U.Va. Testing Driving Simulators at DMV

There are a few government employees who risk their lives every time they set foot outside the door: soldiers, police officers, firefighters … and the folks who test new drivers at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The latter group could eventually live more sedate and secure lives, if Daniel Cox of the U.Va. School of Medicine has his way. Cox has long used remarkably realistic driving simulators to test various populations’ ability to drive — those on medications for ADHD, for example, or people who have diabetes.

Now, he’s testing the simulators in two DMV branches — on Pantops in Charlottesville, and in Fairfax County — as a potential replacement for the dreaded driving test, according to our colleagues in the Health System.

DMV’s patrons will be invited to test the simulators, but Cox stressed that the tests will have no effect on the volunteers’ ability to obtain or renew their driver’s licenses. Individual test results will not be shared with DMV, he said.

There’s lots of upside to testing on a driving simulator. Beside not risking any lives, it doesn’t use gas, may save some time, and most of all, provides a consistent testing environment. Certainly, the current rubber-on-pavement testing experience is much different for those in bustling Northern Virginia than it is for those in more rural parts of the state, and driving on a beautiful spring day is much easier than battling rain or snow.

With a simulator, everyone can be tested in heavy traffic in snowy weather, even in July.

Cox is hoping to get 1,000 volunteer testers in the next 12 months.


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