Dr. Gregor Bartl

EFA – 2nd vice President Manuel
Picardi meets and interviews:

L to R Manuel Picardi; Gregor Bartl
L to R Manuel Picardi; Gregor Bartl

Dr. Gregor Bartl, has been a traffic psychologist since 1990. He is the Director of the Institute for Traffic Psychology in Austria   and he is responsible for over 70 publications in the field of traffic safety research. He has also led major EU-projects on driver rehabilitation programs, novice drivers and driver training – MERIT and HERMES – he is also  a training supervisor for traffic psychologists.

 Good morning Dr. Bartl. You are one of the most famous European expert in driving education.  How do you see the training in driving schools today? Does it seem enough?

If a young person dies, he or she is most likely to have been killed in a road accident. Consequently, best quality driver education must be an important goal of our society. In the future we do not need more of the same contents in driver education but more of new contents. The safe driver is not necessarily the skilled one but the one who is able and motivated to self-evaluate his or her skills and to behave responsible in traffic. In European driving schools we can see developments going into this direction.     

The process of motivation for novice drivers is often not simple. In many countries there are no compulsory lessons and acquiring  a driver’s license is seen more as an objective rather than a tool. How do you think we could solve this problem, and  create greater responsibility?

We cannot motivate other people, we can only initiate self-motivation in our learner drivers. A key element is the specific kind of relationship between the learner and the teacher. This relationship must not appear hierarchical but in a sense equal. The more I am interested in my student the more my student will be motivated to learn. A good teacher is able to create a learner-active atmosphere. Listening is as important as speaking. A good teacher is able to help the student understand what advantages he can gain from behaving safely in traffic. It makes a difference if the teacher tells the student what he must and must not do or if he makes him familiar with the consequences of his behavior. Only if a person is aware of all consequences of his behavior will he be motivated to do it correctly. The learner-driver will understand that he is not just learning to pass the test but that he can make use of all he has learned after the test.

 In a recent and very interesting speech at the TRI-COACHING Conference held in London last July, you’ve used the metaphor of deaths from coconuts to describe the “silent killer.” Recent  studies at U.S. universities show that deaths from falling coconuts are higher than those for shark attacks, but people are afraid of sharks but not afraid to walk under coconut palms. How do you think we can raise the awareness of drivers?

First, someone has to say that there are “silent killers” in traffic. We have to say for example that number one cause of accidents is inattention. We have to show the consequences of distraction and inattention. The mobile phone is a helpful tool in our life but a silent killer while we are driving a car. Talking with friends is amusing but intensive talking with friends while driving can be fatal. Feeling tiered is relaxing and convenient but being tired while driving a car is a silent killer. We have to be as clear and precise as possible in raising the awareness of drivers. Awareness of these silent killers must become part of the curricula in driver training.   

In Europe it is estimated that there are about 300 million licensed drivers. More than half have qualified over twenty years ago. Do you think that  there should be a continuing driver training education program for all drivers (lifelong learning program)?

Young novice drivers and drivers older than about 75 years with low annual mileage are at highest risk. For young drivers in a few countries extended learning periods have successfully been introduced. This kind of second phase training can be recommended. For older drivers further education e.g. in form of feed-back-drives in traffic might be a possibility to guarantee traffic-safety even when drivers are old. Further traffic-safety-education for older drivers primarily has to be seen a political challenge.

Thank you very much.


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