Learning the ropes
The current multiple-choice, written learner driver test could soon become a thing of the past.
A new, online training module and exam developed by Brisbane technology company Croomo, in conjunction with the State Government, could soon replace the existing paper test.
The move to a more technological approach comes in response to reports that teens weren’t interested in studying the ‘old-fashioned’ way, with more than 30 percent of Queenslanders who sat the exam failing in 2017.
Unlike the current 30 question, multiple-choice test, the new program – PrepL – requires students to work through multiple learning modules and complete more than 380 questions, challenges and activities before they can pass.
Croomo Chief Executive Officer Daniel Bermingham said the course had already been trialled at multiple schools throughout Queensland.
“The test itself is now an experience,” he said.
“It takes around six hours to complete with more than 805 different interaction opportunities, which are randomised so no two experiences are the same.
“We’ve been told that it is rather intensive, but students said they prefer to be overwhelmed in a risk-free environment, than to be overwhelmed behind the wheel.”
Mr Bermingham said most students didn’t complete the test in a six-hour block, but rather progressed through different stages over a 12-month period before unlocking the final pass/fail quiz.
“In order to pass they must first complete various challenges around road rules, the effects of alcohol and speeding, driving under the influence of drugs, the importance of seat belts, creating their own risk profile and what the values are of being a better driver,” he said.
“Along the way, they will also see and hear the true-life stories of people affected by fatal accidents, including paramedics, firefighters and the loved one’s victims leave behind.
“Queensland researchers also appear in video clips to explain details, like why our brains can’t cope with texting and driving, how alcohol impairs judgement and how seatbelts save lives.”
The change in testing comes after Queensland Government research revealed drivers under the age of 24 were Queensland’s most at-risk road users and 60 percent more likely to be involved in a serious crash than mature drivers.
“We really want to change young drivers’ attitudes towards the Fatal Five and hopefully see a reduction in fatalities and driving offences,” Mr Bermingham said.
Throughout testing, we found that teens just don’t understand how much being on the phone affects their reaction times and stopping distances.
RACQ Principal Road Safety Advisor Joel Tucker said he applauded the new test’s digital capabilities and focus on multiple safety areas.
“The longer, more competency-based testing process should help ensure that novice drivers gain a better understanding of each topic,” he said.
“The fact that it can be done online and at the learner’s pace – in modules – should be much more convenient for young Queenslanders.
“Driving a car is a dangerous thing to do, so learners need to have a solid knowledge base, pay attention and drive to the conditions every time they get behind the wheel.”
Mr Tucker said parents must also be proactive in their children’s journey to gain a license and drive, whether it be through supervised hours or choosing the right car to drive.
“Giving your kids the 100 hours of supervised practice in the Learner licence stage is one of the most important things you can do to help them be safer on the roads, and it will help keep them safer throughout their driving life,” he said.
“There’s also a major flaw in the logic of giving your kids a cheap old car ‘because they’ll probably crash it’ – you want your kids to survive, and they are more likely to crash because of their inexperience, so let them use your newest and safest car.”
Metro Driving School Instructor Omar Khan said parents also needed to be wary of the lessons and habits being passed onto their children.
It’s better for us to teach leaners from the start than to teach them after they’ve learned from their parents.
“Most parents went for their test more than 20 years ago and since then the rules have changed.
“It’s through no fault of theirs – they mean well and want their children to drive correctly, but most know no better themselves.
RACQ helping young drivers
RACQ’s youth membership program called Free2Go, helps 16-19-year-olds gain their licence, provides advice on buying and owning their first car and more. The free program has more than 100,000 members and gives learners access to a digital learner logbook and app, practice tests, driver skills videos, free L and P plates, free and discounted personal roadside assistance and discounted car insurance.
Docudrama is a road safety program delivered to Year 11 and 12 students in an effort to begin a conversation about driving behaviours and attitudes. It comprises interactive discussions and a mock car crash scene involving local police officers, paramedics and funeral directors.