A Novel Health-Transportation Partnership Paves The Road For Young Driver Safety Through Virtual Assessment

“Almost all crashes among young novice drivers (95.6 percent) are a result of driver error.4 Relatively few crashes result from errors associated with intentional risk taking (for example, aggressive driving). Rather, nearly half of all crashes involve errors associated with inadequate skills and experience, primarily recognition errors (for example, poor scanning and distraction, 46.3 percent), decision errors (for example, following too closely, speed management, 40.1 percent), and performance errors (for example, losing control, 8.0 percent). As a consequence, crash rates among novice drivers peak in the months immediately after licensure and then slowly decline over the first two years of independent driving as the drivers gain experience and skills. The spike in crash rates immediately after licensure suggests that the point of licensure could be critical for assessment and intervention to ensure that new drivers are better prepared for safe driving.

[..] although graduated driver licensing has been associated with reductions in crashes among sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, evidence suggests that it does not ensure adequate acquisition of safe driving skills before independent driving begins. In line with this, the Association of National Stakeholders in Traffic Safety Education published Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards in 2009 to guide novice driver education programs in states striving to provide high-quality, consistent driver education; these were revised in 2017. However, these standards have not been adopted universally, as many states no longer require formal driver education and training.

[..] given practicality and examiner safety concerns, typical driving skills tests have inherent limitations, including inconsistent exposure to traffic conditions as a result of location and timing, variability in examiners’ assessments of readiness to drive, and limited exposure to challenging scenarios associated with crashes. Driving assessment through simulated exposure to common, serious crash scenarios offers an opportunity to complement on-road examination through consistent evaluation of the skills that are critical for safe driving.

[..] The virtual driving assessment system was developed to address known limitations of the existing in-person, on-road examination for licensure—most notably the inability to systematically expose applicants to common, serious crash scenarios, thereby minimizing opportunities to evaluate safety-critical skills. As such, implementation of the system in the field could be used not only to identify underprepared license applicants likely to fail the on-road exam but also to identify drivers more likely to crash immediately postlicensure, using the range of crash-related driving skill metrics contained in the system. With support from a National Institutes of Health grant, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is leading a study to determine which virtual driving assessment system–measured skill deficits at licensure are predictive of crashes in the first year of licensed driving (by linking virtual driving assessment system, Ohio licensing, and Ohio crash data). Armed with the virtual driving assessment system, the licensing examination could become a teachable moment followed by targeted intervention to promote adequate safety-critical skill acquisition before applicants take the on-road exam and before they begin independent licensed driving.”

Full article, Walshe EA, Romer D, Kandadai V and Winston FK. Health Affairs, 2020.10.5