Anticipating the Hazard

by | Feb 13, 2013

The Maryland DMV has begun discussions of adding a driving simulator to driver’s education courses.  Young adults from the ages 16 to 20 are in the group with the highest fatality and injury rate.  In fact, they are four times more likely to suffer an injury or death than any other age group.  Driving simulators are believed to help drivers spot hazards that are normally only recognized by experienced drivers.  For example, if a driver is passing a large truck that may impede visibility, most experienced drivers will intuitively slow down to scan for pedestrians or other vehicles as they pass the truck.  In tests, only a small fraction of young adult drivers reacted in a way that would have safely anticipated any hazards.  These driving simulators are often not intended to replace actual behind the wheel experience.  Rather, it helps to recreate conditions that could prove very dangerous, particularly simulations in snow and ice.  Other conditions that a driving simulator can recreate in a safe environment are heavy traffic, poor visibility, slippery and wet roadways, scanning for pedestrians, and passing maneuvers on rural roadways with oncoming traffic.  In the real world, practicing in these conditions could potentially be very dangerous for inexperienced drivers.  These simulators help new drivers learn in much the same way that the military uses flight simulators to help train world class fighter pilots.  All of these scenarios are taught in traditional driver’s education courses, but actually experiencing it behind the wheel of real car, with simulation equipment, may vastly improve the driving skills of our young drivers.

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