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Driver safety and simulators

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Young male drivers have by far the largest risk of becoming involved in a fatal traffic accident. One of the main reasons is that they overrate their driving skills and underestimate the risks on the road. This mismatch between skills and risk assessment has been studied a lot in traffic psychology and has been a long established fact. This problem has grown worse by two additional developments:

  1. The increase of smart phones and use of social media while driving has resulted in an increase in accidents in the Western world during the last few years because of the problem of distracted driving. This has broken the trend of decreasing numbers of on-road fatalities during the years before. When you overestimate your driving skills, as young male drivers do, its a small step to checking your smart phone while driving. This type of multitasking is impossible: if you have your eye off the road for more than 3 seconds, accident risk increases dramatically. Checking your phone normally takes much more time than 3 seconds.
  2. Young male drivers drive more often after alcohol consumption than other groups. They think they drive well enough to resist the performance degradations because of alcohol. One of the nasty effects of alcohol is that people are often unaware of the negative effects of alcohol on driving performance. It tends to enhance the overestimation of your own skills and thus increases the self evaluation problems that young male drivers already have.

Becoming more aware of the effects of distraction and alcohol on driving behaviour should be an important part of the driver training curriculum. These are things that must be experienced before they are internalized by young male drivers. For reasons of driver safety, these are things that are not easily learned in a learner car on public roads. However, in a car driving simulator, this can be easily demonstrated. The effects of alcohol on driving can be simulated without having to drink alcohol. And the effects of distraction by a phone can also be easily and safely demonstrated. When young drivers are fully aware of the negative effects of distraction and alcohol on driving by having had experiences themselves, this will hopefully reduce the number of traffic fatalities and improve driver safety.

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