Driving skills measured at the time of licensure on a virtual driving assessment (VDA), which exposes drivers to common serious crash scenarios, can help predict crash risk in newly licensed young drivers, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics and conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, could help identify which skill deficits put young new drivers at higher risk for crashes.

Over the past two decades, CIRP said its researchers had systematically determined the primary reason for novice driver crashes – inadequate driving skills, such as speed management – and conducted studies that informed the development and validation of a self-guided VDA that measures performance of these driving skills in common serious crash scenarios.

In the new study, researchers found that the best performing novice drivers, described as having “No Issues” based on their pattern of driving performance on the VDA, had a 10% lower than average crash risk. However, users of the VDA who had “Major Issues with Dangerous Behavior” had an 11% higher than average crash risk.

“These findings are incredibly important because they provide us with quantitative evidence that we can approach young driver safety in a new way – by predicting crash risk and aiming resources to those who need them most,” said Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, co-scientific director of CIRP at CHOP and co-author of the study.

“By providing this information before licensure, we can direct resources to those most at risk, and potentially prevent crashes from occurring when these teens first drive on their own.”