Hazard Perception Training
Horswill et al. (2021) stated, “Hazard perception is typically defined as a driver’s ability to anticipate situations that may lead to a collision and has been conceptualized as a driver’s situation awareness of crash-relevant aspects of the traffic environment” (p.2). Research shows hazard perception errors are common in the crashes of young drivers (Curry et al., 2011; McKnight & McKnight, 2003). Novice drivers also perform worse on hazard perception tests than experienced drivers (Borowsky et al., 2010; Wetton et al, 2011). Furthermore, performance on hazard perception tests is associated with crash involvement. Horswill et al. (2015) found that novice drivers who failed a hazard perception test at licensure were more likely to be involved in crashes the year after taking the test and Horswill et al. (2020) found that scores on a hazard prediction test correlated with self-reported crash involvement. Consequently, several programs have been developed that focus on teaching hazard perception skills generally using computer simulation (summarized in McDonald et al., 2015, and Thomas, Blomberg, & Fisher, 2012). The Risk Awareness and Perception Training (RAPT) program is a computer-based training module designed to improve visual scanning, hazard anticipation, and hazard avoidance skills in novice drivers (Pollatsek et al., 2006; Pradhan et al., 2009). Other computer-based training programs have been developed, including SAFE-T, which addresses similar skills as RAPT—hazard anticipation, hazard avoidance, and attention maintenance to the forward roadway (Yamani et al., 2016). Similarly, the Accelerated Curriculum to Create Effective Learning (ACCEL) is an omnibus PC-based training program targeted at building six skills in novice drivers—strategic hazard anticipation, tactical hazard anticipation, strategic attention mitigation, tactical attention mitigation, strategic attention maintenance, and tactical attention maintenance (Fisher et al., 2017).
RAPT is available on the web. SAFE-T and ACCEL are not currently available to the public. It is not known how many young drivers complete some type of hazard perception training, but it is likely very low.
McDonald et al. (2015) reviewed 19 studies of hazard perception training programs for drivers under 21. Most studies used computer-based training or driving simulation. In all studies, young drivers demonstrated improvements in hazard perception skills after training. However, none of the studies looked at crash outcomes for participants, so it is unknown whether skills learned during hazard perception training transferred to “real world” situations. The authors conclude that more research is needed to determine how well hazard anticipation skills are retained over time and whether this training decreases subsequent crashes.
NHTSA funded a set of studies to further enhance RAPT and evaluate its effectiveness (Thomas et al., 2016). The evaluation was conducted in California in collaboration with the California DMV. A total of 5,251 drivers 16 to 18 were recruited and assigned to either RAPT or a control group. Outcomes showed a 23.7% lower crash risk for male drivers who received the RAPT training relative to the male drivers in the control group. The results for female drivers did not show an effect of training on crash risk. The authors propose that further research with larger and more diverse samples might help identify reasons for potential gender differences in crash risk. In a further enhancement of RAPT, Thomas et al. (2017) updated the graphics from the first study to high-definition videos and animations. An evaluation of this version with 205 trainees indicated that the revisions were a significant improvement over previous implementation and both novice and experienced drivers increased their pre-post scores measured by a computer assessment and using eye-tracking in a live traffic environment.
In limited, small-scale evaluations, SAFE-T and ACCEL training programs have shown positive training effects. Specifically, drivers who completed the SAFE-T training were more likely to anticipate hazards, were quicker and more effective at responding to hazards, and more likely to keep their glance durations under the 2-second threshold compared to drivers in the placebo group (Yamani et al., 2016). Compared to placebo-trained teens, novice drivers who completed the ACCEL training showed significant improvement in performance in five of the six trained skills: tactical and strategic hazard anticipation, strategic hazard mitigation, and tactical and strategic attention maintenance (Fisher et al., 2017). While they appear promising, these programs have not yet been evaluated as an integrated part of a driver education program. See also Unverricht et al. (2018) for a review and meta-analysis of novice driver training programs.
The cost for training varies. RAPT is provided online free of charge. Other training programs using driving simulation can be very expensive. The cost to scale hazard perception training to the full population of novice drivers—through driver education or some other means—will depend greatly on the type of training chosen.
Time to implement:
For a family that is interested in hazard perception training, the RAPT program is available immediately to implement and takes 30-45 minutes to complete. However, it may take a year or more to establish hazard perception training for an entire population of young drivers.