(This article was written before the sudden changes to the DTAL Program were announced. Whether the changes to the program will overcome these problems or not, will have to be seen).
There is a current wave of concern that the DTAL program's subsidised log book CBT&A-based training system is not producing safe novice drivers.
Many of the concerns come directly from a group of professional NT driver trainers who are worried about the way many students are trained, the adverse impact on overall road safety, and the bad publicity which driving instructors are getting at present.
ALLEGATIONS OF MISTREATMENT
- not using appropriate & effective instructing techniques,
- not training learners in correct techniques or to the required standard,
- not covering all the competencies required by the program,
- not correctly assessing learners,
- avoiding conducting assessment drives and covering up in the paperwork,
- signing off students too early and letting unsafe & poorly prepared provisional drivers onto our roads,
- "dumping" students i.e., abandoning them when they have finished using their vouchers,
- retaining learners' voucher books and cashing in un-used vouchers with fraudulent details entered,
- retaining learners' log books,
- shouting at students,
- frightening students e.g. driving them through a busy 2-lane roundabout on their very first lesson,
- giving short lessons but charging full rate,
- regularly being late for booked lessons,
- regularly not turning up for booked lessons and not notifying the learner in advance,
- conducting sessions in cars not equipped with any dual controls (minimum required is a brake pedal on left hand side).
This was written in November 2003 after the logbook assessing system was unceremoniously cancelled without warning - causing outrage from instructors and their students. Significant changes to the governance and operation of the DTAL program was not warmly received at first.
Confusion reigned in the NT driver training industry in March this year as major changes were made to the DTAL Program and to the CBT&A-based log book training system.
PROGRAM TEMPORARILY HALTED
DTAL Theory classes were halted in December 2003 after a funding shortfall while DTAL was put "on hold" pending review.
This caused a lot of confusion and tension among training providers who were uncertain of their future.
Students on the program who passed their Final Check Drive on the log book system had to pay for the issue of their Provisional licence, despite having paid their $66 entrance fee with the understanding that this cost would be covered.
CHANGE IN FUNDING & GOVERNANCE
DTAL is now funded by DEET (Dept of Employment, Education & Training) instead of through the MACA (Motor Vehicle Compensations Act) scheme administered by the Territory Insurance Office, and now follows financial-year management practices.
Governance of the DTAL Program is transferred from the DTAL Board of Governance to the Employment and Training division of DEET.
LETTER TO INSTRUCTORS
On 27th Feb Mr Roger Bryett, Director Training Branch sent a letter to Authorised Driving Instructors (ADIs) outlining the program Guidelines:
Administration changes affecting driver trainers include:
- 16 to 18 year old NT residents eligible for the program;
- 12 funded lessons (vouchers) for students under the Driver Training Logbook;
- Vouchers valid until 30 June 2004;
- Courses will need to commence no later than 10 May 2004 to ensure funding aligns with end of financial year management practices;
- Funded Learner and Provisional Licences for successful DTAL Program students;
Most training providers assumed that this would affect only students entering the program after 1st March.
- No requirement for Specialist Driver Trainer Status;
- Requirement for Certificate IV Driving Instruction ($100 rebate for existing instructors by DEET);
- Requirement for Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance;
- Student undertakes practical driver licence test booked through the Motor Vehicle Registry; (instead of being assessed for their licence by their DTAL instructor).
This column was written in December 2003 but with the increasing NT road death toll, the issues it raises are still relevent today.
A front page article in the NT News (19/12/2003) has concerned some driver trainers in Darwin.
International Road Safety Comparison figures show that the NT rate of 25.3 deaths per 100,000 people is second only to Korea.
In the article, AANT President David Booth said the statistics disappointed but did not shock him, and said that "learners should be taught defensive driving techniques as part of their course".
It is this remark - implying that defensive driving is not taught by instructors - which concerns some NT driver trainers.
Many trainers especially those operating under DTAL provide minimal training to get their learners through the test in the shortest possible time - a combination of pressure from learners and lack of concern for the outcome of their training.
However, aside from speciality operators doing advanced driving courses, there is a group of instructors who do endeavour to teach defensive driving skills.
People think that driving instructors teach only the basics of car control (clutch, gears etc).
Professional instructors with integrity incorporate defensive driving skills into all aspects of their in-car training delivery.
Defensive Driving is driving in a manner to avoid crashes, and does not necessarily include training on how to control a skid as some people might think.
Skills which are taught include observation techniques (scanning etc), maintaining safety margins, identifying hazard zones, appropriate responses to hazard situations, approaches to intersections, cornering speeds, cooperation with other road users... to name but a few.
Despite Mr. Booth's comments there ARE some driving instructors in Darwin who DO train in this manner.