Research priorities in driver training: bridging the gap between research and practice
Watson, Barry C. (2003) Research priorities in driver training: bridging the gap between research and practice. In Driver Training Workshop, 2003 Road Safety Research, Policing and Education Conference, 24 - 26 September, 2003, Sydney, NSW.
While there is a strong community perception that specialised driver training is an effective road safety countermeasure, there is currently no clear evidence that it produces safer drivers compared to less formalised approaches to learning. A number of factors have been suggested to account for this apparent lack of effectiveness. In particular, it has been suggested that conventional approaches to driver training do not systematically address the perceptual and cognitive skills required for safe driving, or the motivational or attitudinal factors which can exert a powerful influence on driver judgement and decision-making. Hence, it is possible that with further research and development that more effective driver training programs could be developed. With this prospect in mind, this paper identifies three main priorities for future research in the area.
While assessing the crash outcomes achieved by driver training should remain a priority, there is a need for evaluations to focus on a broader range of outcomes and on the processes involved in training.
There is a need to focus more research attention on improving current driver training practices, particularly in relation to the development of hazard perception and decision-making skills, self-monitoring processes, and strategies to reduce the impact of risky attitudes and motivations on driving.
There is a need for more theory-driven approaches to the development and evaluation of innovative training programs. This is required to ensure that training practices are based on sound principles of behaviour change, rather than on expert opinion.
It is important to note that the research priorities identified in this paper cannot be addressed in any one program of research. Rather, a philosophy of incremental improvement is required. While some important driver training research initiatives continue to occur in Australia, it is an area that receives limited funding. While this is perhaps not surprising, given the state of the evidence, there is a need to ensure that the research that does occur is well directed and coordinated, and communicated to practitioners. This is vital to bridge the gap that currently exists between research and practice in the area of driver training.
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