7 Misconceptions about online hazard perception assessment busted!
Hazard perception research has been around since the 1960s and it is now well established that performance on hazard perception tests is linked to driver collision risk. Following the UK’s pioneering lead, several countries across the world have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, some form of hazard perception test into their national driver licencing procedure. Professional fleets are also starting to realise the benefits of hazard perception assessment. With online assessment and training for fleet drivers becoming more common, adding hazard perception to your fleet safety toolbox is easier than ever. As the use of hazard tests grows, so does ‘expert’ opinion on its utility. You can find a range of views, for and against, spread across the web. But if you are considering taking the plunge, how do you sort the facts from the fiction?
Don’t worry – we’re here to help. We’ve broken down some of the most common misconceptions and facts below, so that you can make up your own mind.
“Hazard Perception Tests are just for learner drivers.”
This is an understandable belief among professional drivers. Many current tests are not designed with professional drivers in mind. Each hazard clip has a scoring period (or ‘window’). If a driver presses during this window, they score points, with earlier presses in the window scoring more points than later button presses. Scoring windows for the DVSA test are based on the expected responses from learner drivers, which are not necessarily appropriate for professional drivers. Highly experienced drivers see earlier clues to upcoming hazards and may press the button before the scoring window opens (effectively scoring zero points). The online forums for drivers are replete with tales of highly experienced drivers feeling cheated by the DVSA test because they pressed too early.
Despite this, we know however that hazard perception training can improve the skills of even highly experienced drivers (e.g., Horswill et al., 2013), which suggests that some fleet drivers may not be as safe on the road as they think. Surely hazard perception tests should also be able to identify those highly experienced drivers who have not fully developed their hazard awareness?
Thankfully, there is a version of the hazard perception test that has been developed specifically for professional drivers. Based on over a decade of research, Esitu Solutions has developed a test that gets rid of scoring windows and response times. Instead, each clip in the test just plays up until the point of a developing hazard, and then immediately disappears from the screen. The driver is then asked, ‘What happens next?”, followed by four on-screen options. If the driver has read the road appropriately, they will be able to select the correct answer. Known as the ‘Hazard Prediction test’, Esitu Solutions have published evidence to show that this test can identify risk in professional drivers, better than the traditional push-button hazard perception test (Crundall & Kroll, 2018; Kroll et al., 2020). The hazard prediction test can therefore be used reliably to identify those drivers in a company who are more at risk of a collision, and the appropriate training can be provided in a proactive approach to driver safety.
“Hazard Perception Tests do not relate to the job.”
The traditional DVSA test, and the various apps that offer training, are primarily designed for car drivers. Despite this, all drivers need to pass the DVSA test regardless of the vehicle they want to drive (bus, HGV, motorcycle, etc.). But the view from an HGV, bus, or even a van, is very different to that of a car. The driver’s viewpoint is typically higher, affording greater opportunity to spot potential hazards in the distance, though with increased blind spots in the immediate vicinity. Perhaps more importantly, the hazards that drivers face when driving professional vehicles can be very different to those faced by a car driver. For instance, HGV drivers may worry less than motorcyclists about being missed by other road users, but there is a greater chance that other road users may misjudge the speed of an HGV (especially an unladen one) and make rash manoeuvres. Given the difference in hazard perception requirements between cars and many fleet vehicles, is it any wonder that professional drivers question the relevance of the DVSA hazard perception test to their job roles?
At Esitu Solutions we believe that hazard tests need to be specific to the vehicle and job role of professional drivers. We have created tests for HGV drivers, bus drivers, van drivers, and even for fire appliance drivers working Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service. These tests are created with real footage captured from the same type of vehicles that our clients drive. The viewpoint is more realistic, the hazards are more relevant, and – perhaps most importantly – your drivers are more likely to accept a vehicle-specific test as a valid method of measuring their skills. Without acceptance, your drivers will be less likely to engage effectively with any assessment or training, and you will never maximise the potential benefits.
“Hazard Perception Tests are just like a video game.”
The implication here is that resemblance to a video game means it has nothing to do with real-world performance. The evidence, however, suggests this is not the case. The first research study in this area dates to the 1960s, and while not every study has found positive results in support of hazard perception tests, the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that a good hazard test can help identify drivers at a higher risk of collision.
These tests do not assess all the skills required for a crash-free driving career, but they do capture an essential part of the safe-driving task. Does it matter that some people regard this as too similar to a video game? We argue not. In fact, there is a whole field of research dedicated to ‘serious games’ and gamification. Researchers and designers in this field aim to harness and apply the techniques used by mainstream games to increase engagement and maximise learning benefit.
“Online assessment doesn’t add enough value… We only need on-road training.”
While we would never suggest that online driver assessment and training should replace on-road training, it can be used as a cost-effective supplement. Managing fleet risk is a legal requirement and as a company you have a duty of care to ensure that all drivers are assessed and provided with the correct training. Fleet managers are tasked with ensuring that they are compliant with these legal requirements, which can often be quite onerous, particularly if they are managing many drivers (remember, grey fleets are included in the duty of care requirements!). As hazard perception assessment has been shown to predict future crash risk (e.g., Boufous et al., 2011), inclusion in your driver safety strategy is an obvious way to demonstrate that you are meeting your legal obligations.
