Driver Conditioning Part III: Protecting our Children
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Driver Conditioning Part III: Protecting our Children

Driver Conditioning Part III: Protecting our Children

Every day, thousands of teens get behind the wheel unprepared for the life-threatening dangers awaiting them.

Teaching is more than imparting knowledge; it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts; it is acquiring understanding. ~ William Arthur Ward – Writer

Dean T. Johnson is the president and founder of The Sandy Johnson Foundation: Making Our Roads Safer. He began the efforts of promoting safe roadways, soon after the unnecessary deaths of his wife and mother-in-law.


To say that a loving parent would knowingly place their child in danger is, in-and-of-itself, a contradictory statement. Yet every day, thousands of teen drivers get behind the wheel – with parental consent – entirely unprepared to handle the life-threatening dangers awaiting them.

Why? One reason is that many parents still do not fully understand the risks posed by driving.

We should not undervalue our traditional driver education programs – which generations of Americans have experienced – as they provide vital information to new drivers and crucial skills we all need behind the wheel. Without being able to recognize traffic control devices or understand traffic laws, after all, we would put all road users at risk.

Today, we even have advanced training programs offering new drivers the opportunity to experience dangerous conditions, such as impaired vision or driving on icy surfaces, in a safe environment. Yet, while all of these programs provide crucial driving experiences for our youth, they still fall short: car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens and we lose 40,000 people each year on our roads.

What we need is an in-depth look into the mental side of driving and an understanding of how driver conditioning can pose the greatest threat to our safety. This is the area where The Sandy Johnson Foundation: Making Our Roads Safer(SJF) puts its focus. We work to provide drivers – including teens – with the tools needed to help them recognize and avoid driver conditioning so that we can all stay safe on the roads.

To help protect teen drivers, SJF created resources for teens and their parents, since we know parents are the key to making teen driving habits stick. These resources answer questions most drivers wouldn’t think to ask and help lay the foundation for a lifetime of safer driving. These resources include:

  1. The Hidden Dangers of Driving– This internet-based program, supplemental to a traditional driver education program, was developed primarily for teens but is also suitable for adults. Taught by SJF’s founder, this program focuses on the specific mental issues discussed in Part 2 of this series, including Mental Compromise, Cognitive Disengagement, Tunnel Vision and Inattentional Blindness. This resource is available at no cost and can be found on SJF's website.

  2. Driver Conditioning: The Unexpected Killer This paperback book provides the same material as our internet-based program. Developed primarily for those who prefer to learn from a book or have limited access to the internet, you can keep this resource in the car as a handy reference guide when driving with your teen. It can be downloaded at no cost on SJF's website – physical versions are also available at a low cost – and it is designed to be easy to read, while providing a deeper understanding of driver conditioning and the inherent dangers of driving.

  3. SJF is also hard at work on a new supplemental driver education resource, which will present much of our existing materials in a more interactive, teen-friendly format. This online resource is expected to be introduced fall 2019.

    We encourage all parents to stay involved with their teen’s progress behind the wheel and brush up on their own driving lessons, as well. Your teen will follow your driving example no matter what, so set a safe, responsible example for these new drivers to follow.

    In Part Four of this series, we will review the importance of creating an awareness of driver conditioning for the adult driving public and offer a simple solution to this seemingly difficult challenge.

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