Phased driver training, driving ban between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., limited number of passengers. Despite several effective countermeasures, young novice drivers have a high accident risk worldwide. The key question remains: why? Can their developing brain partly explain these accident rates? In this research, we explored the driving behaviour of young novice drivers by examining the underlying mechanisms. In order to collect data, we used a wide range of tools and techniques: questionnaires, driving simulator, electroencephalogram (EEG) and computer tasks measuring cognitive skills.
Driving performance deteriorates when distracted
Everyone’s driving performance deteriorated, as soon they got distracted. Also young people with a higher cognitive capacity, who experience less negative effects when distracted, drove worse. Therefore, it is strongly advised to limit to a minimum each distraction behind the wheel, such as calling from a hands-free device.
More cognition, less risky driving behaviour?
In these studies, we devoted attention to the relation between cognition and risky driving behaviour. Although a higher cognition had advantages (e.g. better hazard recognition), it appeared to be no guarantee for fewer road crashes. For some measures such as vehicle spacing and jumping yellow lights, young people with a higher cognitive capacity even performed more risky driving behaviour.
It is often said that young novice drivers take more risks in the presence of their friends. Our research pointed out that the presence of friend distracts young novice drivers and increases the risk, but we also found protective effects that we cannot ignore.