Australian mum creates world-class driver training program

by Petrol Mum

Road trauma is the biggest killer of youths Worldwide, described by the UN as an ‘epidemic on wheels.’ In Australia in the last six years fatality rates decreased 12% while serious injury increased 38%. Upwards of 90% of fatalities in the first three years of driving are caused by ‘driver error’ – yet in the last 50 years every aspect of road safety has been improved except for the way we teach people how to drive. This is where Lisa Skaife saw a capacity for improvement.

Lisa’s husband was worried about the boys getting in cars before they could walk. She said “don’t worry about that, I’ll teach them how to drive, they’ll be brilliant” and he told me to do a bit of research on the subject. It was particularly relevant for Lisa after being involved in a road trauma fatality when she was 22, realising that statistically boys are dying nearly 4:1 on the roads, and having 25 years’ experience working in professional motorsport. “myDRIVESCHOOL® was my purpose meets passion project and it was conceptualised a decade ago,” said Lisa the Founder and CEO of Driveschool Enterprises.

Lisa Skaife – Founder and CEO of Driveschool Enterprises.

Simulation is a proven training tool, and used with great success globally to enhance capabilities, save resources and reduce risk. Unfortunately, it can be cost prohibitive and difficult to get the simulator to the masses or the masses to the simulator. With gaming a burgeoning industry globally, Lisa investigated the possibilities of combining the technologies to deliver a ‘game’ that was both fun and ticked all the boxes in terms of learning outcomes.

“Playstation released GT Academy which launched the racing careers of several young drivers, so I thought if online can teach them those higher-level cognitive skills at speed, I can teach people how to drive. So, in 2015 I found/was introduced to an indie development studio that had already built their own proprietary engine and we started building,” said Lisa.

To test the program blind randomised trial was conducted at a driver training facility, whereby groups of students, all of whom had never driven before, and split them up with half doing myDRIVESCHOOL® first and the others did the Government funded in-car driving lesson with independent professional instructors. The instructors had no idea who did what when, and had to rate all students with a set criterion.

“The students that completed myDRIVESCHOOL® first were rated 48% more competent and 17% less anxious. I was happy to launch!” continued Lisa.

The Stage 1 program was launched at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix and went on to win the Australasian Serious Games Congress in the same year, with the highest score in the history of the event. In the December myDRIVESCHOOL® exhibited in Florida at the World’s largest simulation & training exhibition (I/ITSEC) and was nominated for another five awards.

“Come 2020 and the World changed, myDRIVESCHOOL® was exhibiting at the Australian Grand Prix when we were advised to pack up and go home, and that’s where most of us spent the entire year – at home. All our schools cancelled and we had to look at other markets and how we were going to survive. COVID did however teach us something – online works, it’s safe, efficient and cost effective. In Australia COVID has killed 914 people in 1.5years – road trauma kills 1200 people every year,” Lisa told us.

By accident Lisa and her team realised the myDRIVESCHOOL® program was suited to kids (and adults) with disabilities, more appropriately termed different abilities. myDRIVESCHOOL® has been used for people with autism, ADHD, ABI’s, anxiety, mild-mid intellectual or physical impairments, PTSD, stroke, etc. Practitioners can use the program as an assessment tool to gauge capacity for the patients to be able to drive, and if they don’t manage to complete the program other mobility options can then be investigated. In Australia nearly all NDIS patients have an ‘assistive technology budget’ in their annual core support package. Driving is a Top 3 goal for all NDIS patients and myDRIVESCHOOL® can be used an assistive technology for specialised driver training.

The program is a series of graduated pass/fail modules to teach basic in-cabin operational procedures, cognitive skills (hazard/spatial awareness), road rules, intersections and emergency braking. If they speed, they fail, if they don’t turn on their indicators they fail, etc. And it’s just a boring big red X on the page, no dramatic crash vision, just a failure notice. The program is delivered on PC/laptop with a portable steering wheel/pedal set (off-the-shelf gaming wheel).

“We are now in the process of building our Stage 2 program which will address more behavioural aspects of road safety, and include texting+driving, drug/alcohol impairment, seat belt wearing, sharing the road with trucks/motorbikes/cyclists/pedestrians & fatigue. Once this is completed, we will convert all modules to LHD, and customise for international markets. We are looking to release Stage 2 in March 2022 – funding pending. We are about to open a funding round,” added Lisa.

Last year Driveschool Enterprises did a submission for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the increase in the Victorian road toll, along with 150+ others. myDRIVESCHOOL® was cited and the Committee have recommended that the Government trial simulation training for Learner Drivers. Driveschool Enterprises also have a Charity – appropriately called ‘Road Safety Matters’ to deliver digital road safety programs to digital natives, with a focus on regional/remote, indigenous and at-risk kids.

“In 2016 – 264 people aged between 18-24 died on the roads, and 23 drowned. In Primary Schools we have six years of mandatory swimming lessons, but NO driver training in High Schools. Kids don’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book, nor do we show them footage of people drowning before we teach them how to swim. Driving is a skill that needs training – not just theory.

On an OH&S level, you need a certificate to climb up a ladder more than 1.5m on a worksite, but you’re allowed (and required) to get in the passenger seat of a car (one tonne lethal weapon) with someone who’s NEVER driven before, without any dual controls or any control. We used to rub sticks together to make fire too … The road safety industry is seriously lagging behind in the uptake of technology,” concluded Lisa.

For more information about myDRIVESCHOOL®, visit their website

Photographs by Driveschool Enterprises Pty Ltd.

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