This experiment, conducted as part of Dr Neale Kinner’s PHD research, asked young learner drivers to watch 12 DSA hazard perception clips while wired up to equipment measuring their skin conductance.
This meant Neale could monitor how hazardous they though each developing situation was becoming, while measuring their emotional reaction the emerging scene.
Young people’s emotional reactions to hazards
Research showed that all participants showed an emotional reaction to the full-blown hazard, but the three groups differed in the extent to which they showed anticipatory reactions – a bodily ‘sixth sense’, a feeling of fear, that something untoward was about to happen.
The experienced young drivers averaged an anticipatory response on around two-thirds of the clips, inexperienced drivers on one third, and learners on less than a quarter while the groups did not differ on the slider task. They did not differ on how hazardous the situation looked, but did differ on how hazardous it felt.
When he probed further, Neale found that the middle group, the qualified but inexperienced young drivers, differed according to whether they had driven more or less than 1,000 miles post-test.
Those with little on-road experience were no better than the learners; those with more were approaching the level of the experienced drivers.
Graph of anticipatory score by experience group
Dr Kinnear’s conclusion
Dr Kinnear concluded that a certain amount of on-road driving experience, post-test, was necessary to develop the kinds of automatic, bodily anticipations that drivers use to warn them when to slow down, back off, and anticipate the worst.
This failure to feel the fear is consistent with the enormous elevation in crash risk for young, novice drivers in the period immediately following passing their driving test.