#RSGB2016 | Road User Psychology – as it happened

12.00 | 15 November 2016 |

This session comprises the following four presentations followed by a panel discussion:

  • Dr. Samantha Jamson: Aspects of cognition and attention that can affect road safety
  • Dr Daryl Hibberd: Naturalistic Driving Studies in Europe – an overview of the UDRIVE project
  • Elizabeth Box: Parents as a route to self-regulation in teenage risk taking: implications for young driver safety
  • Dr Shaun Helman: Young and novice driver interventions – which approaches show most promise?

This session is being chaired by Jeremy Phillips, Director of Research, Road Safety GB & Road Casualty Reduction Manager, Devon County Council.

Dr. Samantha Jamson; Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Presentation: Aspects of cognition and attention that can affect road safety

This presentation focuses on what makes road users safe and unsafe, from our understanding cognition and attention. What effects do emotions have on our driving performance and safety? Can we really multitask successfully and what happens when the driving situation becomes demanding?

Key points:

  • Whilst driving, we are prone to various states of emotion
  • Vehicle manufacturers would like us to ‘drive happy’ – should we be doing so?
  • Is multitasking a myth, particularly in relation to road safety?
  • What are the most prevalent and dangerous (driving) multitasking activities?
  • In which ways can we incentivise safe driving?
  • Can we motivate safe driving using ecodriving ‘nudges’?

Soundbites from the presentation:

  • Mild positive emotion is a good thing and makes us perform better
  • It is hard to maintain a negative state for any sustained period of time

Anger & driving

  • Anger is more likely to occur in driving situations compared to any other context (approx. 20% of all journeys) & anger leads to speeding

 Not much research about positive moods & driving

 Hazard response time (happy, neutral & sad drivers)

  • Neutral best response
  • Happy & sad – no real difference

 Vehicle manufacturers are interested in driver mood (being able to influence it)


  • No real difference in gender when it comes to driving
  • Sending text messages is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do
  • Talking on a mobile phone is more dangerous than talking to a passenger

Legislation not working

What happens when we are distracted?

  • Greater lane deviations
  • Larger variations in speeds
  • Reactions to events lower
  • Accept shorter gaps in traffic when turning

 Other ways to incentivise safe driving

  • Encourage ‘green driving
  • If we can get people to ‘eco drive’ they will also ‘safe drive’

Dr Daryl Hibberd, Institute of Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Presentation: Naturalistic Driving Studies in Europe – an overview of the UDRIVE project

This presentation outlines the scope, aims, methods and expected impact from a current European Naturalistic Driving project, UDRIVE.

Soundbites from the presentation:

 Naturalistic driving (ND) – observing drivers as they go about their day to day business, how they are interacting with their vehicle

 Cameras installed in vehicle (inside & out) – passenger cars, trucks & motorcycles

Detailed timeline showing what drivers are doing around safety-critical events

210 drivers, 7 countries, 266 drivers, over 21 months, 100,000 hours of data for analysis

Research interests

  • Characteristics of everyday driving
  • Inattention and distraction
  • Crash causation factors
  • Interacting with pedestrians and cyclists
  • Motorcyclists’ behaviour
  • Cross country comparision (what can one country learn from another)


  • New measures to make traffic safer & more sustainable
  • The potential of ND for monitoring performance over time
  • Exploration of commercial applications of ND data

The database will remain for analyses after the project by experts

Elizabeth Box, head of research, RAC Foundation
Presentation: Parents as a route to self-regulation in teenage risk taking: implications for young driver safety

This presentation draws on the latest evidence about self-regulatory approaches to risky teenage behaviours and the role that parents can play in supporting adolescents as they negotiate potential risky activities such as driving.

Key points:

  • Innovations in neuroscience require us to develop different interventions for young drivers than we have done in the past. We must all do better to prepare young people for safe driving by making use of the evidence base.
  • We need to better support young drivers by explaining how the adolescent brain works and training them in the skills needed to self-regulate their impulses. We need to develop feedback and support mechanisms that allow young drivers to develop and maintain their self-regulatory skills.
  • Driver training should ‘teach driving skills AND facilitate behavioural plans’.
  • We need to support partents in their influential ‘change agent’ role with young drivers through providing evidence based resources and training.
  • We need to think our regulatory environment – laws such as Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) can facilitate young driver self-regulation.
  • As a society we need to think about how to better support adolescents in developing self-regulatory skills. It is not just a road safety issue.


We need a new approach to public health interventions aimed at reducing adolescent risk taking.

We need to stop trying to scare adolescents into changing their behaviour

Adolescent brain

  • Different areas complete at different ages
  • Frontal lobe – not fully developed until third decade of life

There are many ‘wins’ to be had by helping young people develop self regulation 

We need to use reflection, narrative and story telling to help them work out their risks and develop self regulation skills

Is parental monitoing a good idea (telematics etc)? It can help but can also lead to lack of trust and autonomy

We must all do better to prepare young people for safe driving – using the evidence base (including innovations in neuroscience)

Rethink the regulatory environment (GDL)

Teach driving skills and facilitate behavioural plans

Dr Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology, Transport Research Laboratory
Presentation: Young and novice driver interventions – which approaches show most promise?

Shaun is presenting the findings from a recent TRL-led review of educational, technology-based and other innovative interventions for young and novice drivers. The review was undertaken with the intention of prioritising those interventions that show most promise, so that they can be properly evaluated in a future research programme in GB.

Key points:

  • Young and novice driver are over-represented in crashes.
  • Apart from Graduated Driving Licensing (GDL), interventions designed to lower this risk have not generally been found to be effective.
  • TRL reviewed the literature for evidence of effectiveness of training, educational, and technology-based interventions focused on young and novice drivers risk, and prioritised them for further evaluation according to how promising the evidence seemed to be for each.
  • A stakeholder workshop was undertaken to consider implementation issues for the interventions identified as being most promising.
  • A shortlist of four interventions was produced based on the work.
  • The four interventions will now be included in research and evaluated against crash outcomes in the UK


  • Most interventions are not evaluated against collision outcomes
  • Few ‘off the shelf interventions have been properly evaluated
  • Parental engagement seems to be a key factor

What might work?

1. An intervention to engage parents in managing post test driving in specific risky situations

  • Getting parents and teens to agree what restrictions might be in place
  • Empowering the young drive to have restrictions lifted

2. Increasing the amount and breadth of on road driving experience prior to taking the test (around 120hrs as a target)

3. An intervention using technology (telematics) and possibly parents to manage driver behaviour post-test

4. An intervention to train hazard perception skill



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