The ‘frontal lobe’ project: A double-blind, randomized controlled study of the effectiveness of higher level driving skills training to improve frontal lobe (executive) function related driving performance in young drivers
Isler, R. B. & Starkey, N. J. (2008) The ‘frontal lobe’ project: A double-blind, randomized controlled study of the effectiveness of higher level driving skills training to improve frontal lobe (executive) function related driving performance in young drivers. Final report by the Traffic and Road Safety Research Group, Psychology Department, University of Waikato. Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/1714
The current study was undertaken in order to evaluate the effectiveness of higher level skills training on safe driving behaviour of 36 teenage drivers. The participants, who attended the Driver Training Research camp in Taupo (NZ) over a two week period, were 16 to 17 years old and had a valid restricted driver licence. The study focused on four main aims. Firstly, the behavioural characteristics of the sample and their attitudes to risk taking and driving were examined. Results showed that speeding was the most anticipated driving violation, and high levels of confidence were associated with a higher number of crashes and a greater propensity for risk taking. Many, often male participants, also rated their driving skills as superior to others and thought they would be less likely than others to be involved in an accident. Secondly, the relationship between driving performance and executive functioning, general ability and sustained attention was evaluated. Overall, better driving performance and more accurate self-evaluation of driving performance was related to higher levels of executive functions, in particular, working memory, and cognitive switching. In addition, higher general ability and greater ability to sustain attention were also linked to better performance on the driving related assessments. The third focus of this study was to compare the effects of both, higher level and vehicle handling skills training on driving performance, confidence levels and attitudes to risk. While both types of training improved direction control, speed choice and visual search, along with number of hazards detected and actions in relation to hazards, statistically significant improvement on visual search was seen only after higher level skills training. Vehicle handling skills training significantly improved direction control and speed choice. In addition, confidence levels in their driving skills were significantly lowered and attitudes to speeding, overtaking and close following had improved significantly in the participants after the higher level driving skills training. The final aspect to this study was to examine the effects of the training over the following 6 month period based on self-reported driving behaviour. The response rate of participants however, was not sufficient to reach any meaningful conclusion on any long-term training effects. A pilot study using GPSbased data trackers to assess post-training driving behaviour revealed some promising results for future driver training evaluation studies. The overall implications of the results are discussed in relation to improving the safety of young drivers in New Zealand.