(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today announced the launch of a statewide virtual driver assessment program that will better equip Ohio’s new drivers with critical skills to safely navigate the roads.
Governor DeWine’s “Ohio – Ready, Test, Drive!” program will install 400 customized virtual driving assessment systems in Ohio’s 57 driver examination locations, as well as in many of Ohio’s driver training schools. The free virtual driving systems will scientifically examine student driver preparedness and help Ohio make data-driven improvements to its overall driver’s education curriculum.
“We want everyone on our roads to make it home safe, and that starts with ensuring that Ohio is thoroughly equipping its young drivers with the skills they need to make good driving decisions,” said Governor DeWine. “Ohio – Ready, Test, Drive! will use new, groundbreaking technology to instantly assess new drivers’ road readiness and determine precisely where driver’s education training should improve to prevent crashes and save lives.”
Unintentional motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for teenagers and young adults in Ohio. In 2018, a total of 136 drivers ages 16 to 25 were killed in Ohio traffic crashes and more than 17,000 young drivers were injured. So far this year, at least 103 young drivers have died in car crashes and nearly 15,000 have been hurt.
The virtual driving assessment technology, which was developed through a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention, will instantly assess how well student drivers are prepared to react to 10 of Ohio’s most prevalent crash-causing scenarios. When used in driver training schools, the assessments will establish student drivers’ baseline driving skills and assist instructors in developing customized training based on skills needing improvement. Parents or guardians of student drivers can also use the virtual driving assessment results for guidance on which specific skills need more in-car practice.
The statewide launch of the Ohio – Ready, Test, Drive! program follows a 14-month pilot project involving the use of virtual driver assessment systems in five Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle driver examination locations. A study issued today by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute showed that the virtual systems were highly accurate in predicting which prospective drivers did not yet have the skills to pass an on-the-road driving examination.
“A new driver’s lifetime risk of crashing peaks in the months after getting a license. So the time before and up to receiving a license is critical for ensuring that new drivers have the skills and experience to drive safely on their own,” said Flaura Winston, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher for the pilot study and scientific director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania. “Ohio is pioneering and proactive in their approach. They are the first state to take advantage of licensing as a highly teachable moment when new drivers and their families are focused on driver training and preparation for the licensing exam. Ohio is using technology to give drivers and their families clear, actionable, individualized guidance on safe driving that could save their teen’s life.”
The virtual driving assessments will not replace on-the-road examinations (ORE), but all prospective new drivers, regardless of age or training experience, will be asked to conduct a virtual driving assessment immediately prior to their in-car driving test. Feedback from the assessment will then be provided after the ORE – regardless of the ORE’s outcome – outlining skills needing improvement, such as maintaining a safe distance between vehicles, changing lanes properly, or merging safely into traffic.
“New drivers who pass their on-the-road exams still need to build up their skills and experience,” said Governor DeWine. “By providing this scientific feedback after the ORE, new drivers will know the skills they still need to master, and those who fail the in-car exam will know the skills they need to practice for next time.”
In addition, Ohio – Ready, Test, Drive! will use non-identifying driver data from the virtual driving assessments combined with drivers’ future crash and citation information to identify weaknesses in Ohio’s overall driver training curriculum. Examining new drivers’ pre- and post-licensure driving trends will allow Ohio to make data-driven enhancements to the statewide training curriculum to better prepare future drivers.
The Ohio Traffic Safety Office, which operates within the Ohio Department of Public Safety and receives federal funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), oversees driver’s education in the state and will administer the Ohio – Ready, Test, Drive! program.
“I’m pleased to see Ohio continue to lead the country in its efforts to keep young drivers safe,” said NHTSA Regional Administrator Jonlee Anderle, Ph.D.
Driving schools that are interested in receiving a free Ohio – Ready, Test, Drive! virtual driving assessment system should visit www.drivertraining.ohio.gov for more information and to apply.