Although the use of a driving simulator in motorist training has a great deal of advantages for the student, driving instructors often think twice to make use of one. Students sometimes prefer to start out their training in a real car and think of a simulator as a game. Yet, a driving simulator is unquestionably not a game: you learn the abilities you need to drive a car safely.
In a good simulator, the emphasis is on traffic participation, traffic guidelines, and dealing with traffic in realistic traffic cases, rather than exclusively on vehicle control. And these are precisely the skills that are the hardest to learn in a novice car. A good generating simulator has the following properties:
Skills are trained in a way that avoids mental overload in the trainee. The training focusses on automation of car simulator driving tasks, such as gear changing, lane altering, steering techniques, scanning when approaching an intersection, settling roundabouts, entering a highway, overtaking, etc.
A large number of traffic situations are practiced in a short period of time, allowing the trainee to get sufficient driving experience. In a simulator, specific skills can be trained very effectively. For example, in one hour of time, the trainee can drive in a virtual world and face far more intersections than during driving in a learner car in the real world.
Whilst each intersection is contacted, visual scanning, use of indication and gear, speed control, and priority rules can be trained and assessed very effectively. Lack of generating experience in relevant traffic situations is one of the most crucial aspects in car owner training and is an important determinant of car owner safety.
During a typical lesson in a learner car, the trainer has little control over instructive traffic situations: these occur more of less random. In the course of lessons in a sim, the instructive scenarios lead to well-timed learning occasions with a high training value, and guaranteed to happen. A simulator lesson has a guaranteed effectiveness for all trainees.
A great sim has a ‘virtual instructor’, that evaluates the conduct of the trainee continuously. It provides immediate comments whenever the trainee commits an error. This fast and systematic feedback results in faster learning of errors.
Within a simulator, the students learn to drive in a safe atmosphere without stress. The consequences of an error are not as serious as in the real world. Many people learn faster and better when they feel safe and relaxed.
Research in the US plainly demonstrated that finding out how to drive in a simulator has positive effects on traffic safety. The accident rate of students trained in a simulator dropped to 34% of the countrywide average in the two years after the training. This amounts to a discount of 66% in the amount of accidents in young motorists.