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New measures could save young lives: ABI

Wednesday 6th March 2013

Road deaths and car insurance premiums for young drivers could be significantly reduced if the Government introduced new safety measures, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) (BBC News).

The ABI is calling for a one-year minimum learning period for young drivers, and a limit to the number of young passengers a newly qualified driver is allowed to carry. It would also like to see restrictions on driving at night and zero tolerance for blood alcohol levels for recently qualified drivers.

The average annual premium for a 17 to 18 year old driver, currently more than £1,800, could be reduced by up to 20% if safety standards were improved, says the ABI.

Otto Thoresen, the ABI's director general, said: “Sadly, young newly qualified drivers are at a much higher risk of having a serious crash on our roads, which is reflected in the cost of their car insurance.

“Insurers want to see young drivers become safe drivers, which in turn will result in more affordable premiums.”

The BBC News report says the Government is considering the ideas put forward by the ABI, along with other safety proposals.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.

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In my simulator idea it would not be possible to drive through the scenarios by going flat out. Instead the user would find that in order to negotiate their way through the scenarios they would have to drive in a manner that rewarded them when they did things right. Far from being ludicrous the simulator would reward success and punish failure rather than the current training system that punishes success and rewards failure.

Let me explain. All brains, especially young ones, are driven by a reward chemical called dopamine which is released in one of two situations. The first is when a driver gets into an edge of the envelope situation and manages for whatever reason to escape from it. The second is when a prediction as to what will happen next is proved to be correct.

You can now see why a youngster tends towards various dangerous behaviours because of the guaranteed dopamine hit that they will receive.

The problem with the prediction award is that as actions become more skilled the dopamine hit is reduced. Showing drivers how to make more and more predictions about future states will ensure that continuing high levels of dopamine are released.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)
0

Telematics may help to identify 'how a driver is driving' but there needs to be the option of relevant and targeted post test training to help drivers to improve or change their driving. I don't believe Telematics on its own is the answer, it needs to be part of a joined up package. If Telematics identify the problem then training ought to help offer the solution.
June Howlett. Transport for Buckinghamshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (0)
+9

I agree that some young drivers lack experience and this is definitely one factor which affects their collision rate. However to gain experience they need to be out on the road as much as possible. When I was an ADI, I recommended that they received private practice as well as their lessons. However, to blame training and testing for the collision rate is just finding a scapegoat. Learner drivers are not taught by ADIs to drive at excessive speed, play overtaking games and generally take chances which give them a high - and it is just the minority who partake of such activities. If a part of the brain plays a large part in this behaviour, why are all young drivers not driving in a dangerous manner?

Early interventions like pedestrian skills and cycle training make a big difference to the knowledge and skills of your "L" driver - the knowledge should transfer from one stage to the next. Early intervention is essential to try and tackle the attitudes which are behind unsafe behaviour on the road - and also the back of the car can be a "road rage nursery!" We learn from our parents, peers, teachers, etc and the media influence "L" drivers too.
Lucy, Scotland

Agree (11) | Disagree (1)
+10

I think that Duncan's idea of a driving simulator in which young drivers have to complete a journey as fast as possible through a landscape populated with every potential crash scenario we know about is ludicrous. Real life is not a video game to be driven through as quickly as possible, and 'success' on such a simulator would merely serve to reinforce their already inflated opinions of their ability and invulnerability.

I believe that monitoring of young drivers through telemetry, via their insurers, and premiums being set according to their risk is one of the better ways forward.
David, Suffolk.

Agree (8) | Disagree (2)
+6

As a serving police officer and a father of a 22 year old son, I have a vested interest in young driver KSIs. I think 'pre-loading' learners with the information they require post-test should be the way to go. At least, open their minds to some of the scenarios that they will encounter when they drive alone or with friends. That is the intention of the 'ENGAGE' scheme, in which instructors broach some of these topics during their driving lessons. Driving instruction should include challenging some of their attitudes towards speed, alcohol and drugs, in-car safety and peer pressure to address some of the negative influences of parents and friends.
Paul Mountford. Merseyside

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)
+8

For once I agree with Rod King - those who survive their teenage cycling years will have greater spacial awareness. That said, there are many other ways of improving spacial awareness other than on congested roads next to buses and HGVs.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)
+2

One resource that could really help young drivers gain the experience they need is with the use of simulators.

