Young Drivers

Young Drivers

How Effective?

Education, training and testing of drivers

Overall, the evidence suggests that pre-driver, driver education and training provision and testing is not sufficiently effective in helping young drivers to drive safely and reduce accident risk. The evidence to support this come from a range of reviews of evidence (Helman, 2010; Baughan, 2001) and primary research studies discussed in the research findings section (particularly Wells, Tong, Sexton, Grayson & Jones, 2008 and Emmerson, 2008). Because the accident rates of young drivers are higher in the initial post-test period and declines sharply thereafter, gaining driving experience post-test is the main cause of the reduction of young driver accidents. Of course, this means that young drivers are at continued risk in the immediate post-test period and training and education measures do not seem to have a direct impact on reducing this risk.

  • The weight of evidence from the literature as a whole is overwhelmingly in favour of the conclusion that driver education and training has little or no direct effect on the collision risk of new drivers. (Helman, 2010)

  • There is little research evidence that increased formal driver training improves safety. A number of themes have emerged that offer the hope of improving the effectiveness of training, one being the desirability of improving the hazard perception skills of learner drivers. Developing and evaluating improved driver training is now an important research task. (Baughan, 2001)

  • Although there is considerable flexibility regarding the manner in which learner drivers learn to drive, current arrangements for their training, including what is taught and how, do not provide them with the right skills and experience to be safe drivers. (Emmerson, 2008)

  • Risky driving behaviours and factors related to these, such as speed choice, which has been shown to be linked with accidents, are not effectively addressed in the driving test. This contributes to the failure of the driving test in helping to produce safe and competent drivers. (Emmerson, 2008)

  • A survey of pre-driver educational provision reported that out of 173 UK road safety teams, 122 (71%) had a pre-driver education initiative in place and 51 (29%) did not. The survey was carried out over a two-month period, where the study team collected and reviewed papers and contacted key researchers within national and international academic establishments. (Pre-driver Education: Survey of Pre-driver Education Provision)

  • Although there is an independent effect of age on collision risk - the youngest new drivers have on average the highest risk - the effect of post-licence experience is the dominant factor in lowering the collision risk of new drivers. (Helman, 2010)

  • More recent approaches to driver training that treat driving as a cognitive skill show much more promise. One method within this cognitive approach that shows considerable promise is the training of hazard perception skills (Helman, 2010).

  • In 2017, experts commissioned by the Department for Transport reviewed hazard perception training conducted since 2005 and recommended it as one of four interventions with the greatest potential for reducing young driver risk. One concern raised was related to the possible uptake of such intervention. It was also recommended that the hazard perception training is delivered late in the learning to drive process, or just after passing the practical test (Pressley, Fernández-Medina, Helman, McKenna, Stradling & Husband, 2017).

  • It has been that: “Having access to a vehicle owned by parents, relatives or friends (during the post-test period), higher confidence, reported likelihood of avoiding risky driving situations, and time spent with a driving instructor on country roads or driving independently while learning were all associated with lower collision risk post-test. Time spent driving in busy town centres, frequency of driving for work, and being named on a ‘telematics’ insurance policy were all associated with higher collision risk post-test.” (Helman, Wallbank, Chowdhury, Hammond, Kinnear, Buttress, Jenkins & Grayson, 2017, p. 7).  

  • In 2017, experts approved by the Department for Transport recommended four types of interventions for properly controlled scientific evaluation in a future trial in GB. These were: interventions engaging parents in managing post-test driving in specific situations; interventions engaging a range of stakeholders (and utilising a logbook approach) in increasing the amount and breadth of pre-test on-road experience; interventions utilising technology (IVDRs) and possibly parents as well to manage driver behaviour post-test; and interventions to train hazard perception skill (Pressley, Fernández-Medina, Helman, McKenna, Stradling & Husband, 2017).

  • Recent research has identified that most pre-driver and young driver educational interventions do not have the desired impact and that this could be because of an absence of appropriate behaviour change techniques (BCTs). A review set out to investigate which BCTs were most commonly associated with effective interventions in other areas of public health. The review found strong evidence regarding the efficacy of BCTs related to goal-setting; self-monitoring of behaviour; proving information on consequences; social support; providing instruction’ and providing feedback on performance. It was recommended that these BCTs were incorporated into young driver interventions to improve the changes of successfully achieving behaviour change. (Sullman, 2017)

Young riders

  • There are two main groups of motorcycle riders that interventions should be focussed on. The first is young and inexperienced riders of smaller capacity machines such as scooters, and the second is older, more experienced riders of higher capacity machines. Both the skills and attitudes of these riders need to be addressed (Clarke, Ward, Bartle & Truman, 2004).

Graduated driver licensing

  • Reviews (e.g. Russell, Vandermeer & Hartling, 2011) of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) suggests that these systems have been effective overall (though the size of the effect varies between jurisdictions). The effectiveness of GDL is mainly related to the reduction of exposure to driving conditions (e.g. driving at night and with other young passengers) which present a risk to young drivers. Analysis of the potential effects of introducing multiple components of GDL in Great Britain (Kinnear, Lloyd, Scoons & Helman, 2014), suggests the possibility of saving over 4,000 casualties and this is considered to be a conservative number.  

