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Virtual driving assessment added to driving test requirements

KEITH ARNOLD
Special to the Legal News

Published: December 6, 2019

The next crop of Ohio student drivers is expected to have a valuable, extra tool at its disposal - a virtual driver assessment program intended to make them better drivers right out of the gate.
The new Ohio - Ready, Test, Drive! program calls for installation of 400 customized virtual driving assessment systems at the state's 57 driver examination locations, as well as at many driver training schools.
Free to student drivers, the virtual driving system was devised to scientifically examine student driver preparedness and help the state make data-driven improvements to its overall driver's education curriculum.
"We want everyone on our roads to make it home safe, and that starts with ensuring that Ohio is thoroughly equipping its young drivers with the skills they need to make good driving decisions," Gov. Mike DeWine said at the program's launch last week. "Ohio Ready, Test, Drive! will use new, groundbreaking technology to instantly assess new drivers' road readiness and determine precisely where driver's education training should improve to prevent crashes and save lives."
Unintentional motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for teenagers and young adults in Ohio, a press release detailed.
A total of 136 drivers ages 16 to 25 were killed in Ohio traffic crashes in 2018. More than 17,000 young drivers were injured during the same period.
At least 103 young drivers have died in car crashes and nearly 15,000 have been hurt this year, officials reported.
The virtual driving assessment technology, which was developed through a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Injury Research and Prevention, is designed to instantly assess how well student drivers are prepared to react to 10 of Ohio's most prevalent crash-causing scenarios.
When used in driver training schools, the assessments are expected to establish student drivers' baseline driving skills and assist instructors in developing customized training based on skills needing improvement, the press release detailed.
Parents or guardians of student drivers also would be able to use the virtual driving assessment results for guidance on which specific skills need more in-car practice.
The statewide launch comes after a 14-month pilot project involving the use of virtual driver assessment systems in five Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle driver examination locations.
A study issued last week by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute showed that the virtual systems were highly accurate in predicting which prospective drivers did not yet have the skills to pass an on-the-road driving examination, officials said.
"A new driver's lifetime risk of crashing peaks in the months after getting a license," said Dr. Flaura Winston, lead researcher and scientific director of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Injury Research and Prevention and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania. "So the time before and up to receiving a license is critical for ensuring that new drivers have the skills and experience to drive safely on their own.
"Ohio is pioneering and proactive in their approach. They are the first state to take advantage of licensing as a highly teachable moment when new drivers and their families are focused on driver training and preparation for the licensing exam. Ohio is using technology to give drivers and their families clear, actionable, individualized guidance on safe driving that could save their teen's life."
The virtual driving assessments are not intended to replace on-the-road examinations, but all prospective new drivers, regardless of age or training experience, will be asked to conduct a virtual driving assessment immediately prior to their in-car driving test.
Feedback from the assessment is planned to be given the student driver after the on-the-road examination, regardless of the outcome.
"New drivers who pass their on-the-road exams still need to build up their skills and experience," DeWine said. "By providing this scientific feedback after the ORE, new drivers will know the skills they still need to master, and those who fail the in-car exam will know the skills they need to practice for next time."
In addition, the program uses non-identifying driver data from the virtual driving assessments combined with drivers' future crash and citation information to identify weaknesses in Ohio's overall driver training curriculum.
Examining new drivers' pre- and post-licensure driving trends should allow the state to make data-driven enhancements to the statewide training curriculum to better prepare future drivers.
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