Use of simulators in the aviation industry has led to a significant reduction in the accident rate due to the ability of the simulator to create many off-normal scenarios in a very short space of time. Only practice makes perfect and what our young drivers need is lots and lots of practice in predicting and managing off-normal situations and simulators are the perfect way of providing that practice.

Getting the form of a simulator right would be important, as would finding a way of rewarding youths for using it, but from what we now know about the adolescent brain this should not prove to be too much of a challenge.

I would imagine the simulator to take the form of a driving game where the hero would have to complete a journey as fast as possible through a landscape that was entirely populated with every crash scenario we know about.

As with all other computer games there would be succesive levels, each more difficult than the last, but with greater and greater rewards for the sucessful completion of each level.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)
+3

Before we can begin to reduce road casualties we have to understand the crashes themselves as well as the complex causal net that led up to them. We also need to have a much better grasp of human factors and the causes of human error as it is these factors that are the key to solving the problem.

Because of their undeveloped pre-frontal cortex youngsters present a few interesting problems in working out the root causes of their accidents and incidents, but these difficulties are certainly not insurmountable.

We should be careful not to demonise young drivers and their excesses because we do not know whether the recklessness of youth does not ultimately help us to drive safely as we get older when the pre-frontal cortex finally matures.

As with most generational things, it is often forgotten that there must be some sort of evolutionary benefit to youthful exuberance and risk taking so it would pay us to keep this very much in mind.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)
+4

I think the only way that newly qualified drivers can gain experience by learning how to drive in all road conditions. The "new measures" would only cause more people to be involved in fatal accidents due to lack of experience.

I think a far better common sense approach is demonstrated in this video by David Coulthard: http://dontriskit.info/country-roads/view-the-campaign .
Phil, Kent

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)
+3

I think that one of the biggest factors in young driver crashes is the fact that so many of them have absolutely no experience of using the roads until they are 17 and get in a car.

Had they been cycling in their teens then they would have built up an excellent spatial awareness and an understanding of how it feels to be a vulnerable road user.

Unfortunately it has been the attitudes of parents in driving fast and keeping children "off the roads" for their own safety that has built a generation of young adults who have been deprived of so much learning in their teen years.

So, the more we can get children cycling and the more we can respect their presence on the roads then this will make them better drivers when or even if they do decide to drive.
Rod King, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)
+3

It is fortunate for us then that most young people are able to exert control over their immature brains (& cultural influences) and are not involved in incidents.

For those that cannot quel such behaviours, that they will be aware they are indulging in, some form of negative reinforcement is required and spending even more money on insurance may be the deterrent required.
Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton

Agree (1) | Disagree (5)
-4

Duncan
Do you have any suggestions as how to reduce casualties among young drivers?
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)
+4

Young drivers do not choose to drive irresponsibly, simply because their brains have not yet developed the mechanisms that can make the sort of rational choices that the rest of us older drivers do.

They drive how they drive because they get an instant hit of Dopamine (the brain's pleasure chemical) every time they push the envelope with no corresponding hit if they don't. I think the phrase is "if it feels good - do it" and pushing the envelope certainly makes them feel very good indeed.

Youngsters can very easily figure out what they need to do in order to pass a test, but once that test has been passed they can't wait to leave all that boring rubbish behind them and get on with the real task of enjoying themselves and getting all those nice Dopamine hits.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)
+3

A reduction of 20% is still an average premium of nearly £1500, that's hardly in the budget of many adults let alone young people.
Dave, Leeds

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)
+3

Many people blame training & testing for the behaviour of some young drivers but when a driver is trained well and chooses to drive irresponsibly, as males are more likely to, blaming how they were taught is too simplistic.

To pass a test now requires a good drive so we know these people are capable of the task. I accept that some people won't have been trained well but this would represent a minority of those being involved in collisions.

There are many factors involved and I feel the best way forward is for insurance companies to use telematics where young drivers (and maybe one day all drivers) are constantly monitored and their premiums frequently adjusted to suit. Saving money may be the best way to motivate someone to behave in the manner they have been taught. All the other measures introduced so far haven't worked so it would be interesting to see if this approach helps.
Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)
+8

According to the BBC report "Current figures suggest that 40% of 17-year-old males have an accident in their first six months of driving".

With figures like that it is quite obvious that the current driver training system is unfit for purpose. If I was the insurance companies I would be getting in amongst the DSA and demanding an explanation as to why they are turning out such numbers of woefully unprepared drivers.

There are solutions to this problem and maybe restrictions on night driving and the number of people in the car might help, but I very much doubt they are the whole answer.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)
+5