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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety





Technology based interventions are still under development and can be very useful. In some cases, the use of new technologies may require difficult decisions related to individual freedom, as well as to the legal implications of reducing the driver control over aspects of the vehicle functioning. On the other hand, though, they could be very convenient as a means of restricting very young drivers, as it would enable parents to impose that technology, especially when using the 'family car'. It is also important that new drivers learn how to use these technologies, as well as to develop skills for situations in which the technologies do not function or are not available.

As these measures are very new, some are in the test phase, others only exist on the drawing boards, few studies have been made of the safety benefits and disadvantages of these measures. Promising ITS applications for young drivers are:

  • Smart cards
  • Alcohol interlocks
  • Seatbelt systems
  • Driving data storage unit
  • Electronic stability control (ESC)
  • Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)

Smart cards

Smart cards hold information about the driver and, used in conjunction with the ignition key, prevent the car from starting if the driver is not authorized to drive it. They could also be used as a tool to select which drivers are allowed to drive under specific conditions (for instance, they could prevent novice drivers from driving at certain hours of the day).

Alcohol interlocks

Alcohol is one of the important risk factors for young drivers. A system which could prevent youngsters from using a car while under the influence could improve safety. An alcohol interlock is a device that checks the concentration of alcohol in the driver's breath before and during driving. If the alcohol level is higher than a pre-set level, the system will render the car impossible to start and drive. So in theory, such an application for young drivers may save lives. As yet, evaluation studies have only been applied to programs using alcohol interlocks for repeat alcohol offenders. No programs are known that have targeted on young drivers.

Seatbelt systems

Given the role of non-seatbelt use in fatal and serious casualties among young, novice drivers, systems that warn the driver to put on a seatbelt, or prevent the engine from starting until the seatbelt is fastened, also play an important role in reducing risk.

Driving data storage unit

Also named black-boxes, they can be used to register information about the driver's performance, the vehicle, and traffic situations, in order to provide feedback to the driver or others, such as employers, parents, traffic authorities or insurance companies. Black-boxes, especially in combination with incentives (for instance, assurance based ones) and punishment, may have great potential.

Electronic stability control (ESC)

This system uses sensors to detect a vehicle's deviations from the driver's intended path, and then applies breaking or power reduction to individual wheels to bring the vehicle back under control. It also assists in slowing down the vehicle in loss-of-control situations [27].

The OECD assumes that ESC can be effective in reducing single-vehicle, loss-of-control crashes that result in serious injuries or fatalities by more than 30%. As this type of accident is so prominent in young drivers, such a system might be of value to them, under the condition that it does not lead to 'more' risk taking, rather than reducing it. Such counter effective patterns have been observed related to the introduction of similar systems, encouraging drivers to use smaller safety margins (behaviour adaptation). ESC might have similar effects on young, in particular male drivers. Therefore, careful piloting and subsequent monitoring should be part of any implementation program.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)

This is a broad category of systems aimed at supporting the driver in his driving task, such as speed choice and following distances. The effects of many of these systems are still being studied (see also text Older drivers. The available information shows that none of these studies have differentiated between user groups, and as a result we do not know what these systems will contribute to young driver safety. This is a serious omission, as young drivers are a high risk group, likely to test the limits of any ADAS system.