Background. Fundamental for the development of the driving and road use skills of the young driver is learning to drive through driving instruction and, in graduated driver licensing programs such as in Australia, driving supervision. In Queensland young drivers are required to log a minimum of 100 hours supervised practice, with recent research revealing that parents provide most of this supervision. Queensland also offers young drivers a 10-hour 3-for-1 bonus for professional driving instruction, such that one hour of professional instruction can be logged as three hours of practice, to a maximum of 30 logbook hours. Recent research efforts have begun to provide insight into the nature of the verbal instruction of both parents and professional instructors, and into the nonverbal communication between parents and learners. However nothing is known regarding the nonverbal communication between professional instructors and learners. Method. Ten learner lessons (five male learners) with four professional instructors (four males) were captured via GoPro cameras. The nonverbal communication during the first, middle, and last 10 minutes of each lesson was coded as being posture and body orientation, gestures, facial expressions, proximity, humour, and eye contact, within the context of the accompanying verbal communication according to the value of (a) eager, or (b) cautious; the valence of (a) neutral, (b) positive, or (c) negative; and the purpose of (a) rapport, or (b) communication. Results. Overall, posture and body orientation was the most common mechanism of nonverbal communication, while facial expressions and proximity were the least common mechanisms of nonverbal communication. In general the beginning, the middle, and the end of the lessons were characterised by a plethora of neutral, cautious interactions, and positive, eager interactions. However it is noteworthy that the rates at which learners and instructors engaged in these behaviours were found to change across the lesson. Specifically learners actively communication nonverbally through mechanisms such as eye contact, facial expressions and humour, while instructors appeared to manage building rapport and communicating safe vehicle and road use through nonverbal communication such as gestures, facial expressions and posture and body orientation, summarised in a model comprising a continuum of instruction. Discussion. While nonverbal communication is fundamental for effective verbal communication, and on occasion can replace verbal communication, and as such the professional – and the parental – driving lesson should optimise the use of nonverbal communication, at this time the optimal nature of nonverbal communication remains unknown. In addition, optimal verbal and nonverbal communication specifically suited to the driving context which involves a dynamic environment outside the vehicle, and at times a dynamic environment inside the vehicle, remains yet to be identified. The research findings provide unique insight into the nature of the nonverbal communication used by both learner drivers and professional driving instructors, in addition to the continuum of instruction model. As such, the findings provide a solid foundation for future research into, and guidance regarding, optimising the learner driving lesson.
Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour / Vol. 47, pp.1-12