Driver Coach Study: Using Real-time and Post Hoc Feedback to Improve Teen Driving Habits
Novice teenage drivers have the highest rates of fatalities and injuries on U.S. roadways compared to any other age group. This experimental research was conducted to see if presenting novice teenage drivers and their parents with feedback on teen driving performance could decrease rates of crash/near-crash (CNC) involvement. Ninety-two newly licensed teens had their vehicles instrumented with a data acquisition system (the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s MiniDAS) and received driving feedback in the form of a light and a tone when a potentially risky behavior was detected. Behaviors, such as swerving, speeding, lane changing without a turn signal, hard braking, hard turning, and fast starts, were used to determine when feedback was administered. Feedback continued for six months and then was turned off for one month (in the seventh month) to determine if risky behaviors returned after feedback stopped. These data were compared to a separate study (the Supervised Practice Driving Study [SPDS]) of 90 teenage drivers in the same geographic location who did not receive feedback. Parental involvement was examined by tracking which teen/parent groups checked the website and which did not. Results suggest that real-time and post hoc feedback produce a relative reduction in the rate of CNC involvement, but only when the parent is logging in to the website. If parents do not log in to the website to review the coachable events, real-time and post hoc feedback do not improve CNC rates. The analyses also indicated that once feedback was turned off in Month 7, teen CNC rates returned to baseline levels, which suggests that 6 months of feedback is not enough time to instill safe driving habits in novice drivers. This result also suggests that parental involvement in driver education must continue through the independent driving phase to improve teen CNC rates. In general, these results support previous research on monitoring and feedback, which suggest that parental involvement is critical in improving teen driving safety. These results also support current Graduated Driver’s Licensing (GDL) policies and provide research-based evidence that these policies should be strengthened.