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Aversion Therapy

Does showing horror crashes make a better driver?

The handsome looking young man in his early twenties in the driver’s seat appeared nervous. Nothing unusual when learning to drive. I asked the usual question: “Have you ever been involved in a crash or had a bad experience as a cyclist, passenger or pedestrian?” Many times I get an affirmative answer, which explains a learners apprehension.

In this case, however, he was quite sure there was no incident he can remember. After probing a little deeper, I discovered the reason for his apparent fear. It is an over-reaction to ‘Aversion Therapy’. I did not know this term, until listening to a radio program. I learned it is a psychological technique, where, in the case of novice drivers, they are shown videos of car crashes: Blood, twisted metal, ambulances, severed limbs etc. A visiting policeman presents this as part of a ‘road safety program’. A young person in a wheelchair may also attend, driving the message even deeper.

The message is: Do stupid things with this weapon and this is the result.
I question the road safety value of Aversion Therapy. A certain personality type, those that take things to heart, may develop a fear, that can get blown out of all proportions. The aversion to driving may be so great, that they take years to even have the courage to book a driving lesson.

From a driving instructors point of view, I prefer students that have a healthy respect for the danger of a motor vehicle. The shock of watching a young person, helplessly imprisoned in a wheelchair does this very well. But nothing will replace learning low-risk techniques, which together with a healthy attitude by parents, will put safe, confident drivers on the road.

Fatal crashes are a regular feature on the news; is that not enough warning?

A child learning to swim, also learns water safety. Would showing a graphic video of a person drowning produce a better swimmer – or merely one that is afraid of water?

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