THE BLOG
09/24/2014 02:30 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2014

An Epidemic of Dangerous Driving: Bring Back Driver-Education

A recent report on the national news only confirmed what many of us have known: Driving has not just gotten worse; it's become extremely dangerous. Indeed, it's completely out of hand.

In big cities around the country, the response times for emergency vehicles have gone up dramatically such that the survival rates for those injured in accidents have been seriously impacted. In far too many cases, emergency vehicles can no longer make it in time to the scene of accidents or emergencies to assist those in dire need of help.

The dramatic increase in response times is not just due to the fact that there are more cars on the road, which there obviously are. Rather, more and more drivers are so self-absorbed and distracted that they don't see the need to pull over or they just plain refuse get out of the way so that emergency vehicles can get through.

Unfortunately, bad driving extends far beyond hampering emergency vehicles.

Daily I witness drivers who utterly fail to use their turn signals when they clearly should, for example when changing lanes at extremely high speeds on freeways. (They shouldn't be going super fast to begin with.) Or, when the lights turn green at stoplights, they use their turn signals at the very last second thus frustrating drivers and making it difficult to get safely around them. Such behavior is more than an annoyance. It often causes cars to swerve dangerously into other lanes of traffic.

Far worse are those who at the last second move without signaling across several freeway lanes in order to make an exit ramp. I was taught that one should use one's turn signals far in advance of changing lanes or initiating turns.

At the top of my list are those who speed up at yellow lights and run red lights altogether. Again, I was taught in driver-education that one should only go through a yellow light if one is in the middle of an intersection when the light turns yellow. A yellow light is not an invitation to speed up. It is a signal to come to a complete stop and wait until the light turns green again.

And, don't get me started on texting and distracted driving in general!

We desperately need "crash courses" [pun intended!] in safe driving. If we don't see the need to bring back and strengthen driver-education, then we are literally on a collision course with ourselves. Driver-education needs to be made mandatory.

Ian I. Mitroff is Professor Emeritus from USC. He is a Senior Investigator in The Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley. He is President of Mitroff Crisis Management. With Murat Alpaslan, his latest book is The Crisis Prone Society: A Brief Guide to the Beliefs that Drive Risks in Business, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.