The goal of Driver-Zed: crash the computer, not the car
The Times asked Alex Bell, a rising high school senior and Times summer intern, to review an interactive driver's education DVD.
Why do teens get into car accidents? Do teens these days just not study their driver's manuals like they should? No, more high school students than adults know to signal 100 feet before a turn or not to park within 10 feet of a fire hydrant. When it comes to driving, the advantage that adults have over teens is their experience. To bridge that gap, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has introduced Driver-Zed, a computer-based instruction tool.
Driver-Zed is an interactive risk-management training program sold by AAA to enhance teens' education in driving. But this program doesn't just teach facts - it trains teens to think.
The program goes beyond the classroom in a way that routine driving with a parent or instructor sometimes can't. At times, Driver-Zed places the user in unlikely but risky situations to demonstrate how even the most skilled driver can improve his driving and be more alert to risks.
Teens might want to kick their computers after the program shows them a short driving clip on a busy road, only to ask for the reading on the speedometer or how much gas was left in the user's car. But these frustrations are a clever part of the program - they teach teens that scanning is not only looking at traffic patterns outside of the car, but also at what's going on inside of the vehicle.
Of course, no teen's drive would be complete without a ringing cell phone or a chattering friend, and Driver-Zed tries to throw these distractions at the user as well. The user learns that if he allows himself to be distracted, he won't have the focus to recognize the potential risks that pop up around him. Throughout the program, the user tries to gain as few points as possible by recognizing risks early.
After a while, the program's perky high school characters can get annoying, and the narrations for exercises become a bit too familiar. From time to time, the user may become frustrated that the program requires evasive actions to be taken too early for some driving sequences, but the program still does a good job of stressing the importance of acting early. The program runs only on Windows.
Driver-Zed costs $24.95 and may be purchased through AAAFoundation.org.