How to Drive a Car with the Pareto Principle

Transportation Waste, Truck. This image is CC0!

Recently, I started a short series about the Pareto Principle and Learning. Today, I want to continue this with an application to the way one acquires his or her driver’s license.

I would just like to recall the generally accepted hypothesis that you need to learn and apply knowledge to any topic for 10’000 hours to become a true master.

Let’s look at the numbers. I take them from the German rules, but I think it is easy to translate them to another country.

All in all, you need less than 100 hours to get the license:

  • 12 hours of theory sessions
  • 30 hours of driving lessons
  • 12-24 hours of learning the theory and preparing for the theory test
  • 1 hour (or a little more) for the practical test

That’s 67 hours so far. Assuming you fail once and need half of that for repetition, that’s around 100 hours. We are at the 1% point of the 10’000 hour rule and you are already allowed to drive in the public.

If you compare it to the rules in Florida at the end of the last century, that is even a lot. At that time I made the Florida test. It was driving around on a course exclusively reserved for the tests plus a simple theory test. If you knew that alcohol and drugs do not mix well with driving a car you had a good part of the theory correct. The rest was what most children learn from riding a bike… Even for a complete rooky, 50 hours should be more than enough to pass the test.

That may sound a little cynical, but young drivers have an over-proportionally high rate of severe and deathly accidents.

During the probation time, some limits to the license apply. There is a speed limit you need to observe (I don’t know how that is checked) and after certain wrong behaviors (e.g. ignoring a red traffic light) you have to take some more lessons and do a new test.

If we assume that you drive an hour and a half a day during that time, you will have about 2’200 hours of learning and driving experience. Of course, that is a rough estimation. Many people will need more than two years and some will need less.

After that time you could become a true master of driving a car. In reality, that is the end of the line for most of us. If you do not drive professionally, your expertise will increase a little because of experience but it will also deteriorate because of bad habits kicking in. (Do you still use the direction indicator as you learned it?)

Conclusion: At least in Germany, the rules for getting a driver’s license are perfectly in line with the Pareto Principle.

What do you think? Are you a master with your car? When did you learn to become one?

Continued in this post: Pareto in the Kitchen.

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