier in life.

Types of Lifelong Learning

Driving lifelong

Some types of lifelong learning are obvious. For example, many people initially learn to drive on automatic transmission cars, which require only a simple shift from Park to Reverse or Drive to get the vehicle moving. Once drivers are comfortable with that kind of process, they may decide to learn to drive a manual shift vehicle, which requires much more work and attention on the road. Similarly, they may move from driving a small car to learning how to drive trucks, vans, or even tractors and combines. Each type of vehicle has its own challenges in terms of speed, handling, and other factors.

Other varieties of lifelong learning are less obvious, but they can be just as real. Learning to drive without being distracted by passengers in the vehicle or being able to adjust the heat while keeping your eyes on the road as much as possible are two examples of lifelong learning. As people get older, the specific challenges might change, such as dealing with loud teenage friends at one point to having a small child in the car to dealing with the needs of elderly parents as time progresses.

Driving a vehicle is complicated at the best of times. It involves the basic tasks of using the accelerator and brakes, as well as the clutch in manual transmission vehicles, besides watching for traffic, pedestrians, other road users, and animals. Except on very familiar roads, it also involves finding the best route to a destination, whether that involves using a GPS computer or using old-fashioned maps and looking for street signs. With construction, red lights, hills, and valleys, drivers are constantly facing situations they might never have encountered before.

Where Learning Takes Place

As the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s website explains, learning can take place outside the workplace, in a wide range of settings, both formal and informal. The driver’s seat of a vehicle is one of the informal settings where learning can take place. Part of that learning results from practice. For example, being able to turn the steering wheel the correct amount to make a smooth turn is not something that drivers can learn in the classroom; it comes from practice. Similarly, someone who learned how to drive in the prairies might have to learn new skills on a trip to the mountains.

People take in new information all the time without thinking about it, but lifelong learning is a deliberate process. Whenever you encounter a new situation, it is important to notice important elements that might be important for the future.

Practicing old skills is also an important part of lifelong learning as a driver. Even experienced drivers often need to brush up on their skills, as driving instructor Shaun de Jager’s tips in a 2018 CTV article explain. Changing sloppy habits, especially on turns, adjusting the mirrors properly, and using the vehicle’s low beam headlights when approaching others on the road are some of the habits that drivers might forget as they become accustomed to their usual mode of driving.

Refresher Courses

The seventh recommendation in the article is perhaps the most important: taking a refresher or an advanced driving course. The skill of driving is much like learning a language; you might still be able to speak, read, and write the language after several years away, but you will likely need to take some lessons to use it well. Driving skills can also diminish over time, but taking the time to relearn it with a good instructor can help. Shaun de Jager recommends once every ten years for ordinary drivers and one every five years for truck and bus drivers.

The specific skills that need refreshing depend on the people and the situations. A driver who travels down a highway to and from work or school each day will likely not need the same kinds of skills as someone who commutes through a busy downtown area during rush hour. Someone who regularly encounters cyclists on the road will need to learn slow and cautious driving in a way that would not apply in the same way for a driver who travels on freeways. Each person has different challenges and needs to learn or relearn specific driving skills.

Sometimes, drivers have no choice about going for a refresher course in driving. When they are at fault in a serious accident or they have too many speeding tickets or demerits, they may be ordered to attend driving classes to relearn the rules and to practice safe driving techniques. If this happens to you, it is important to use the opportunity as fully as possible to learn the skills that you need. Otherwise, you might have to pay a large fine or lose your license permanently.

Learning together with other people can be helpful, but you can also learn on your own. Online information from driving schools, insurance companies, and governments gives guidance on everything from passing other vehicles to the ignition interlock system to mirrors. If you need help with the practical aspects of driving, you can get a friend or relative to help or take lessons with a professional instructor.

Whatever your level of skills and knowledge, you can benefit from seeing driving as lifelong learning. When you drive, consider the things that still cause problems for you and find ways to learn the techniques that will make your driving as smooth and skillful as possible.