Using drawings to probe young driver and driver educator understanding of simulators


Young drivers continue to be overrepresented in crashes despite various countermeasures. Driving simulators may be used to augment existing driver education programs, however little research has examined the perceptions of this type of intervention. If driver educators and young drivers do not see value in using simulators, it is unlikely that they will be used to their full potential. Eight focus groups employing a qualitative draw-and-talk technique investigated how young drivers and driver educators understand driving simulators and their potential use within driver education. Participants made a drawing of their ‘ideal’ driving simulator free from financial or technological constraints which served to stimulate participants’ engagement with the topic and aid discussion within the groups. The pictures provided context to the analysis of the transcripts. Six interconnected themes were identified which were: 1) The importance of experiential learning, 2) Realism is needed in simulation, 3) There are technical and financial constraints on realism, 4) The relationship between risk and consequences in learning to drive, 5) Similarities between simulators and videogames, and 6) The fit between driving simulators and the wider context of learning to drive. A high degree of ambivalence towards simulators and their use within driver education was evident in most groups although participants saw value in the possible standardisation of training that could be provided by simulators and the potential for elements of gamification to be included in scenarios. Education about the evidence-based strengths and weaknesses of more affordable simulators may be needed to change these perceptions.