Kinnear, Neale A D (2006) Driving as You Feel: A Psychological Investigation of the Novice Driver Problem. PhD thesis, Edinburgh Napier University.
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The current thesis aimed to explore the novice driver problem from a psychological perspective. The ultimate aim was to enhance knowledge and understanding which may advise how to improve novice driver safety. The novice driver problem is a worldwide trend; which in the UK involves one in five newly licensed drivers being crash involved in their first year of driving (Maycock & Forsyth, 1997). Research suggests that both age and inexperience are the major factors of novice driver crash risk; although inexperience has been shown to be the more important (Maycock, 2002). Crash risk reduces dramatically as drivers gain experience of driving after licensure, although what drivers are psychologically learning through experience is not yet understood. Using the Task-Capability Interface model (Fuller, 2005) to conceptualise driving, the current thesis sought to extend the theory by exploring the psychological processes through which drivers appraise risk and how this shapes a decision and behavioural response. Study One reports that there are two distinct ways in which drivers appraise risk, which supports theory proposed by Slovic et al. (2004): risk as feelings and risk as analysis. Current neurological theory, in the form of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis (Damasio, 1994), supports the role of feelings and emotion as an evolved automated system of human risk appraisal that biases judgement and decision making. Studies Two and Three investigated emotional appraisal of hazards between novice and experienced drivers through physiological skin conductance. The results suggest that novice drivers fail to emotionally appraise developing hazards when compared to experienced drivers. Study Three demonstrated that novice drivers who had driven less than 1000 miles had physiological anticipatory scores similar to learner drivers whereas novices who had driven more than 1000 miles had scores approaching those of experienced drivers. This demonstrated a learning curve mediated by driving experience. As a result of the thesis, it is suggested that further research into the role of feelings and emotion in learning to drive is performed. The implication of the results for graduated licensing is also discussed.
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