Teach young people to think and drive, UC researcher says

Dr Lucienne Kleisen, who has found a close link between thinking and driving styles, suggests that by teaching learner drivers to use what has been called “hierarchic thinking”, they might develop a patient and careful driving style.

“Hierarchic thinking is a way of thinking that lets you be aware of several things at the same time, while being able to determine which of those is more important,” Dr Kleisen said. “This is the most effective thinking style for safe driving.”

During her research, funded by the NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust, she also discovered that young females use this thinking style more often than young males.

One of the most important findings of her research, which concentrates on young drivers and safe driving styles, was that thinking and driving styles are similar concepts.

Since thinking styles can be trained, this means driving styles can also be trained, and combining the use of effective thinking styles and positive driving styles could lead learner drivers develop safer driving habits.

“Thinking styles can be taught,” Dr Kleisen said. “In addition to training young people to be competent in driving cars, we should concentrate on helping them develop effective thinking. This will make it more likely for young drivers to adopt a safer driving style.”

She says it is possible to identify a young person’s preferred thinking style and tailor driver training accordingly.

“We know people develop driving habits, but young people don’t have them yet, so we may be able to influence the formation of those habits in a positive way,” Dr Kleisen said.
Dr Kleisen’s other findings include:

  •  Young drivers with more driving experience are more likely to use a positive, more patient and careful driving style than less experienced drivers. They are also least likely to demonstrate an anxious driving style.
  • Young males are less flexible in their use of different driving styles than young females, and therefore may be less likely to adapt sufficiently to the changing driving circumstances, like slowing down when it is raining, for example.
  • ‘Car karma’: young drivers believe that if you behave nicely to other drivers, your trip will most likely be a pleasant experience, while if you don’t behave nicely to other drivers, bad things might happen during the drive. 

Her complete PhD thesis entitled: The relationship between thinking and driving styles and their contribution to young driver road safety is available at:

Contact Dr Kleisen: 0437726355

Contact the University of Canberra media team.

Ed O’Daly M: 0408 829 618 T: 02 6201 2441

Amanda Powell M: 0408 826 362 T: 02 6201 5422