Young drivers not learning to avoid crashes with vulnerable road users quick enough - IAM RoadSmart report finds

Posted on 10/01/18 |

A new report by the UK’s leading road safety charity IAM RoadSmart and TRL into crashes involving young drivers has concluded that they need to learn quicker how to avoid crashes with the most vulnerable users on our roads.

The report found that while they learn much quicker than expected to avoid single vehicle loss of control collisions, they learn a lot slower how to deal with vulnerable road users, be safe on the motorway and safely complete low speed manoeuvres. 

IAM RoadSmart said these findings proved a surprise, as the classic young driver crash usually involves going too fast on a country road. It would seem that new drivers themselves soon pick up the skills to stay safe on our highest risk roads.

The report, titled Young Novice Driver Collision Types, makes several key recommendations to improve new driver training particularly in hazard perception around vulnerable road users and around other vehicles.

The report underlines the critical importance of gaining driving experience in a wide variety of traffic situations. In their first year on the road experts suggest an average 17-year-old driver can expect their risk of being involved in a crash to reduce by 36% as a result of driving experience, but only by 6% owing to ageing and maturity. 

This report set out to try and identify which aspects of driving are learned quickest and which take more time. Targeting those skills that they struggle to take in could bring the largest benefits to road safety for new drivers.

Some positive news is that analysis of collision trends suggests a substantial reduction in crashes overall for the two youngest age groups between 2002 and 2015. The accident rate for 17-20 year old car drivers reduced by 49% in this time, while the rate for 21-29 year olds reduced by 33%.

Existing research found the following factors led to a higher rate of crashes amongst younger people:

  • Inexperience and poor judgement in more difficult driving conditions (poor weather, poor visibility, minor rural roads)
  • Inadequate control of the car (single vehicle accidents, skidding, overturning, leaving the road)
  • Lifestyle factors (social driving particularly at night and at weekends, when factors such as alcohol and peer pressure affect where and how young people drive)
  • Economic factors which result in young drivers being more likely to have cheaper older cars which offer them less protection from injury than newer cars would do

The report also concluded:

  • Travel behaviour has changed with 17-20 year olds driving less and walking or cycling more
  • Those aged 21-29 years travel further than 17-20 year olds each year, with largely employment related journeys
  • The collision rate for drivers aged 17-20 years declined more quickly than the rate for 21-29 year olds between 2002 and 2015
  • Compared with the overall rate of learning, young drivers learn more quickly to avoid crashes involving a single vehicle, loss of control, on a B roads, at night or where the vehicle leaves the carriageway
  • Possibly related to these crash types, young drivers also learn more rapidly to avoid contributory factors such as speeding, driving too fast for the conditions, swerving, loss of control, inexperienced and anxious
  • The trend for crashes on motorways is unique and initially increases before

    demonstrating a possible delayed learning curve. Results also suggest that learning to safely use slip roads take longer than the general learning rate

  • New drivers also appear to be slow at learning to avoid collisions in certain conflict scenarios in slow manoeuvring situations and with vulnerable road users. This might be indicative of poor hazard perception skills

    And it recommended the following actions:

  • Further research to understand why novice drivers are involved in and learn quickly to avoid single vehicle loss of control type crashes. This can inform the development of targeted interventions and possible training.
  • Consider options for reducing young driver crashes at night (e.g.additional experience gained during the learner phase)
  • The government’s plans to allow learners on motorways are fully justified by the report as it is clear new drivers are likely to benefit from practice on motorways. .
  • Explore the role that advanced hazard perception training might offer in reducing the threat young drivers pose to Vulnerable Road Users.
  • Explore the apparent trend of young drivers’ vehicles being more likely to be hit from the rear. There may be practical, hazard perception or anticipation training that could be of benefit.

Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart Chief Executive Officer, said: “It is really useful to learn more about how young drivers are gaining the experience they need to have a safe driving career.

“However, analysing the results, it is vital that government, road safety bodies and the driver instruction industry work together to generate new strategies to target those skills that are not being learned at the fastest rate.

“It also shows that in the formative years of driving, there is clearly a need for post-test training to continue, to build experience that can reduce the number of needless tragedies on our roads.”

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IAM RoadSmart has a mission to make better drivers and riders in order to improve road safety, inspire confidence and make driving and riding enjoyable. It does this through a range of courses for all road users, from online assessments through to the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart is the trading name of all businesses operated by the UK’s largest road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and was formed in April 2016 combining the IAM, IAM Drive & Survive, PDS and IAM Driver Retraining Academy. The organisation has 92,000 members and campaigns on road safety on their behalf. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses, from members of the public to company drivers, while our Driver Retraining Academy has helped 2,500 drivers to shorten their bans through education and support programmes.

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