Online assessment offers the ability to roll out assessment to all drivers en masse, allowing many drivers to be assessed in a short period of time. At Esitu Solutions, our online platform, EsituDrive, can deploy assessments and training via each driver’s personalised online dashboard. Following the completion of an assessment, drivers are provided with a risk rating (low, medium, high), which is fed back to their manager for review. These risk ratings can be viewed at an individual driver level, or as aggregate scores for the whole fleet (or by teams/depots), allowing managers to see where risks lie in the business. By knowing where and with whom the risks lie, training resources, such as on-road training, can be deployed more effectively with high-risk drivers targeted as a priority.
Online assessment can also be used as useful tool in recruitment. The majority of collisions in a company are often caused by just a small number of drivers. If these high-risk drivers can be identified prior to hiring, considerable savings can be made.
“Our drivers don’t have enough time.”
With current driver shortages, we understand that many companies and their drivers are time-poor, with external pressures reducing the time available for any assessment or training. Fortunately, research has shown that relatively short assessments can still identify driver risk. Training too can be given in short bursts, with one recent study reporting that 10-minutes of online and unsupervised training was sufficient to demonstrate an improvement in hazard skill (Horswill et al., 2021).
We recognise the need for flexible assessment and training periods. Most of our own online assessments can be completed within 10 – 15 minutes through our bespoke online platform, EsituDrive. This way drivers can be flexible as to when they complete the tests, fitting it around their commitments.
For training modules, once again we take a flexible approach. While we can provide half day classroom training sessions on hazard perception (and a range of other psychological aspects of driving), we also offer quick online modules of similar duration to our assessments.
“Hazard perception tests are just yet another driver profiler.”
If you start looking for an on-line profiler of fleet driver risk, you will find a host of providers, each claiming to offer the best service in the market. It is easy to mistake hazard perception assessment as just another profiler. But what makes a hazard perception test stand out when looking for a driver profiler?
Here are a fewer point to consider.
First, identify what the provider claims to measure. Is it knowledge? Attitudes? Risk-taking propensity?
Which of these is most important to the management of risk in your fleet?
If you have a good idea about the sort of profiler that will work for your company, then you have a head start in whittling down the field. If not, then have a chat with a few providers. The good providers will want to hear about your current challenges in managing fleet risk, and they may be able to offer insights that will help identify the perfect product.
Secondly, ask the provider if their profiler does the job it is intended to do. The good providers will be able to provide access to research reports or journal articles that demonstrate the effectiveness of their methods. If they provide a self-published report, then treat it with caution and read with a critical eye. However, if they provide ‘peer-reviewed’ journal articles to support their work, you can rest assured that independent domain experts from around the world have read the article and decided whether it was worthy of publication. This is the ‘gold-standard’ of evidence. Feel free to ask us for copies of the peer-reviewed journal articles that underpin Esitu Solutions’ products.
Thirdly, how close are the profiler’s measures to the real-world behaviour it purports to predict? The best prediction of future behaviour is past behaviour. If we see a driver misjudge a traffic light and go through on red, it is highly likely that this behaviour will happen again in the future. However, we don’t want to wait for this risky behaviour to happen in the real world before we decide that additional training is required (in other words, we need to spot these drivers before telematics warn us about their driving!). Instead, we want to predict this behaviour of the basis of a surrogate measure. The closer the surrogate measure is to the real-world behaviour, the greater chance we have of predicting future behaviour. On-road assessment is perhaps the closest to getting at real world behaviour, though this is expensive and often creates a bottleneck due to a limited number of assessors and a much greater number of drivers who need assessing. At the other end of the spectrum, we might just ask drivers questions about their driving knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. Such questionnaire-based profilers reflect the majority of commercially available profilers. They are the easiest and cheapest profilers to use, but the measures that are collected are very far away from actual behaviour in the real world. We might say we will behave in a certain way on the road, but when placed in that situation our behaviour might be very different.
Esitu Solutions’ video-based approach provides a mid-spectrum approach to assessing behaviour. Real-world scenarios are more likely to evoke responses closer to real-world behaviour then simply asking questions, yet we can still benefit from cost-effective en masse assessment via our online platform.
‘We already use online assessment and profiling… There is no value in more.’
This argument depends on what profiler you currently have, and how it matches with your fleet needs. Most online profilers employ knowledge-based questions as a surrogate for driver safety, testing drivers on knowledge of the Highway Code for example. Whilst a knowledge of road traffic rules and signs in necessary for some aspects of driver competence, evidence from research suggests that it is no guarantee that they will be a safer driver. Several studies have shown that there is no evidence of an association between knowledge-based questions (e.g., road signs, traffic rules) and collision risk (e.g., Wahlberg & Dorn, 2012; Conley & Smiley, 1976; Gebers, 1995). This throws doubt upon the usefulness of traditional profilers’ role in being able to accurately identify driver risk. As a spin-out from Nottingham Trent University, all Esitu Solution’s assessment and training modules are underpinned by over 10 years of research and over 12 peer reviewed articles. As a result, we have the evidence to demonstrate that our assessments can identify safe from less safe drivers. We are confident that we can add value to your driver safety strategy.
What to know more about our range of online assessments? Book a call to discuss how we can save your business money.