Novice drivers and rural roads a ‘lethal’ combination – Brake

12.00 | 24 August 2017 | | 6 comments

Brake is calling for a ‘total overhaul’ of the learning to drive system, including compulsory lessons on rural roads.

In a press release issued today (24 August), the road safety charity described the combination of rural roads and novice drivers as ‘lethal’.

Brake points to statistics which show that of the 120 young drivers killed in 2015 (the latest available figures), 80% of those crashes took place in rural locations.

Brake is also calling for a minimum learning period and restrictions for newly-qualified drivers – including a zero drink-drive limit – as part of a graduated licensing system.

Brake says this approach will ‘allow new drivers to build up more skills and experience over a longer period of time’, saving as many as 400 lives a year.

Jason Wakeford, Brake’s director of campaigns, said: “High speeds, sharp bends, narrow lanes, risky overtaking and the presence of vulnerable road users like cyclists, make rural roads the most dangerous by far.

“The combination of rural roads and novice drivers is lethal – a staggering 80% of all young car driver fatalities occur in rural locations.

"Brake is calling for a total overhaul of the learning to drive system to help cut fatalities and injuries.

“A graduated licensing system, including a minimum learning period, mandatory training on rural roads and restrictions for newly-qualified drivers – such as a zero drink-drive limit – will allow new drivers to build up more skills and experience over a longer period of time.

"This approach has dramatically reduced road casualties in countries including Australia and New Zealand and could save some 400 lives a year if implemented in the UK.”

Category: Young drivers.



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    A rural road component in the driving test is something we actually recommended four years ago as part of our research ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’, where we analysed 4 groups of drivers based on age and home postcode: young rural drivers, young urban drivers, older rural drivers and older urban drivers. Firstly, we found that young drivers who live in rural areas were 44% more likely to be involved in an injury collision (any severity) than young drivers from urban areas.

    We also found there were certain collision circumstances that were more common for rural residents, regardless of age and these were environmental (such as crashing on rural 60mph roads and away from junctions). We found age was a factor, regardless of residency, in single vehicle crashes and where positive breath tests were provided. And then we found a collection of factors where rural young drivers were over-represented: bends, darkness, loss of control and wet road surfaces. For these factors, it was the combination of being young/inexperienced and living/driving in rural areas that seemed to increase risk.

    As Martin says, residency plays a part in learning to drive choices – we analysed DVLA data by postcode and found that rural young drivers obtained their licences at younger ages and in much higher proportions than their urban counterparts.

    So it isn’t as simple as thinking about rural roads. We need to think where people are from and how they use the roads (as Honor says). The test needs to reflect the types of driving that the new driver is going to be using and we need to ensure that novice drivers are equipped to deal with a wide range of conditions and environments.

    Tanya, Suffolk
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    I appreciate Brake is a charity and relies on emotive articles like this to obtain donations from its supporters, but there are a few things here that need consideration.

    Firstly, they use only fatal crashes in their statistical analysis. As speeds in rural areas are undoubtedly higher than in urban areas, then it’s no surprise that 80% of young driver fatalities happened in rural areas. I’m surprised it wasn’t higher.

    Also, we need to consider that there is less need for urban living youngsters to drive. My wife’s niece lives in London, has a car licence, but does not have a car, nor has she driven since she passed her test a couple of years ago. She can’t afford the huge insurance premiums levied in inner-city areas. She also has access to an excellent public transport system.

    However, one of my own nephews lives in rural Yorkshire and works unsocial hours. He needs his car for work and often travels in the darkness hours and in all weathers. It comes as no surprise to find he has a bigger risk of a crash.

    So, I would support a call to encourage (not compulsory) training for drivers who are most likely to drive in higher risk situations.

    Martin, Suffolk
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    Our young drivers are very poorly served by the current DSA test, and their own desire to have a licence rather than actually learning how to drive.

    Most of our drivers in rural Suffolk will spend the bulk of their time driving around test routes in towns. They will spend very little time on unlit, rural roads. They will not be instructed in how to overtake, so the first tractor and trailer they come across will be a real problem for them.

    The way we ‘learn to drive’ needs root and branch reform, not the silly tweaks it gets every now and again from the DSA. Learners are taught how to pass a test (though ADIs will strenuously deny this), and are very poorly prepared for the real world when successful at test.

    Never mind though, as we will all soon be in our driverless pods and nobody will need to know how to drive.

    David, Suffolk
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    I have been reading comments elsewhere from driving instructors for other countries – including Australia, who all agree that our training and testing regime for instructors was tougher than they had. This means our instructors are are more highly trained than almost everywhere else. Some countries have had success with graduated licences BUT our raods are safer to start with. Brake suggest a zero drink drive limit for new drivers – this only suggests that experienced drivers are OK to have a drink – hardly a good safety message.

    Andy, Warwick
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    Poor driving on rural roads is not exclusive to young drivers. However, the data does show that they are involved in and cause proportionately more crashes, especially higher speed crashes, than other drivers on those same roads. The data will vary somewhat in different areas. Each area needs to (and no doubt does) analyse their own data to identify where these young drivers are from – are they visiting from urban areas or are they local residents who have actually learned to drive on these same rural roads?

    The principles and effectiveness of the graduated driving licence have been demonstrated in a number of countries, so why does this government still refuse to provide our young people with an established and fit for purpose driving licence programme that would prevent crashes, deaths and injuries?

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    A driver doesn’t have to be a novice to be speeding along rural roads – nor young nor male. Could it not be argued that a novice – in the true sense of the word, as opposed to young, newly qualified exuberant driver – is likely to be more cautious and therefore slower? The driver with many years driving under their belt does not guarantee sensible, safer driving.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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