Young Driver Focus 2015: live reports from the conference hall

12.00 | 15 April 2015 | | 5 comments
More than 150 road safety professionals are in central London today attending Young Driver Focus 2015 –and we are reporting throughout the day live from the conference hall.
The event is being held at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, courtesy of the RAC Foundation. It is being organised by Road Safety GB and FirstCar in partnership with headline sponsors ingenie and support from Road Safety Support and RoadSafe.
The conference comprises four sessions: research and interventions; telematics and technology; driver training; and a panel discussion.
The conference commences at 10.00am and we are publishing regular updates throughout the day.


Conference is underway on time with a welcome address by HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO who devotes a high proportion of his time to the support of a large number of non-profit-making charities, institutes, trade associations, societies and health organisations. He is President of The Royal Automobile Club and also devotes considerable energy to promoting road safety in Britain and around the world.


First up, and charged with the task of setting the scene is Liz Box, Head of Research at the RAC Foundation, who is talking about the changing travel habits of young people.
Liz told delegates that since the mid-1990s there has been a decline in car use among young adults, especially among young men – and that it is important to understand the factors associated with young adults’ driving behaviour, since this age group may be leading a trend away from car use.
She went on to explain the individual, household and local area level characteristics associated with driving behaviour among young adults – and what bearing these trends might have on the safety of young people on the road.
She concluded that young people’s travel behaviour is changing, and that the cost of car ownership and learning to drive are significant factors in this. However, the car still provides status value and space for young people.
She also added that for the RAC Foundation, young driver safety must be a priority for the incoming government.

10.25am: Session one – research and interventions

Emeritus Professor Stephen Stradling from Edinburgh Napier University gets this session underway by looking at how road safety interventions for pre- and novice drivers can be improved by designing in behavioural change techniques.
A recent paper which he co-authored with Fiona Fylan, found that only a small subset of 27 BCTs are employed in most young driver interventions, and those that are used concentrate primarily on increasing awareness of the risks associated with a particular behaviour, and the severity of the potential adverse consequences. He suggested that interventions based solely on increased perceptions of risk are unlikely to be successful.
Professor Stradling went on to give recommendations for improving the effectiveness of road safety interventions for young people including young, novice drivers by increasing the range of BCTs deployed.
He told delegates that he wants to know what their interventions look like and which BCTs are included, and invited them to send them to him for evaluation. He said there are a number of things that aren’t being done that could be, and offered to send delegates a ‘homework list’.

Now it’s ‘Back to the Future’ with Michael McDonnell from Road Safety Scotland who advocates a lifelong learning approach to road safety education – based on the premise that the attitudes and behaviours which young drivers exhibit are laid down at a very early age, probably before they leave primary school.

Michael outlines how Road Safety Scotland takes a long-term view on young driver issues, and its efforts to integrate road safety within the Scottish Curriculum to encourage people to adopt a lifelong-learning approach to road safety.

He stressed that ‘children do notice’ their parents behaviour as drivers, and that this affects their attitudes to driving. The ‘Kids in the car’ campaign, the key element of which is a 40’ TV commercial, is trying to shake parents out of their complacency. It first ran in 2013 and was rerun in 2014, and concludes with the line ‘What kind of driver are you teaching your child to be?’

The campaign reached 83% of the target audience and 75% of parents said they would change their driving behaviour as a result of the campaign. He also added that Road Safety Scotland had more complaints about the ad than any other campaign in the past 20 years. 

The final speakers in this session are Dan Campsall and Tanya Fosdick from Road Safety Analysis who are presenting Blazed & Wasted which they claim is the UK’s first road safety intervention to be developed on the basis of the ‘COM-B behaviour change model’ and utilising the Behaviour Change Wheel – a synthesis of 19 behaviour change frameworks which draws on a wide range of disciplines and approaches and was developed by experts from University College London.

The pair set out to show that even modest levels of interruption marketing can deliver measurable improvements in behavioural intentions among young adult males, in this case in relation to drink driving.

11.00am – Session two – telematics & technology

We’re underway again with a presentation by Richard King, founder and CEO of the telematics insurance company ingenie who is looking at the future of telematics in young driver road safety.

Richard is using his presentation to demonstrate the positive impact of telematics that ingenie has seen within its community of young and novice drivers, as well as some of the issues and potential barriers to further uptake.

He’s also looking into his crystal ball to predict what the future looks like – and what the government could do to support the road safety benefits of telematics insurance.

90% of ingenie’s customer base is young novice drivers on the road for the first time. 70% of these customers see premiums reduce for good driving, while 7-8% see their premiums go up. He says both parents and young people like having a carrot and stick.

Is telematics working – based on 300 million miles of data the answer is ‘Yes’. 80% of those surveyed say telematics has made then a better driver.

More than 90% of drivers check the feedback they are given. Drivers are engaging with ingenie and talking about it on social media – they are promoting good driving via twitter etc.

One in eight of ingenie’s drivers have a crash in the first 12 months, compared with one in five overall. The best drivers have a crash frequency of around 10% and the worst around 40% – so telematics is accurate.

There are now about 20 insurers offering a telematics policy. Premiums are dropping dramatically – typically under £1,500 for a 17-year-old.

Rather than cancelling the policies of the worst drivers, ingenie is offering more counseling through its driver behaviour unit which comprises young people who have a firm but fair conversation with their peers. About 1% of ingenie’s drivers get a phone call each month and this is having a greater impact on behaviour than anticipated. Quite often they become the best ambassadors for telematics.

Driving is number one concern for parents – their son or daughter being in a crash. Where feedback is shared with mum or dad the driver is 28% less likely to have a crash – it’s a team game.

