14 Jun 2017

Should online driver training programmes be mandatory?

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 14 June 2017

The number of fatal car crashes caused by a learner driver has dropped by more than 70 percent in 10 years, and a leading researcher says an online driver training programme could reduce it even further.

Doctor Robert Isler heads the University of Waikato's road safety research group and is the founder of eDrive, which helps learner drivers improve their hazard awareness.

Dr Isler told Nine to Noon the programme simulates the driver's view from the front seat of a car, and once learner drivers start working on it they soon realise they are a lot worse at hazard perception than they thought they were.

No caption

Photo: Supplied / Fleetcoach

Those using the programme can choose from a range of scenarios, including city and rural driving, driving at night and during the day, and there are also weather features incorporated into it.

Dr Isler said as users "drive", various hazards loom up and they click the screen when they see them.

"So we measure the time it takes them to click.

"It's not only important that they see the hazards, it's also how long it takes them to see them because sometimes when they click it's just too late to react to the risks, so it's important the hazard perception time actually relates to risk."

Dr Isler said anticipating what was going to happen on the road and learning to put oneself into the shoes of other drivers was a hard skill for new drivers to learn.

But he said as users worked through the eDrive programme there was a huge improvement in their eye movements and hazard perception.

"The eye movements become more efficient. The young people need to look at hazards in a shorter time because they can extract information quicker and things like that."

Dr Isler said the better young people were at hazard perception and picking up that information quickly, the less vulnerable they were to other factors, and that training was really important.

He said they had also developed an eDrive programme that foreign drivers could use at home before they travelled to New Zealand and some rental car companies had been supportive of that.

Dr Isler said some people believed knowing how to drive would not be necessary with the advent of driverless cars, but he believed it would be several years before all cars were driverless and having good driving skills was important in the meantime.