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Training Younger Drivers Brains

Media Release: 15 September 2006

Transport Safety Minister Supports Training Younger Drivers Brains

The Minister for Transport Safety, Rt Hon. Harry Duynhoven, has joined an increasing support-base and spoken out in favour of a ground-breaking study that will look at how brain development affects the risk-taking behaviour in young drivers.

The study, which commences on September 22 in Taupo, will be carried out by the AA Driver Education Foundation and WaikatoUniversity. Over a period of two weeks, 36 young novice drivers will undertake higher-level skills training where behaviours such as hazard anticipation, risk management and emotion regulation will be evaluated.

“We have to look at what makes young people tick,” says the Rt. Hon Mr Duynhoven. “Targeted training is a wonderful initiative. Defensive driving has its benefits, but we need to look scientifically at how we can get the message through.”

“The critical thing with young drivers is how we approach them in a way that appeals to their responsibility, because most of them are responsible most of the time.”

Peter Sheppard, Chief Executive of the AA Driver Education Foundation has been overwhelmed by the volume of support received from government bodies and other organisations.

“It’s been really satisfying to have this sort of backing,” he says. “We’ve also received a lot of positive feedback and additional support from parents and secondary school teachers who are all concerned about the education of young drivers.”

The study is being supported by the Ministry of Transport, the Road Transport Industry Training Organisation, Land Transport NZ, the New Zealand Army and a number of car manufacturers.

The study - which is conducted by Dr Robert Isler, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at WaikatoUniversity, is a world-first driver behaviour research project. According to Isler, a primary factor in a younger driver’s inability to assess and respond to risk is directly connected to brain maturity.

“The frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until you’re 25, and it’s that lobe which controls life-saving driving skills such as hazard perception and impulse control,” he says.

If the double-blind study proves targeted ‘frontal lobe’ training better equips young drivers to make responsible decisions on the road, it could revolutionise driver training in New Zealand– and our road toll figures.


“I believe this will show quite clearly that we have the possibility of making a difference in the crash, injury and death rates for our young people by targeted training,” says the Rt. Hon Mr Duynhoven.
“Once we have that, we are in a much better position to say we have proved these things can make a difference, and we can then make decisions based on evidence, not hearsay or opinion.”

The study will take place in Taupo from September 22, the location pinned thanks to the support of Taupo’s mayor, Clayton Stent.

Taupo is ideal for such a study, says Rob Lester, former president of the AA and of the organising AA Driver Education Foundation. With the new Centennial Park Motor Race Complex and its urban driving experience this will complement a broadly based skill/attitude learning curve, he says.

Lester says AADEF has taken on the project with enthusiasm. “This is an opportunity to be associated with, and make a practical contribution to, a substantial driver training initiative focused on 15 to 19-year-old youths – and by doing so, to play some part in addressing a very real social and community problem.”

ends

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