Belgian driving schools are not ready for the (automatic) future, says federation
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Belgian driving schools are not ready for the (automatic) future, says federation

The number remains relatively low. Credit: Pexels

Belgian driving education is not ready for the future, as it focuses too much on driving with a manual transmission and not enough on driving assistant systems, according to Federdrive, the Belgian federation for driving schools.

At the moment, most people taking their driving exams choose to use a car with a manual transmission, even though electric and hybrid cars are being bought increasingly, and they all have an automatic transmission system. “We need to encourage people more to first learn to drive with an automatic transmission,” said Jeroen Smeesters, the president of Federdrive, reports VRT.

People who take their driving exams using an automatic transmission instead of a manual one, can still receive a driver’s license, but with the restriction that they can only operate vehicles with an automatic transmission. Anyone who does not want that restriction, has to take a new exam with a manual transmission car. That system, however, is no longer of this time, according to Federdrive.

“We are switching more and more to electric and hybrid vehicles, which always have an automatical transmission. We think it’s only natural to encourage people to learn to drive automatically when they obtain their driving licence, seeing as they are going to drive automatically for most of their driving career,” said Smeesters.

Federdrive proposes that people who obtain their driver’s license with an automatic transmission should not have to take a new exam to switch to a manual car, but that they will be able to have the restriction in their license removed after taking a number of lessons.

“In other European countries, such as France and Germany, this is already possible, and it encourages people much more to obtain their driving licence with an automatic car,” says Smeesters. “Automatic driving also encourages people to drive more calmly,”
he added.

According to Federdrive, Belgian driver training also lags behind when it comes to driver assistance systems, even though these systems are increasingly becoming part of the standard equipment of a car. “They serve to support the driver. For example, keeping your car in the lane (lane assist) or automatically adjusting your speed in busy traffic (automatic cruise control). Today we notice that there are drivers driving around who are not able to fully control the operation of those systems and that can lead to dangerous situations,” added Smeesters.

“As a driving school, you can pay attention to this during lessons, but we cannot forget that about half of the people do not follow driving lessons at a driving school. If we really want to reach everyone, we have to include it in the driving exam. Another alternative is to fully professionalise the driving school and have everyone take lessons through a driving school”.

Federdrive has proposed its idea of modernising the driving education to Lydia Peeters, the Minister for Mobility, in November, who has scheduled a meeting to talk about ideas on 7 January, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times