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Experience counts when it comes to safe driving. Passing a driver’s test alone does not mean that a young driver is “experienced”.

Teen drivers are very cautious behind the wheel when they first begin to drive, but as time goes on many engage in potentially risky behaviors such as speeding, texting, talking on a cell phone, eating, listening to loud music, and talking to passengers.  Is this a sign of careless behavior or clueless behavior?

In a University of Massachusetts Amherst Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory study, researchers found that lack of awareness caused 43.6% of novice teen accidents. The research team used driving simulators to create high risk visual scenes set in a virtual world.

Using cameras that tracked the drivers’ eye movements, researchers were able to pinpoint how drivers recognize a hazardous situation and how they use their vision to see upcoming hazardous situations. The results showed that young drivers do not scan the road as effectively as experienced drivers and do not adjust the way they are driving when approaching potentially dangerous situations.  Just seeing a dangerous situation does not mean a novice driver can comprehend the danger quickly enough to react properly.

It turns out that most new drivers are not taught some key skills for avoiding accidents.  The UMass Amherst team decided to take their findings and created two interactive software programs to help train teens to become better, safer drivers.

  • The Focused Concentration and Attention Learning (FOCAL) program was created to teach drivers how to reduce their glance durations to less than two seconds while still performing secondary in-vehicle tasks accurately.
  • The Risk Awareness and Perception Training (RAPT) program trains younger, inexperienced drivers to anticipate potential hazards in different roadway scenarios and how they can adjust their driving style to become safer drivers.

Six months after students took the RAPT training, 62% of students were able to effectively anticipate hazardous situations; a similar group of drivers who did not take the training spotted hazards only 38 percent of the time.

State Farm has adopted these training programs through its Road Aware program.  If Arbella and State Farm can do it, so can drivers training programs.  One hour of training can save many lives.

Would your teen know what to do if the brakes failed or if she/he had a tire blowout?  Isn’t it time we all pay more attention to these real contributing factors to teen auto accidents?

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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