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New way kids can learn to drive

A driver’s licence is a right of passage for most teenagers, but the pandemic has delayed the process for thousands of them.Restrictions on movement, particularly in Victoria, have made it tough to get hours up on the road, while tests have been cancelled and delayed for several months, leaving a backlog of prospective P-platers.But now…

A driver’s licence is a right of passage for most teenagers, but the pandemic has delayed the process for thousands of them.

Restrictions on movement, particularly in Victoria, have made it tough to get hours up on the road, while tests have been cancelled and delayed for several months, leaving a backlog of prospective P-platers.

But now there’s a way for your teen to learn potentially lifesaving driving skills from the comfort and safety of home.

A new Australian-designed online driving simulator puts budding drivers to the test via a series of computer generated scenarios.

MyDriveschool is the brainchild of Lisa Skaife, sister of legendary Aussie racing driver Mark Skaife.

Lisa says the program is designed to create a fun and safe way for children to learn and make mistakes, rather than in real life where the consequences can be tragic.

She created the program to tackle the over-representation of young drivers in the road toll.

Worldwide road trauma is the biggest killer of four- to 29-year-olds. In the past 12 months more than 220 young drivers aged between 17 and 25 have died on our roads.

“We need to let them make mistakes,” she says. “It’s better if they can make mistakes online and not in the real world and learn the consequences of their actions in a safe environment. We need practical training instead of scaring the hell out of them.”

The program simulates real-life road conditions and teaches kids the important driving skills such as how much lock to put on the steering wheel when turning and acceleration control. It also teaches kids to manage intersections, stop-start traffic and emergency braking.

And just like in a real driving test the user will fail if they exceed the posted speed limit, fail to indicate or check their blind spot.

Lisa says the program is designed to make some driving skills second nature to kids and to bridge the gap between theory and reality, so they can hit the road with confidence.

“No one should be able to read a book and then be able to go and drive,” she says.

The program uses artificial intelligence, so the course is different every time and the kids aren’t learning the same road conditions and driving scenarios.

Robert Fuleky’s 16-year-old son Zac from Hampton in Melbourne has completed the online training course and Robert says it has taken the stress out of getting Zac on the road.

“As a parent, I liked the actual simulation of the road conditions and applying the rules in a practical situation. By doing it this way, he is not endangering his life or the life of others while still in the learning process. This will increase his confidence when he finally gets behind the wheel,” Robert says.

Zac says he really enjoyed the gaming aspect of the program, which he says is fun and interactive.

The award-winning program was originally designed to be taught in schools but because of the COVID-19 lockdown Lisa Skaife, who funded its development herself, has made it available to use at home. All you need is a gaming steering wheel you can buy from most electronic stores.

Stage 2 of the program is currently in development and is designed to cover issues such as texting and driving, drug & alcohol impairment, country/rural driving and fatigue management. Lisa is opening a crowd funding campaign to fund stage 2.

TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS

Most learner drivers would get stressed behind the wheel if a supervisor yelled at them. So keep your cool and be patient.

Start in a quiet area with not too much traffic and minimise distractions in the car, so the learner can concentrate.

Pay attention and be a second pair of eyes and ears – talk to the learner about what you’re both seeing.

Remember, the more supervised driving experience in a range of conditions a learner gets the safer they’ll be — so give them plenty of opportunities to practise.

Parents should also lead by example, your kids aren’t just learning when they are behind the wheel but are taking cues from how you drive, so slow down and keep calm.

Source: Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ)

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