HOME-STUDY DRIVER EDUCATION
focus on the development of skills that are more important to safety and find more effective methods for teaching the courses (Mayhew & Simpson, 1999, 2002). In addition to integrating driver education and training with graduated licensing programs, increasing the time that teens spend practicing on the road, and making driver education multi-staged with separate courses in the learner and provisional stages of licensing, it has been recommended that driver education courses make use of emerging technology such as interactive, self-paced computer-based training (Anderson et al., 2000; Gregersen, 1996; Lonero, 2001; Lonero & Clinton, 1996; Lonero et al., 1995; Mayhew & Simpson, 1996, 1999, 2002; Mayhew, Simpson, Williams, & Ferguson, 1998; McKnight, 1984; McKnight & Peck, 2003; NHTSA, 1994; Robinson, 2001; Saunders, 1998; Waller, 1986; Williams, 2001; Williams & Mayhew, 2003). Regarding this last suggested improvement, one expert stated, “participational and interactive teaching methods are widely seen as desirable in general education, and they are now both desirable and feasible for driver education” (Lonero, 2001, p. 20). This view seems consistent with the recommendations made by ADTSEA (2000), and makes sense given that the use of interactive computer-based programs and the internet are two technologies that have made it easier to effectively educate students through home-study programs (Fender, 2002). Another expert recommended computer- and video-based accelerated driver improvement programs for young drivers to make the accelerated driver improvement programs recommended for graduated licensing programs more cost effective (Peck, 2001). Computer-based driver improvement schools have existed in California for many years (e.g., internet traffic violator schools) and are accepted by various courts in the state as valid educational programs, although they have never been scientifically evaluated.
The computer-based (CD-ROM) driver education home-study course evaluated in this study seems to fit this final suggestion for improving driver education, as it represents an integration of interactive multimedia training and testing into a self-paced driver education course (Anderson et al., 2000; Lonero, 2001; Lonero & Clinton, 1996; Mayhew & Simpson, 2002; Robinson, 2001; Smith, 2001). In addition, many students enrolled in the Private Educational Network (PEN) course, one of the other home-study courses in this evaluation, completed their courses via the internet (Beck, 2002). In all fairness, the traffic safety researchers (with the exception of ADTSEA) were probably recommending that computer and internet technology be used to supplement rather than replace classroom-based driver education courses (e.g., Palmer, 2001). However, it was suggested by one expert that using self-directed, self-paced teaching methods, such as those afforded by these home-study programs, may be more effective than conventional classroom instruction for teaching the highest-risk young drivers, as conventional classes may bore these students in the early stages of learning to drive (Lonero, 2001). Further, novice driver education programs utilizing computer-based technologies may provide a higher level of interaction with the student and more accommodating scheduling than conventional classroom-based instructional programs (Fender, 2002; McKnight, 2001).
Home-study instruction may actually be more effective than classroom instruction for teaching the basic knowledge objectives in early driver education courses given that home-study courses remove distracting classroom influences from peers, may increase parental involvement in their children’s driver education instruction, may be more beneficial for teens who are at the highest risk, and may benefit from the novelty of