Although the use of a driving simulator in driver training has a lot of advantages for the trainee, driving instructors often hesitate to use one. Students sometimes prefer to start their training in a real car and think of a simulator as a game. Yet, a driving simulator is definitely not a game: you learn the skills you need to drive a car safely.
In a good simulator, the emphasis is on traffic participation, traffic rules, and dealing with traffic in realistic traffic scenarios, and not exclusively on vehicle control. And these are precisely the skills that are the hardest to learn in a learner car. A good driving simulator has the following properties:
· Skills are trained in a way that avoids mental overload in the trainee. The training focusses on automation of driving tasks, such as gear changing, lane changing, steering techniques, scanning when approaching an intersection, negotiating roundabouts, entering a highway, overtaking, etc.
· A large number of traffic situations are practiced in a short period of time, allowing the trainee to get sufficient driving experience. In a simulator, specific skills can be trained very effectively. For example, in one hour of time, the trainee can drive in a virtual world and encounter a lot more intersections than during driving in a learner car in the real world. While each intersection is approached, visual scanning, use of indication and gear, speed control, and priority rules can be trained and evaluated very effectively. Lack of driving experience in relevant traffic situations is one of the most important aspects in driver training and is an important determinant of driver safety.
· During a typical lesson in a learner car, the instructor has little control over instructive traffic situations: these occur more of less random. During lessons in a simulator, the instructive scenarios result in well-timed learning moments with a high training value, and guaranteed to happen. A simulator lesson has a guaranteed effectiveness for all trainees.
· A good simulator has a ‘virtual instructor’, that evaluates the behaviour of the trainee continuously. It provides immediate feedback whenever the trainee commits an error. This fast and systematic feedback results in faster learning of errors.
· In a simulator, the students learn to drive in a safe environment without stress. The consequences of an error are not as serious as in the real world. Most people learn faster and better when they feel safe and relaxed.
A study in the US clearly demonstrated that learning to drive in a simulator has positive effects on traffic safety. The accident rate of students trained in a simulator dropped to 34% of the national average in the two years after the training. This amounts to a reduction of 66% in the number of accidents in young drivers.
When looking for a driving school, students are recommended to see which one has a simulator. You may learn to drive better and it may very well be more economical as well.