Young driver interventions ‘lack evidential underpinning’

12.00 | 8 March 2017 | | 3 comments

A new report has found that few young driver interventions are adequately evaluated and of those that are, the vast majority have not led to demonstrably improved road safety among those exposed to the intervention.

Published today (8 March), the RAC Foundation report comprises a ‘review of behaviour change techniques for future interventions’, exploring what lessons can be learned from other sectors.

In particular, the report shows what can be learnt from the effectiveness and use of behaviour change techniques in areas of public health, and which techniques have improved intervention success.

Road collisions are a leading cause of death among young people and the number of young people killed and seriously injured on the nation’s roads remains stubbornly high, despite decades of public intervention programmes.

The report, produced by Dr Mark Sullman of Cranfield University, also finds that the vast majority of today’s road safety interventions, for young drivers and other age groups, are based on ideas of what might work rather than on the available theory or research evidence.

The report provides ‘relatively clear support’ for several BCTs, concluding that road safety practitioners should include a broader range of BCTs in programmes aimed at pre-drivers and young novice drivers.

It concludes that road safety interventions should include the BCTs which have been found to be effective in other areas of health, including: ‘prompt specific goal-setting’, ‘prompt self-monitoring of behaviour’, ‘provide information on consequences’, ‘plan social support or social change’, ‘provide instruction’ and ‘provide feedback on performance’.

Following this report, the RAC Foundation will be publishing a practical guide for road safety professionals covering how to develop effective interventions.

This will be launched at the Young Driver Focus conference that will be held at the Royal Automobile Club on 26 April. This guidance will build on the evidence presented in this report with the aim of providing a range of materials to help practitioners develop the most effective interventions.

Want to know more about young drivers and road safety? 
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    The first comment appears to be aimed at getting more traffic on his webpages. There is extensive high quality evidence that particular behaviours increase the risk of an individual being involved in an accident, collision or other health issue. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to try and decrease behaviours that increase risk and to encourage those behaviours that have a protective effect.

    Matt Hertfordshire
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    Way back in 1931 a chap called H.W. Heinrich wrote a book called “Industrial Accident Prevention – A Scientific Approach” in which he claimed that “most accidents are the result of unsafe behaviour.” Even though he offered no scientific evidence to back up that claim (despite the title) it has since become an article of faith in the safety industry.

    A great many scientists, researchers and safety thinkers such as Gibson, Kahneman, Dekker, Hollnagel, Deming, Shorrock etc, etc have subsequently found that the claim is completely without merit and yet it still forms the basis of pretty well every road safety intervention ever devised. Perhaps the reason that it still has such a grip on thinking is down to a very common psychological problem called the fundamental attribution error or correspondence bias.

    This report from the RAC foundation is based entirely on the original and incorrect premise that most accidents are the result of unsafe behaviour so I must ask why everybody is so keen to change behaviour when behaviour has very little to do with safety? We only have one job, the job is to learn so take a look at one of the finer pieces of research on the fundamental attribution error and make your own mind up.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident
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    We have suggested for many years, that many young driver intervention programmes although established with good intention are setup as a knee jerk reaction to a local incident or situation.

    With schemes such as the NDORS diversification programmes lacking any real robust studies of their effectiveness other than self reporting by the attendees, how can these young driver programmes provide real evidence of effectiveness.

    The common approach for evaluation through pre and post attendance self-reporting performance is a cheap cost effective method with no real value.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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