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Safe Driving Assessment

CHOP's team of teen driver safety researchers have 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 SDA was grounded in epidemiologic research of how teens and adults crash and in validated metrics for safe and unsafe driving in real world situations. Recent 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 SDA 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. Future CHOP studies will further explore the SDA’s use in evaluating risky driving behaviors in teens.


teen using CHOP driving simulator

  • View a press release about recent research and three brief videos showing critical driving errors.
  • Read a blog post from Catherine McDonald, PhD, RN, lead author of the study.
  • View the abstract of the recent study.

Read abstracts of other studies that contributed to the validation of the SDA:

Accident Analysis & Prevention (2014)

SAE International Technical Paper (2014)

SAE International Technical Paper (2014)

Annals of Advancement for Automotive Medicine (2013) 

Transportation Research Record (2012)

Further reading:

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