Young drivers experience: the results of a second phase training on higher order skills

Evaluation study in the framework of the European project NovEV
Craen, Saskia de; Vissers (Traffic Test), Jan; Houtenbos, Maura; Twisk, Divera
A new approach to tackle the high accident risk of young, novice drivers is post-license training. In this study the effect of a second phase driver training is evaluated using a before-and-after design with a control group. Second phase driver training In the basic (pre-licence) training phase, drivers are trained with respect to vehicle control and the mastery of traffic situations. What is essential in this phase is the faultless and automatic application of such driving routines. After completing his/her basic driving course, and passing the exam, the novice driver gains experience, but also is exposed to new risks. After six months of independent driving, he has driven in 'unfamiliar' situations, encountered new traffic situations, has started to develop his own driving style and to regard car driving as a means to an end (e.g. to go to a party to have fun) rather than as a meaningful activity in itself. These new developments in the novice driver’s career call for a second phase in driver training. Participants After an appeal by mail and telephone, 376 young novice drivers agreed to participate in the project. Unfortunately, during the course of the project, many of the participants dropped out. Out of 376 young drivers that initially agreed to participate, only 127 (33%) completed all parts of the project. The participants who did not want to participate, those who dropped out, and those who finished all parts of the project were compared for a number of variables. This led to the conclusion that there was no major problem with selective drop-out. Naturally, the groups did differ on at least one aspect, namely for one reason or another some completed the project and others did not. Training programme and objectives The second phase training consisted of the following modules: - An on-road feedback drive The objective of the feedback drive was to present the driver with feedback about his driving performance. It was different from instruction drives, as the instructor confronted the driver with his 'expert' observations in order to make the participant 'think' and reflect. So he did not tell the participant what to do, but encouraged him to draw his own conclusions. During the first feedback drive the participant and instructor were accompanied by a second participant who rode along as a passenger. The drive was followed by a discussion between instructor, passenger and driver. - Training on a closed track The objective of the track training was for participants to experience the limits of their skills in vehicle control and to share these experiences with other group members. - A group discussion The objective of the group discussion was to stimulate recognition of potentially hazardous situations in rather 'normal' social situations. The discussion was based on video sketches, depicting typical situations (incidents rather than accidents) involving young drivers (men and women). The moderator encouraged the youngsters to reflect on the events. - An evaluation on-road feedback drive (about a month later) The objective of this second feedback drive was the same as the first feedback drive, that is to present the driver with feedback about his driving performance. Evaluation design and data collection methods The effect of the track training and group discussion was studied using a before-and-after design with a control group. Participants were randomly assigned to the control or the experimental (treatment) group. The control group participated in both feedback drives. In addition to the feedback drives, the experimental group also participated in track training and in a group discussion. Results and conclusions by instrument - Satisfaction questionnaire Young drivers were not very motivated to participate on a voluntary basis in a second phase training. However, once after the course, novice drivers were enthusiastic about the training day. Within the training day, the group discussion was rated as the least attractive part, while the feedback drive was considered about as attractive and useful as the track training. The message of the second-phase training was well understood. There were no indications that the young, novice drivers overestimated their skills, as a result of the training. - Questionnaire The questionnaire contained items on risk awareness, self-assessment of skill and judgements of traffic situations on photo. The results from the questionnaire are somewhat unclear; some effects of the training were found, but not consistent and not always in the expected direction. In line with expectations, the items concerning risk awareness confirmed that young drivers do not seem particularly concerned in general, and especially not about driving too fast. A least 60% of the respondents are not concerned about driving too fast. On the other hand, it turned out that young drivers are, overall, rather confident about their driving skills. At least 30% of the participants believe they are (very) strong in all skills, and in some skills more than 60% believe they are (very) strong. It was expected that these opinions would improve as a result of the training day, in the sense that respondents would see more danger and be less confident about their driving skills. Detailed analyses showed no effect of training on these variables. Further research is needed to demonstrate that the questionnaire itself is sensitive enough to register changes as a result of a short-term intervention. The fact that there were significant gender differences in these issues, led to the conclusion that this part of the questionnaire possibly measures more stable attitudes or personality traits (which could not be changed with a one-day training course or within the period of a month). - On-road observation form After the feedback drive, both the instructor and the participant filled out an on-road observation form. This form contained items on driving skill and assessment of complexity of the driving task. The young drivers' assessment of their own driving skills and task complexity did not change as a result of training. This implies, that the objective of the course to inform young drivers about their limited skills and the high complexity of the traffic situation did not result in a more cautious self-estimation. On the positive side, this result indicates that the training day and more in particular the track training did not lead to a higher estimation of skills and a lower estimation of the complexity of the driving task. To study the accuracy of the driver's self image, their self-estimation scores were compared with the instructor's assessment of the young driver's competencies. On 'vehicle control and general skills', instructors and participants did not differ in their assessment neither on the pre-test nor on the post-test. As expected on 'safe and defensive driving' in the pre-test, participants rated their performance higher than the instructor did. As the course was directed at improving self-assessment skills, it was expected accuracy to improve in the sense that their assessment would be more in line with that of the instructor after the training. This was not the case. Generally, from the results from the on-road observation form, it can be concluded that while the instructors did see some improvement as a result of the training, the participants did not. Driving Assessment Task conditions between control group and experimental group differed systematically on the pre-test. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that the observed difference in task performance between control group and experimental group is a reflection of these test conditions rather than a significant difference between the two groups. Within the experimental group, the performance of the participants of the two different training locations differed significantly. This, despite the fact that at both locations the participants had received exactly the same training (on paper). Where performance at location A (Lelystad) was improved by training, driving performance at location B (Rijssen) got even worse. Because the test conditions for the participants of the two locations were the same, this result is reliable. The process evaluation indicated that despite their organisation's involvement in the NovEV project, the trainers from location B did not share the same opinion on the definitions of a 'useful' training. As a result, these trainers had to give a type of training they did not believe in. This could have (subconsciously) affected the way they gave the training, or the way the participants perceived the training. Research has shown (ADVANCED, 2002) that any education looses its strength if the educator is not absolutely convinced about what he/she is teaching. Moreover, that the effectiveness of the education is largely dependent on the person, the beliefs of the teacher, and his behaviour (Hale & Glendon,1987). For a more detailed discussion of the role of the 'teacher', see the ADVANCED report. General conclusions In the Dutch pilot, the recommendations of the ADVANCED report were closely followed with respect to the content of the course and the evaluation of its effects. However, as stated earlier, in practice these recommendations were not always followed in one of the two locations. In this study, it has been demonstrated that, on the one hand, the second phase is recognized by the participants as a useful and necessary part of their driving career. On the other hand, the high refusal rate demonstrates that youngsters are not interested in participating on a voluntary basis. The effects of the course are limited, and can even be negative, if trainers are not fully equipped to give the course, indicating that a much greater effort is needed in training second phase trainers than has been the case in this project.
Report number
72 + 20
SWOV, Leidschendam

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