Overwhelmed and Undertrained
If 3291 American teenagers were killed by a foreign government, we’d go to war.
Simulators have long been a staple of the aviation industry because they allow pilots to log lots of seat time safely and cheaply. At one end of the sim spectrum is a program like TeenSmart, a computer-based driving tutorial. It’s inexpensive and easy to use, but the slo-mo lane-change drills are like playing the world’s worst version of Gran Turismo. The gold standard is a dedicated sim unit like Scottsdale, Arizona’s DrivingMBA, where students can get a year’s worth of driving-400 “trips”-in just a few sessions.
In the same way that pilots learn how to deal with an engine failure on a 747, the sims at MBA can expose drivers to situations that can’t be duplicated on the road. A student might be driving down a virtual highway when a tire blows or a truck pulls out in front or a snow squall pops up. The first time they face an on-road emergency, novice drivers invariably over- or underreact. But then they get to hit the reset button and try it again. A sim also allows instructors to forget about keeping their students safe and instead concentrate solely on the driver’s performance. Focusing on the student’s hands and feet, they act like coaches, offering feedback on things done right and wrong.