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Hum Factors. 2002 Summer;44(2):287-302.

Use of a fixed-base driving simulator to evaluate the effects of experience and PC-based risk awareness training on drivers' decisions.

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Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA.


Driver education classes were once seen as a remedy for young drivers' overinvolvement in crashes, but research results from the early 1970s were disappointing. Few changes in the content or methods of instruction occurred until recently, but this could change rapidly. Personal computers (PCs) can now present videos or photorealistic simulations of risky, cognitively demanding traffic scenarios that require quick responses without putting the participant at risk. As such programs proliferate, evaluating their effectiveness poses a major challenge. We report the use of a fixed-base driving simulator to study the effects of both experience on the road and PC-based risk awareness training on younger drivers' part-task simulator driving performance in risky traffic scenarios. We ran three groups of drivers on the simulator: one group first trained on the PC (younger, inexperienced drivers) and two groups who received no PC training (younger, inexperienced and experienced drivers). Overall, the younger, inexperienced drivers who were trained on a PC operated their vehicles in risky scenarios in ways that differed measurably from those of the untrained younger, inexperienced drivers and, more important, in ways that we believe would decrease their exposure to risk considering that, on average, their behavior was more similar to the behavior of the untrained, experienced drivers. More research is needed to demonstrate whether these findings apply on the open road to the larger population of younger drivers. However, at least initially, the research suggests that PC-based risk awareness training programs have the potential to reduce the high crash rate among younger, inexperienced drivers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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