Naturalistic assessment of the learner license period

J. P. Ehsani, S. G. Klauer, C. Zhu, P. Gershon, T. A. Dingus, B. G. Simons-Morton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics and progression of practice driving during the learner license period in a sample of teenagers. During the first and last 10 h of practice driving, we examined (1) the amount, variety and complexity of conditions of practice; (2) the nature of parental instruction; and (3) errors that teens made while driving. Data were collected from 90 teens and 131 parents living in Virginia, USA, using in-vehicle cameras, audio recorders, GPS and trip recorders. Based on data collected from the instrumented vehicles, teens practiced for 46.6 h on average, slightly higher than the GDL requirement for their jurisdiction, though half did not complete the required 45 h of practice and only 17% completed the required 15 h of night time driving. Exposure to diverse roadways increased over the practice driving period, which averaged 10.6 months. Most driving instruction occurred in reaction to specific driving situations, such as navigating and identifying hazards, and could be characterized as co-driving. Higher order instruction, which relates to the tactics or strategies for safe driving, was less frequent, but remained stable through the practice driving period. Instruction of all forms was more likely following an elevated gravitational force (g-force) event. Errors decreased over time, suggesting improvements in manual and judgment skills, but engagement in potentially distracting secondary tasks increased (when an adult was in the vehicle). A small percentage of trips occurred with no passenger in the front seat, and the g-force rate during these trips was almost 5 times higher than trips with an adult front-seat passenger. Taken collectively, these findings indicate (1) most teens got at least the required amount of supervised practice, but some did not; (2) instruction was mainly reactive and included some higher order instruction; (3) teens driving skills improved despite increased exposure to complex driving conditions, but secondary tasks also increased. Opportunities remained for improving the quality and variability in supervision and enhancing the development of skills during the lengthy period of practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-284
Number of pages10
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Learner
  • Novice
  • Practice driving
  • Teenage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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