Report identifies ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances for new drivers

12.00 | 20 July 2012 | | 10 comments

The AA Charitable Trust is calling for under 17s to receive driver training in the wake of a new report which shows that new drivers are most at risk on the roads in the first six months after passing the driving test.

The report, ‘Young Drivers at Risk’ (launched 20 July), comprises a survey of 14,229 motorists on the AA/Populus panel who have been involved in car crashes, and reveals that nearly 40% had crashed by the time they were 23 years old.

Analysis of these drivers’ first crashes shows that: 26% had crashed within two years of gaining their licence; one third of 18-24 year old drivers have been involved in an accident; and 28% had crashed by the time they were 21 years of age.

Interestingly, just 13% of first crashes occur at night, and 63% of the drivers interviewed their first collision without passengers in the car.

The AA Charitable Trust describes this as ‘a perfect storm of circumstances surrounding drivers’ first accidents’.

The report has been compiled jointly by the AA Charitable Trust and the Make Roads Safe campaign as part of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. It is being launched by Nigel Mansell, former F1 world champion and current member of the Commission for Global Road Safety, at the AA World at the Silverstone Classic.

As part of its commitment to improving road safety in the UK, the AA Charitable Trust has pledged another 1,000 free driver improvement courses for new drivers at risk.

The report calls for young drivers to be given more opportunities to drive in a safe, off-road environment before they turn 17. 73% of UK motorists believe this would make young drivers safer. It also suggests ways in which education could be improved for young people, many years before they even think about getting into the driving seat.

Nigel Mansell said: “I became a world champion by driving fast. I love cars and racing. But I know the place for speed is on a race track, not on the road.

“While road deaths among the young remain a serious problem here in the UK, in many parts of the world they have become nothing less than a crisis out of control.

“Someone is being killed or maimed every six seconds. It is an epidemic that is set to double within the next few years unless we take action.

“This is a vitally important issue which doesn’t get enough attention. Too many of our young people are still being killed or injured on the roads. These are preventable tragedies.”

Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “It’s no secret that new and young drivers are disproportionately represented in road crashes and we need to work together to stem this tide of carnage.

“Road safety education must be a life skill that starts at the age of three but is continually refreshed throughout life. It needs to begin many years before someone is old enough to apply for their provisional licence.

“By the age of 17 attitudes towards driving will already have been largely formed. If teenagers have had interesting and practical road safety education they are less likely to take dangerous risks when they get behind the wheel alone.”

Commenting on the report Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “Young male drivers especially suffer from a deadly combination of overconfidence and inexperience. Post-test training is without doubt the best way to address this.

“A focus on road safety in the national curriculum is currently non-existent and this needs to change. Driver training for under 17 year olds can be a fun way of introducing young people to safe driving.

“We could also make novice drivers a lot safer simply by making our deadliest rural roads an element of the driving test.”

Click here to download the report, or for more information contact the AA on 01256495969.


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    Well said Honor. However there is a basic and simple problem. How and who would judge a person’s capability? A driving instructor, the police, a psychiatrist, which one would or could psychologically ascertain whether a person is mentally suitable for driving or riding?

    I know of mature men of ages ranging from 35 to 70s who ride motorcycles like it’s the last thing on earth that they are going to do. Bad attitude isn’t just in the domain of the young and there is no way, other than compulsion, will anyone get them near a classroom. For those it’s either death or permanent injury to themselves or others. Or disqualification.

    When assessing young persons do we really need geography or history? Perhaps those lesson times could be spent with young people learning about something that would be of benefit to them such as driving. Something that most adults will engage in in their everyday life.

    What’s the answer? Can it be put into practise, would it be accepted other than by legislation and punishment? I wait to see.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    There is certainly a place for training – but it must address both skills and attitudes and take account of how young people mature and their ability to identify risks.

    My concern is that the understandable review “if we give them more training sooner they won’t have so many crashes“ is simplistic and may well achieve the opposite from what is intended. Training must include enabling young people to adjust their attitudes as well as learning physical driving skills and it must ensure that young people do not obtain a licence at an age where these abilities are not yet developed. If young people are learning to drive from 16½ years, they could obtain a licence on or after their 17th birthday – which may be too soon. Currently few young drivers pass their test until they are 17½. So we would then be putting even younger people out driving on their own with higher skills and confidence but not necessarily the maturity to go with it.

