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Are Driving Simulators Effective Tools for Evaluating Novice Drivers' Hazard Anticipation, Speed Management, and Attention Maintenance Skills.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003,


Novice drivers (teen drivers with their solo license for six months or less) are at a greatly inflated risk of crashing. Post hoc analyses of police accident reports indicate that novice drivers fail to anticipate hazards, manage their speed, and maintain attention. These skills are much too broadly defined to be of much help in training. Recently, however, driving simulators have been used to identify those skills which differentiate the novice drivers from older, more experienced drivers in the areas of hazard anticipation and speed management. Below, we report an experiment on a driving simulator which compares novice and experienced drivers' performance in the third area believed to contribute especially heavily to crashes among novice drivers: attention to the forward roadway. The results indicate that novice drivers are much more willing to glance for long periods of time inside the vehicle than are experienced drivers. Interestingly, the results also indicate that both novice and experienced drivers spend equal amounts of time glancing at tasks external to the vehicle and in the periphery. Moreover, just as a program has been designed to train the scanning skills that clearly differentiate novice from experienced drivers, one might hope that a training program could be designed to improve the attention maintenance skills of novice drivers. We report on the initial piloting of just such a training program. Finally, we address a question that has long been debated in the literature: Do the results from driving simulators generalize to the real world? We argue that in the case of hazard anticipation, speed management, and attention maintenance the answer is yes.

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