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Simulated Driving Assessment (SDA) for teen drivers: results from a validation study
  1. Catherine C McDonald1,2,3,
  2. Venk Kandadai2,
  3. Helen Loeb2,
  4. Thomas S Seacrist2,
  5. Yi-Ching Lee2,
  6. Zachary Winston2,
  7. Flaura K Winston2,3
  1. 1School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Catherine C McDonald, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Claire Fagin Hall, 418 Curie Boulevard, 414, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217, USA; mcdonalc{at}


Background Driver error and inadequate skill are common critical reasons for novice teen driver crashes, yet few validated, standardised assessments of teen driving skills exist. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the construct and criterion validity of a newly developed Simulated Driving Assessment (SDA) for novice teen drivers.

Methods The SDA’s 35 min simulated drive incorporates 22 variations of the most common teen driver crash configurations. Driving performance was compared for 21 inexperienced teens (age 16–17 years, provisional license ≤90 days) and 17 experienced adults (age 25–50 years, license ≥5 years, drove ≥100 miles per week, no collisions or moving violations ≤3 years). SDA driving performance (Error Score) was based on driving safety measures derived from simulator and eye-tracking data. Negative driving outcomes included simulated collisions or run-off-the-road incidents. A professional driving evaluator/instructor (DEI Score) reviewed videos of SDA performance.

Results The SDA demonstrated construct validity: (1) teens had a higher Error Score than adults (30 vs 13, p=0.02); (2) For each additional error committed, the RR of a participant's propensity for a simulated negative driving outcome increased by 8% (95% CI 1.05 to 1.10, p<0.01). The SDA-demonstrated criterion validity: Error Score was correlated with DEI Score (r=−0.66, p<0.001).

Conclusions This study supports the concept of validated simulated driving tests like the SDA to assess novice driver skill in complex and hazardous driving scenarios. The SDA, as a standard protocol to evaluate teen driver performance, has the potential to facilitate screening and assessment of teen driving readiness and could be used to guide targeted skill training.

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