    This risk can be avoided by ensuring the content of the courses includes attitudinal factors; putting in place a minimum age for the test and a minimum period of supervised driving experience (the log book approach) – all based on good research based evidence of when that content and optimum age/time period are.

    I am pleased to tell you that the DfT has set up a working group that includes Road Safety GB and other stakeholders to address these issues.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    It seems that we are in two different camps here with regard to young persons training and /or skill or age related cognative functioning.

    On one hand there is Honor Byford, now Vice chair of Road Safety GB, with over 30 yrs experience and on the other is Simon Best, Chief Executive of IAM, a training company with charitable status.

    Ian beleives that young men in particular suffer from what may be descibed as a bad attitude and the only way to correct this is by tuition.

    On the other hand whilst accepting that some tuition may be appropriate, Honor is of the opinion that a bad attitude will not be changed by tuition alone as it could be already inbred.

    Both are initially coming from the same place but see the possible end result of training diferently, one as the ‘be all and end all’ where training will change years of bad attitude and one with reservations because training doesn’t necessarily mean it will change those bad attitudes and may possibly make matters worse.

    So where to from here?

    Bob Craven, Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    If what is spoken about before is correct, that at a young age we do not have the cognative function to drive safely, then why did we praise the teaching of motorcycle skills to 5 to 11 yr olds at schools, and point out the benefits of such training? Such training supported and hailed as a breakthrough and new initiative by some RSA officers, police , RSBS, local authorities and the government.

    Begs the question, what works? Or is it what does the latest paper concerning our abilities say? What is perceieved as polically correct and who supports whatever is in vogue at the time.

    The latest paper I have just read makes the case that we can only take in about 20 minutes of new material and after that our brains cannot absorbe any more.

    How I ever got through school must be baffling scientists. Goes against one or the other views.

    bob craven Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Two of the key issues with young drivers and their level of risk as novice drivers are; their attitudes to risk – which is influenced by the examples set to them by parents and their peers and, secondly, factors of how and at what age aspects of the brain and various cognitive capacities develop. The latter is developmental and can be influenced but not changed by training.

    We must be very careful that by our well intentioned efforts to increase the practical driving skills and knowledge of young people to make them safer we do not then permit them to drive earlier than they are cognitively ready and able to, and in fact put them at greater risk.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Most of the issues that link to young driver crash involvement are associated with age or inexperience. Whilst allowing drivers to gain more experience may be a good thing we need to think very carefully about the implication of them gaining a licence earlier. Currently most 17 year olds gain their licence nearer to 18 than 17, in-car training could bring this forward to closer to 17.

    Ian Edwards, Doncaster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    It is a red herring to bring up the fact that most qualified drivers would not pass if they were retested. It’s true, but their risk management skills would probably be streets ahead of how they were when they first passed their driving tests though, and that is the crucial factor in their lessened risk of being involved in a KSI. The attitudes they display to their young passengers may well be of note, but the overwhelming factor in why young drivers crash so often is their lack of appreciation of risk and how it might affect them. Better risk management usually comes with age, not experience, especially for the male of the species.

    I too doubt that getting youngsters into cars at an earlier stage than at present would do anything to reduce the KSIs; raising the minimum age for a provisional licence to 20 might be a good idea though, along with a minimum of 12 months to elapse prior to taking a test.

    David, Suffolk
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I agree. Children learn from and emulate their parents. If they have had 12-15 years of sitting as a passenger in a car which is driven by someone who has the wrong attitudes and displays poor driver behaviour, then this is difficult to combat. Education from an early age is part of the solution as is trying to get parents to understand the influence they have on their children.

    Rebecca, Leeds
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I agree that young minds are being implicitly conditioned as passengers – research also supports this view. The driving sub-cultures that exist in this country are also an effect as well as evolution. I do not feel that pre-17 practical training would be beneficial but more education in school may be a step in the right direction.

    Dr James Whalen, DSA ADI, Wolverhampton
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The big focus is the 17-25 year old group and all the stats and arm waving focus on this. But a mind set is often the product of imprinting and conditioning. Consider that most drivers would fail their standard test if spot tested today, and that these are the very ones which kids will sit with and view their attitudes and driver behaviour for maybe twelve years before getting behind the wheel themselves, and then these very drivers are the ones which supervise learners and you can see one of the real sources of the problem. If anythig is really going to be done about this then the root of the problem needs tackling first, otherwise it is largely largely a matter of trying to bolt the door after the horse has gone.

    Nigel Albright,
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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