Safety is number one in a parents mind when it comes to their child, and learning to drive can be risky business. Peace of mind however may be just around the corner thanks to a recent experiment completed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The new study’s found young drivers can be trained to realize and avoid dangerous situations while driving and reduce their risk of accidents.

Researchers at the University developed and evaluated a computer based training program training young drivers how to better anticipate potential hazards on the road. Twenty-four drivers ages eighteen to twenty-one were surveyed in the study. Before any on-road driving twelve of the drivers took part in a Risk Awareness and Perception Training Program developed at the University of Massachusetts. The simulation program contains nine driving scenarios with a potential risk of an accident with another vehicle or pedestrian. The other twelve drivers did not participate in the training.

After the training was complete, researchers followed the participants eye movements driving a total of 16 miles on local roads. Prior to the drive the researchers found parts of the drive that contained hazards similar and dissimilar to those in the simulation. The driving experiment found the drivers who participated in the driving simulation and training were significantly more likely to recognize areas of the roads with potential risks. Those with training recorded eye movements recognizing a  64.4% likelihood to view at areas of the roads with potential hazards as only 37.4% without the training readily viewed these areas of the road.

According to an article by EHS Today the researchers include: Anuj K. Pradhan, Ph.D., and Donald L. Fisher, Ph.D., of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; Alexander Pollatsek, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology; and Michael Knodler, Ph.D., of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.