Keeping young people onboard is a challenge – they are too keen to go off too quickly and get a policy without a box.

"I’m seeing the big brother aspect coming back again – the Telegraph has an absolute agenda against black box insurance. Journalists ask about data – young drivers aren’t interested in the data, they want cheaper insurance."

Telematics is here to stay – driving instructors need to understand how the product works and educate their students about it.

"I’ve seen some green shoots from the Government regarding road safety, and they are doing some proper research into the effectiveness of telematics – but this may all change after 7 May." 


The final presenter before lunch is Ian Lancaster, Chief Executive Officer of Twentyci who is discussing how to drive an effective digital strategy to promote the road safety agenda to the young driver audience.

He is setting out to show: how young driver education can be digitized; that data is the key to sustainable digital engagement; and the opportunities for seamless evaluation. 

2.00pm – Session three: driver training

First up after lunch is Ian Edwards who is talking about "maximising the safety benefits of driver education".
Ian is using his presentation to explore why the driver education process may not be delivering its full potential safety benefits. He argues that what is learnt in driver training often fails to make the journey from the training environment to the real world, as a result of a "failure of skills transfer" because the training appears to be disconnected to its real world application.
He opened up by asking delegates why driver training is not effective? What prevents the training from passing into the real world?
Factors include: time constraints – learners never drive under time pressure; instructors don’t distract learners but passengers will; learning how to deal with peer pressure; fatigue, being able to maintain level of concentration – all of these are not practiced/experienced pre-test.
He discussed the three phase model – technical mastery, reading the road (then the driving test) followed by the ‘expressive’ phase which is rarely seen in pre-test driving.
"You only start driving in a way that feels right to you after you’ve passed the test".
Skills transfer – the closer the training is to ‘the real world’ the more likely it will transfer.
Pre-test – the only other person in the car is the instructor. The challenge is to model in the learner’s head what situations might look like, that cannot be replicated in training. Get them to think about difficult events they will encounter in the future – then get them to rehearse them and develop a mental template. (Pledging is one technique that can be deployed.)
A lot of interventions raise the problem, but don’t deliver a solution.
Pre-test, drivers need a plan to deliver a positive outcome – and training needs to be focused much more on future application, rather than the test itself. 
Next up is Dr Shaun Helman, Head of Transport Psychology at the Transport Research Laboratory, who is looking at ‘distraction and road safety: the challenges for training and education’.
He contends that distraction is a word used often in road safety, with little consideration for the precise concept it is meaning to convey, and defines from a psychological perspective the concept of distraction (and the related concept of inattention), and examines a number of key findings about its effects on road safety outcomes.
Distraction – don’t we all just multitask? No – if you get people to do more than one thing at a time the thinking time doesn’t overlap.
Distraction – "a thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else".
All drivers are affected by distraction – not just young drivers.
Studies show that ‘eyes off the road’ is a factor, as is in-car technology.
"You cannot do two things at once, if one of them is driving"
Education and training has a poor track record in terms of impacting on road safety outcomes. It’s not just about telling people something is bad, and they should not do it.
Different BCTs (behavioural change techniques) are effective for different situations.
Doing something is not always preferable – you can have undesired effects. There are plenty of psychological mechanisms by which harm can be done.
The final speaker in this session is Mawuli Ladzekpo, co-founder and managing director of Roadio who discusses the role of technology in driving education: the present and the future.

Mawuli used his presentation to explore the ways in which technology, such as apps, is currently being used in driver education – and to preview the new technology and trends that will increasingly shape the way people learn (and teach) to drive in the future.

He explained that historically the driving instruction process is very paper and pen based – but things are changing. Technology is making inroads in the driver training process, and in some cases is at the heart of the learning to drive experience.



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    I’m more than happy to oblige Nick!

    Systems thinking for safety or Safety II as it’s now known is a fascinating subject and I’m sure that the conference delegates will be surprised about what they will learn.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    It’s interesting that several speakers at this conference – including Professor Stradling, Dr Helman and Ian Edwards MSc – all stressed the importance of behavioural change techniques when designing and delivering road safety intervention and training.

    And yet you take the opposite view, both here and in other threads on the newsfeed.

    Who is correct, I wonder?

    Why don’t you put forward a paper for National Conference in November 2015? I’m sure delegates would be interested to hear from you as a ‘systems thinker’ and to have the opportunity to ask questions about the approach you would advocate with regard to improving road safety and reducing casualties.

    Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News
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    Such a shame there were no presentations from systems thinkers to counter the behaviour-centric presentations in the first session. For a young driver conference it seems strange that nothing was spoken about the adolescent brain and how Dopamine and myelination dictate the way it interacts with the world. Nothing about variation, prediction and the myth of expertise. Nothing about learning theory and the innate desire of the teenage brain to reduce the amount of novelty in the system by actively seeking out novelty. In fact this could have been just as easily labeled as a senior drivers conference and nobody would have been any the wiser.

    Thanks though to Mr Edwards and Dr Helman for bringing some much needed insight into the proceedings and even though they both featured behaviourism as a solution the thrust of their arguments on driver training seemed to be pretty well bang on.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    What a great idea to have live update of the conference for those who were unable to make it today! Thanks

    Rhian Hughes, Wirral Council
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    In the telematics presentation, are telematics to be introduced within scientific trials? Without such trials, we won’t know whether this technology is causing more young people to be injured, or fewer. Telematics are a promising intervention but we must get the policy right, and that requires the standard of evidence that only scientific trials can provide.

    Dave Finney, Slough
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