The Science of Security Driving and the 80% Standard

The derivation of the Scotti School of Defensive Driving or Scotti School for short (old) –> Vehicle Dynamics Institute –> International Security Driver Association 80% standard.

I have received PM’s, emails, and phone calls concerning training providers using the phrase “The Science of Driving, and OUR 80% standard for measuring driving skill, so I thought a history lesson was in order.

Starting in the mid-’70s our clients wanted, actually demanded, that the Scotti School supply an objective measurement of their employee’s driving skill, with the goal of producing a professional security driver who has been scientifically measured to an objective and documented standard. 

To meet that demand, we studied the research conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers, ISO, and NHTSA. Their research created an understanding of how drivers make decisions in emergencies and how long it takes them to make those decisions. We found that these organizations created minimum standards, based on the laws of physics, for measuring driving skill and, therefore, survivability in an emergency scenario. Also, we decided that to perform the duties of a professional security driver; the minimum standards were not sufficient.

In 1976, armed with my engineering degree, a radar gun, a large protractor, and timing devices, I spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and money to come up with training programs (Executive Protection and Security Driving) that implemented the standards created by these institutions. Please keep in mind that this was before computers. 

I was fortunate that one of our first clients, an oil company, took an interest in what we were attempting to accomplish, and supplied me with equipment and vehicles. As a side note, 45 years later, Joe Autera and the Vehicle Dynamics Institute team will be conducting a training program (security and driving) OCONUS this year for that same oil company.

From our research, we found white papers and studies conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers that indicated that the average driver, when confronted with an emergency, can only use 40% of the vehicle’s capability before they relinquish control of the vehicle (give up). 

Our on-track testing showed that at the 40% mark, the vehicle becomes non-linear, which in turn creates driver anxiety (fear). We also found that once the driver was at the 40% usage of the vehicle, there remained much more vehicle capacity available for the driver to use. After a considerable amount of testing and evaluating, we decided that a good driver should be able to use a minimum of 80% of the vehicle’s capability, in the three modes of vehicle operation, in a measured minimum amount of time and space, to be considered for employment as the CEO’s driver—hence the 80% standard. 

The 80% standard has withstood the test of time. Forty-five years ago, the goal was to create a standard and training system that would be accepted by the K&R and Corporate community, and that was accomplished. Anyone who attended an old Scotti School or a Vehicle Dynamics Institute program knows that reaching the 80% standard is demanding. So, I hope you can see why I’m taken back by training providers or, in one instance, an association claim that the 80% standard is theirs without any acknowledgment of the work that ate up 45 years of my life.