This report describes an evaluation of a series of self-administered training modules designed to improve novice drivers' hazard anticipation, hazard mitigation, and attention maintenance skills.
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Previous research has shown that young novice drivers perform much worse than do experienced drivers in three key areas that likely contribute to their significantly elevated crash rates: keeping their attention focused on the forward roadway, recognizing latent or hidden hazards in the driving environment, and taking appropriate action in response to such hazards. The purpose of this study was to develop a training program to improve these critical skills, and to evaluate the effect of the program on the skills of young novice drivers within the context of specific driving scenarios in which teen driver crashes often occur.
Novice teen drivers have highly elevated crash rates during the first few months of independent driving. Rear-end, intersection and run-off-road crashes account for the majority of these crashes. Their high crash involvement may be due to underdeveloped skills in anticipating hidden or latent hazards, avoiding or mitigating hazards, and dividing attention between in-vehicle glances and the roadway. Recent novice driver training programs have not comprehensively trained all of these skills nor the aforementioned crash types in which teens are over-involved. The purpose of this study was to develop a novice driver training program to target skills needed to avoid crashes in the riskiest scenarios and to evaluate its effectiveness in improving critical skills among novice teen drivers.
The researchers developed Accelerated Curriculum to Create Effective Learning (ACCEL), a computer-based training program that can be downloaded from the internet on any personal computing device (e.g., laptops, smartphones, and tablets). The program targeted six skills in the context of specific crash types based on a literature review of factors linked to novice driver crash risk including:
At post-training evaluation, the ACCEL training group performed better than the placebo training group in five of the six skills. Tactical hazard mitigation performance was marginally better in the ACCEL group as compared to the placebo group.
The researchers further evaluated the durability of improvements three to six months post-training and the effects of a second ACCEL training session, but findings were limited due to high participant attrition.
Overall, the ACCEL training program accelerated the development of novice drivers’ strategic and tactical hazard anticipation and attention maintenance skills across the riskiest crash scenarios. Further research is warranted to evaluate the effectiveness of ACCEL to reduce crashes in novice drivers and to evaluate whether training effects endure.
Participants included 75 novice drivers aged 16 to 18 who had between 10 days and six months of independent driving experience and 25 experienced drivers aged 28 to 55 who had at least four years of independent driving experience.
The ACCEL training program consisted of three modules of error training: mistakes (placing drivers in unfamiliar situations and observing their mistakes), mentoring (providing drivers with feedback on mistakes) and mastery (allowing drivers to correct their mistakes). The six aforementioned skills were trained within potential rear-end, intersection and run-off-road crash scenarios, resulting in 18 unique scenarios. The training lasted approximately 120 minutes.
The placebo training program consisted of video tutorials on vehicle maintenance for an approximate duration of 70 minutes.
All participants were evaluated on the driving simulator with an eye tracker. The 21 total driving simulator scenarios were identical to those in the ACCEL training program, 18 of which were drives to evaluate strategic and tactical hazard anticipation and mitigation while the remaining three evaluated strategic and tactical attention maintenance. The eye tracker recorded the driver’s point of gaze during the driving scenarios. The simulator evaluation lasted approximately 60 minutes.
Participants in the novice driver group were randomly assigned to either ACCEL training (n = 50) or the placebo training (n = 25). Immediately after the ACCEL or placebo training, participants underwent the driving simulator evaluation and were fitted with the eye tracking apparatus. The 25 experienced drivers were evaluated once they arrived at the lab and remained untrained throughout the study. All novice driver participants were invited to a second evaluation three to six months posttraining. A subsample of the ACCEL trained participants underwent a second dose of training either at home or in the lab.
Cross-sectional comparisons were conducted between the ACCEL and placebo trained subjects to determine the immediate post-training effectiveness of ACCEL. To determine whether training effects endured and whether a second dose of ACCEL training enhanced performance, post-training effects were compared across the ACCEL first dose, ACCEL second dose, and placebo training groups three to six months post-training.