CDC VR Driving Simulator for Training and Evaluating Driver Behavior

The CDC funded this study to determine whether training young drivers with a driving simulator would reduce the number of traffic violations and accidents experienced by novice licensed drivers. The participants of the study included 2 groups. The control group attended standard drivers’ education and training classes. The experimental group attended standard drivers’ education and training classes and participated in training utilizing a virtual reality driving simulator. Driving records for both groups are being monitored for 2 years after participants receive their driving licenses.

In particular, one aspect of the cognitive screening protocol evaluated impulsivity, which will be correlated over the 2-year follow-up and related to numbers of fatalities, MVAs, DUIs, moving violations, and any other infractions. The study protocol included 2 phases. Phase I included an introduction to the simulator and minimum performance on a computerized training test that tracks errors such as inappropriate lane changes (going over the white line) and “rolling stops” at stop signs. In Phase II, driving skill development was learned. Teenage participants drove in simulated situations that are often difficult and at times dangerous – e.g., a child running in front of their car – and the computer tracked the errors.

As part of the screening process to enter the study, participants were administered standard personality inventories, a computerized cognitive screening task, and self-report questionnaires concerning perceived self-efficacy. After completion of the study, participants were administered questionnaires to determine level of presence (or immersion) in the virtual reality training simulators and level of simulator sickness, which might have occurred during training. VRMC is in discussions with several physician groups in San Diego to develop a driving simulator that can be used to assess the status of elderly drivers and to test for early deficits in cognitive function.

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