Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Simulated Driving Assessment

Simulated Driving Assessment at CIRP
Principal Investigator Catherine C. McDonald, PhD, RN oversees a teen research participant take the Simulated Driving Assessment (SDA) at CIRP.

The CIRP Teen Driving Safety Research team has developed an understanding of how serious teen driver crashes occur, including the typical scenarios and factors that contribute to these crashes. However, no validated test, grounded in this understanding of how teens crash, was available to assess whether a teen was prepared to drive safely during the learner period. Researchers at CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania created the Simulated Driving Assessment (SDA) to meet this need, offering for the first time a safe way to assess novice teen drivers' skill levels in actual crash scenarios.

The systematic development of the Simulated Driving Assessment was grounded in epidemiologic research of how teens and adults crash and in validated metrics for safe and unsafe driving in real world situations. Research published in Injury Prevention demonstrated the validity of the SDA for safe evaluation of novice teen driver skill in high-risk driving scenarios:

  • During the SDA, nearly 43 percent of newly licensed teens (within three months of licensure) had a simulated crash at least once. For licensed, experienced adult drivers, that percentage was 29 percent.
  • For every additional error committed during the SDA, the risk for crashing or running off the road increased by 8 percent.
  • Although the novice teen drivers were adept at basic driving skills (i.e., using turn signals), the more advanced skills (i.e., braking in hazardous situations, anticipating and responding to hazards) proved challenging.
  • The Simulated Driving Assessment is a package of software products that runs on commercially available driving simulators. As a standard protocol to evaluate teen driver performance, the SDA has the potential to screen and assess for licensure readiness and could be used to guide targeted skill training. CIRP researchers are currently using the SDA to evaluate risky driving behaviors in teens.

In 2016, this software technology also spun out as an independent company called Diagnostic Driving, which is partnering with CIRP and the Ohio Department of Public Safety to pilot and fully implement Ready-Assess™ software as the Ohio Portable Driving Simulator System (PDSS) in the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles licensing centers.

Read a blog post about the research.

View a press release about recent research and three brief videos showing critical driving errors.

Read About Studies that Contributed to the Validation of the Simulated Driving Assessment

Principal Investigators: Flaura K. Winston, MD, PhD; Catherine McDonald, PhD, RNFunding: Pennsylvania Department of Health; National Institute of Nursing Research of the NIH