Reducing newly-qualified driver crash risk: Identifying behavioural targets

The study addresses road traffic crashes in the early months of driving. During 2013 crashes claimed 1,713 UK lives and seriously injured 21,657; a human tragedy that cost the economy £14.7 billion (Department for Transport, 2014).

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Project overview

Novice drivers are the highest risk motoring group. Crash rates peak immediately after obtaining a licence and decrease quickly over the next few months (McCartt et al., 2009). For example, in the Department for Transport’s Cohort II study, crash risk fell 40% in the first 6 months and 35% in the next 6 months (Wells et al., 2008). Little is known about how driving behaviour changes to improve safety. In order to inform intervention development we aim to identify the behavioural mechanisms that place newly qualified drivers at high crash risk.

This project seeks to identify how driving behaviour changes to become safer as a result of experience. This information can inform interventions to give novices the lower crash risk of more experienced drivers from the outset of their driving careers.

The existing literature identifies behavioural predictors of crash involvement (de Winter & Dodou, 2010; Rowe et al., 2015) but existing instruments do not identify the behaviours that underlie the reduction in crash liability observed in the first few months of driving. While crash rates fall over this period, performance on the existing behavioural measures paradoxically changes little or even becomes more dangerous. A new driving behaviour measure is needed to understand how experience leads to lower crash involvement. Once the behavioural changes have been identified then they may become the targets of training and legislation to provide new drivers with the lower crash risk of more experienced drivers.

This project takes a fresh approach to measuring behavioural changes during the early months of driving. Qualitative methods will elicit subjective accounts of how behaviour changes in high-risk situations for novice drivers. A quantitative study will then objectively test whether the identified behaviours are safer in more experienced drivers and whether they relate to crash involvement.

Funding body