August 2015

Congratulations to Dr Richard Rowe, on securing MRC funding for "Reducing newly-qualified driver crash risk:  Identifying behavioural targets"

Reducing newly-qualified driver crash risk: Identifying behavioural targets

Richard Rowe, Chris Stride, Andrew Thompson (University of Sheffield)

Damian Poulter (University of Greenwich)

MRC (PHIND): £187k (FEC), 18 months duration

Novice drivers are the highest risk motorists on the road. Crash risk is highest immediately after passing the driving test and declines quickly over the first months. We know that this reflects safer driving behaviour resulting from experience but we do not know how experience makes behaviour safer. Counter intuitively the best documented behavioural predictors of crash involvement (risk-taking, anticipation of future hazards, self-reported errors) do not show a developmental pattern that matches the decrease in crash risk. This project aims to identify the behaviours that change as a result of experience to make driving safer. We will conduct a longitudinal qualitative study to ascertain a subjective account of behavioural changes over the first three months of driving. We will focus on four scenarios where novice drivers are particularly vulnerable to crashing during the early months: (1) turning right across a traffic flow (2) loss-of control on curves (3) situations risking rear-end shunts and (4) driving at night. Using these data we will construct a new instrument, the Early Driving Development Questionnaire (EDD-Q) to measure the behaviours reported to change with experience over the early months of driving. We will conduct a large-scale quantitative study to refine the EDD-Q and objectively test whether the measured behaviours change over time and are related to crash involvement. Project impacts include identifying behaviours for training to target in order to give new drivers the safer behaviours of experienced drivers. The EDD-Q may form the outcome for randomised controlled trials to test whether training is effective. The results could also inform revisions to the driving test and the design of in-car driver support technologies to aid novice drivers in the most safety-relevant aspects of driving. It can also inform policy decisions regarding legislation to protect young drivers from crashes, for example within a Graduated Licencing Framework.