New drivers presenting at licensing centers across the United States for the on-road licensing examination can have varying levels of driving ability and skill. One serious consequence of this is that State licensing examiners sometimes go on-road in a vehicle with a new driver who is not equipped to drive safely and avoid incident, resulting in a significant occupational health risk for examiners. To tackle this problem, one large mid-western state engaged in a pilot program to validate a new desktop virtual driving test as a screening tool to identify new drivers who are not ready to safely take their on-road exam (without posing risk to the examiner). Here we present some preliminary analyses to determine if on-road licensing exam outcomes (pass/fail) can be differentiated by performances on the simulated test. We analyzed de-identified data from a large sample of new drivers (n=1212). This data was collected at three different state licensing centers over a 4 month period in 2017. The simulated test error score accurately differentiated drivers who subsequently passed and failed the on-road examination, with a high degree of sensitivity (>70%). Drivers who failed the on-road examination took longer to complete the simulated test, were more likely to drive through red lights and stop signs, and to experience a crash in the simulated test. The simulated test could be used to identify high-risk drivers who are not ready to drive on-road with an examiner. This could reduce the risk of occupational injuries for examiners, and save time and resources for the state. Assessments such as the simulated test could be developed further as an intervention to provide quantitative feedback to new drivers on their skill level, and to highlight which skills could be improved further with more practice driving.
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