Risk awareness and perception and the novice driver: Development and evaluation of training interventions and their influence on tactical and strategic visual search behavior
Young novice drivers are at a significantly higher risk of having a fatal vehicle crash than experienced drivers. One of the main causes for this statistic is that these drivers lack risk perception skills. They have not developed the ability to efficiently perceive or predict risks while driving. This dissertation will detail the research undertaken to study and remedy this problem.
Driving behaviors of drivers of different age groups were first evaluated to establish metrics that could discriminate between novice and experienced drivers. The comparison was carried out in a driving simulator while collecting vehicle parameters and eye movement information from the drivers. It was found that eye glance locations serve as effective indicators of the driver’s level of risk awareness and perception: experienced drivers were better at scanning the appropriate locations for risk relevant elements while driving. This finding led to the development of a PC-Based Risk Awareness and Perception Training Program (RAPT) that was used to test the feasibility of training risk perception skills among novice drivers. Evaluation of the trained drivers’ behaviors showed improved risk perception, both in a driving simulator and in the field. The training also generalized to driving situations that were conceptually different from the ones used in training.
The training program was primarily designed to target the tactical risk perception skills of drivers, i.e., those skills necessary to detect a potentially hazardous scenario materializing at a particular time and location, which can be detected by scanning for and recognizing various configurations and dynamics of elements in the driving situation. However the training also resulted in the improvement of strategic risk anticipation behavior (i.e., scanning patterns when there is no obvious threat but where a driver is required to be always aware of the possibilities of unexpected hazards). The trained drivers had eye movements that would facilitate efficient and early detection of hazards, while at the same time they were able appropriately to regulate the distribution of their glances towards and away from the forward roadway. This risk perception training can thus be used as an effective intervention for the vulnerable novice driver population.