  • A graduated licensing system aims to provide a staged progression from initial learning to unrestricted solo driving by means of measures designed to restrict exposure during early driving, exert a supervisory influence over driving behaviour during the first part of a driver’s solo driving career or improve the level of training and experience accumulated before driving solo without restrictions (Baughan, 2001)

  • The weight of evidence for the effectiveness of graduated driver licensing comes from the restricted period of driving post-licence, and these effects are likely to be largely related to exposure. Because people are simply not being exposed, on their own, to the higher risk situations in the restricted period they are much less likely to have collisions in this period. (Helman, 2010)

  • A Cochrane review (Hartling, Wiebe, Russell, Petruk, Spinola & Klassen, 2004) of graduated driver licensing evaluated 12 GDL programmes that were implemented between 1979- 1998. Reductions in crash rates were seen in all jurisdictions and for all crash types. However, the magnitude of the effect is unclear.

  • An updated version of the above Cochrane review (Russell, Vandermeer & Hartling, 2011) which reviewed 21 GDL systems concluded that overall GDL is effective in reducing crashes of teenage drivers. However, the size of the effect varies according to the components of GDL in each jurisdiction. Further research on GDL should focus on which combinations of components are most effective.

  • A study (Jones, Begg & Palmer, 2012) assessed the likely casualty and cost savings of introducing two possible types of GDL systems in GB. It analysed police road crash data to identify crashes occurring at night and with passengers in order to estimate potential crash reduction rates. A stricter form of GDL was estimated to prevent 114 deaths and 872 serious casualties per year. A less strict system was estimated to prevent 81 deaths and 538 serious injuries. These estimates are based on a series of assumptions, such as a 50% compliance rate. Therefore, these findings should be treated with caution.

  • A more up-to-date study (Kinnear, Lloyd, Scoons & Helman, 2014) estimates that the introduction of multiple components of GDL in GB would save over 4,478 casualties, of which about 443 could be classified as killed or seriously injured. However, these savings are probably underestimated since analysis was limited to drivers aged 17- to 19-years old. In the case of more populated and more urban areas it would result in saving the greatest absolute numbers of casualties, whereas when analysing relative effects, the benefits would be more apparent for rural regions. It was also proven that extended curfews in the night-time component of GDL (no permission to drive without the company of adults over 25 between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.) would be considerably more effective in reducing collisions and casualties than the limited version (no permission to drive without the company of adults over 25 between midnight and 5 a.m.). Similarly, the implementation of a strong passenger component of GDL (no permission to drive with 15-24 years old passengers unless accompanied by a passenger aged over 25) appears to be more beneficial than the weaker component (no permission to drive with more than one 15-19 years old passenger unless accompanied by a passenger aged over 25).

  • The idea of graduated driver licensing, in general, would enjoy the support of 68% of British aged 16-75. Among British respondents aged 16-24, the share of those supporting this idea amounts to 41%, whereas 32% are against such policies. Implementation of the night-time component with a curfew on driving between midnight and 5 a.m. without the company of passengers over 24 was supported by 61% of Britons and limiting passengers aged 15- to 19- years old to only one person (unless there is at least one passenger aged 25 or more) was backed by 66%.      

An earlier review of GDL in 2001 (Baughan, 2001) reported the following findings:

  • Night-time restrictions – there is evidence that these can be very effective at reducing night-time accidents, at least during the months covered by the restricted licence, though effectiveness will depend on the level of enforcement.

  • Passenger restrictions – given the association between passengers and accidents, particularly amongst teenage drivers, introducing passenger restrictions for drivers when they first begin driving unsupervised is an option that merits serious consideration. Social effects, and the possibility of young people transferring to less safe forms of transport, or making car journeys as car drivers rather than passengers, would need to be taken into account before a decision were made.

  • Increasing penalties for traffic violations - The British system of reversion to L-driver status for drivers who accumulate six penalty points during their first two years of unsupervised driving is an example of such a provision. Such measures can be seen as a way of maintaining a supervisory influence on novice drivers during their period of early solo driving. There is, as yet, little evidence on their effectiveness, but they are relatively simple to introduce and are attractive in that they seek to address the motivational components of the novice driver safety problem.

  • Probationary licences and exit tests - The British licensing system already includes a two-year probationary period after the full driving licence is granted. Simply adding an exit test to the end of this period does not have much to recommend it at present. This conclusion might change if more severe, risk-reducing restrictions were to be imposed during the probationary phase.

  • While not necessarily a feature of GDL, Increasing the amount of onroad driving experience accumulated by learner drivers – has generally been shown to reduce novice drivers’ accident risk. Sweden achieved very large increases in the amount of pre-test experience, and substantial improvements in novice driver safety, from reducing the minimum learning age to drive from 17.5 to 16 years. Results from Norway have been less encouraging though.

  • Given the problems of alcohol related accidents amongst novice drivers, imposing lower limits on young or novice drivers is likely to bring benefits and may also instil safer drink-driving habits after the restricted period ends. In Britain, enforcement of a differential limit for novice drivers would be difficult in the absence of a requirement to carry licences or identity cards. Drink driving is more prevalent amongst those in their early 20s than it is amongst teenage drivers largely because the mileage of the over-20s is higher. It may therefore be counterproductive to have a lower limit for novices, who would then see the limit raised just as they moved into the group in which the drink-driving problem peaks. (Baughan, 2001)

However, it should be noted that the Jones, Begg and Palmer (2012) study (referred to above) argues that adding a ‘no alcohol’ consumption restriction to a GDL system in GB, would increase the potential benefits of GDL. This is because a higher proportion of young drivers involved in crashes failed a breath test compared to all drivers.

Experiences of other countries show that reductions in crash rates were seen for all crash types, however, the magnitude of the effects vary. Stricter schemes appear to result in greater reduction of fatality numbers (Russell, Vandermeer & Hartling, 2011).


  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:08 AM
  • Last Update: 12 Jan 2018, 12:44 PM