Montana State University

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department

P.O. Box 173800
Bozeman, MT 59717-3800
Tel: (406) 994-2203
Fax: (406) 994-6292
Location: 220 Roberts

Department Head:

Dr. Chris Jenkins

National Science Foundation Hazard Perception Research Grant

Can Training Teen Drivers in Virtual Reality
Improve Their Driving in the Real World?

Teen Driver Crash Rates

Teen drivers have the highest crash rates per capita compared to all other drivers. In 2009, drivers 16 to 20 years old had the highest involvement in fatality, injury and non-injury crash rates per capita, followed by drivers 21 to 24 years old. [1]

Approximately 3,000 teenage drivers (15–19 years old) died and 350,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.[2] The number of teen drivers who died is comparable to 5 or 6 planes full of 15-19 year olds crashing each year, considering about 500-600 people can fit in a 747 airplane.

Reasons for Those Crash Rates

Historically, teens were blamed as being immature and sensation-seeking in their driving [3], but studies are showing that these assumptions are not true. Research is showing the major contributors to teen crashes are related to teen drivers' failure to recognize and properly react to events while driving. This relates to their visual search pattern and attention failures.[4]

Virtual Reality

Training teen drivers using virtual reality has been shown to be effective [5] [6]; however, effectiveness of the training depends on how well the real-world visual search patterns are conveyed in the virtual environment. Virtual environments are computer-generated, three-dimensional images that people use special equipment to interact with in a seemingly real or physical way.

The goal of this research:

This study aims to determine if teenage drivers can be trained to detect hazardous situations more effectively using virtual reality. This research has the potential to reduce crashes where teens injure themselves or others.

LEARN MORE using the links below:

This project summarized in 35 seconds.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.1116378. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009, “Traffic Safety Facts 2009—A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System,” U.S. Department of Transportation Report HS 811 402, retrieved on November 11, 2011, from, p.100. Return to Text

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, 2010, “Teen drivers: Fact sheet,” retrieved on December 18, 2011, from Return to Text

3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1993, “Addressing the Safety Issues Related to Young and Older Drivers: Sources of Risk for Younger drivers: Problem Behaviors,” Report to Congress, January 6, 1993, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. Return to Text

4. Pradhan, A. K, Hammel, K. R., DeRamus, R. Pollatsek, A., Noyce D. A., and Fisher, D. L., 2005, “The Use of Eye Movements to Evaluate the Effects of Driver Age on Risk Perception in an Advanced Driving Simulator,” Human Factors, 47(4), 840–852. Return to Text

5. Fisher, D. L., Laurie, N. E., Glaser, R., Connerney, K., Pollatsek, A., Duffy, S. A., and Brock, J., 2002, “Use of a Fixed-Base Driving Simulator to Evaluate the Effects of Experience and PC-Based Risk Awareness Training on Drivers' Decisions,” Human Factors, 44(2), 287–302. Return to Text

6. Diete, F., 2008, “Evaluation of a Simulator Based, Novice Driver Risk Awareness Training Program,” M.S. Thesis, University of Massachusetts. Return to Text