Brain training for Cambridgeshire’s young drivers to cut crashes

PUBLISHED: 05:01 10 July 2017

Drive iQ launch - Young drivers event. Picture: Phil Mynott.

Drive iQ launch - Young drivers event. Picture: Phil Mynott.

(C)2017 Phil Mynott

Hundreds of Cambridgeshire school pupils attended the launch of a programme designed to improve the safety of young learner drivers.

Drive iQ has received funding from Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Comissioner Jason Ablewhite to make it freely available to the county’s schools. Pupils can use the programme, which involves virtual hazard assessment on Cambridgeshire roads.

It is based on the fact that the frontal lobe of the brain, where risk assessment is processed, is not fully developed until a person is about 25, hence why young people’s car insurance is so pricey. Research has revealed that the driver’s attitude and behaviour, not his or her vehicle handling skills, are a factor in 19 out of 20 crashes.

In the past five years there have been 3,700 casualties from road traffic collisions in the 16 to 25 age group in Cambridgeshire.

Cambridge United supported the launch alongside former footballer Shaun Whiter, who had his lower legs amputated after a hit and run.

“This is important for Cambridgeshire because, statistically, if you’re a young driver aged between 16 and 24 you are five times more likely to be invovled in a road traffic collision,” said Mr Ablewhite. “Only this week we’ve had another fatality on our roads. One fatality is one too many.

“If we can pay for new means of reducing casualties and reducing road death through things like Drive iQ, it’s money well spent.”

Drive iQ uses situational learning as a brain training technique which gets young drivers thinking like more experienced drivers.

Ann Havlin developed the software. She said: “What we do with the programme is train the frontal lobe. But what we really push is the behavioural part of driving. It’s very important that hazard perception skills are good, but we also concentrate on behavioural issues.

“With young people they have busy lives, exam stresses, they have passengers that might be disruptive. We get them to address these issues which are outside the bounds of skill. This we do with self-reflection, getting them to think about situtations and how they might make them better.”

It has been tested in Gloucestershire where behavioural changes were substantial. Drive iQ is a combination of 16 online modules that students can do in the classroom or on their own. Classroom learning produced the most substantial attitude changes in the study, and younger drivers were more open to changing their behaviour.

Ann added: “Some of these kids hadn’t learnt to drive yet. What we’re trying to do is, instead of having to change their behaviour later on, instil this behaviour when they’re pre-drivers.”

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