Specific post licence measures for novice drivers
- Age of access
- Content of training: Best practice
- Licensing regimes
- The Driver Test
- The need for early education
- Training Method
Specific post licence measures for novice drivers
Accident figures show that it is of the utmost importance to convince youngsters to drive safely, not to intentionally violate traffic rules, and to reduce exposure. Instruments to achieve this are:
- Advanced training: to improve driver quality
- Protective measures: to reduced exposure to high risk conditions
Nevertheless, it must not be ignored that drivers' safety-related attitudes are formed well before the age at which one legally begins driving. Therefore, measures should also focus on children at a much younger age than 16-18.
The amount of experience gained during formal pre-licence driver training is limited. Also, the types of situation encountered during training are likely to be rather limited compared to the conditions regularly faced by drivers, such as driving in heavy traffic, late at night, and driving for long periods.
For these reasons, some countries have post licence training as a compulsory part of a two-phase licensing system. Some other countries offer it as a voluntary option.
Advanced post-licence training has been shown to influence behaviour and attitude, but evaluation studies aimed to study effects on accident risk have not been carried out yet .
The necessity to reduce risk when it is likely to be the highest (immediately following gaining a licence) can be achieved by way of protective measures. These measures create conditions which reduce the degree of risk that a solo driver would otherwise be exposed to. Protective measures limit the complexity of the driving task, and protect the novice driver from dangers resulting from poor self-regulation and self-control, in the period in which higher order skills are still 'under construction'.
Licensing systems throughout the world are implementing different combinations of these measures. The measures applied most frequently are:
- Zero alcohol limits
- Restrictions on night time driving
- The presence of peers as passengers
Zero alcohol limits
Alcohol consumption, even in small amounts, increases driver fatality risk. This effect is particular strong in young novice drivers.
Hingson et al. (1994) showed that for young drivers, starting from a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of 0.8 g/l, only lowering from 0.8 g/l to 0 or 0.2 g/l was effective, and that lowering BAC levels to 0.4 or 0.6 g/l did not produce significant reductions in alcohol-related fatalities. In both graduated driving license and probationary systems, a maximum BAC level of 0 to 0.2 g/l, linked to severe repercussions or high demerit point loss as a result of contraventions, could contribute much towards lowering young driver risk.
Many countries have already, or are about to introduce lower BAC levels for novice drivers, and there is an ongoing debate on whether the best level would be 0.2 g/l or 0 alcohol. The primary philosophy behind the 0 alcohol limit is the consistency with the message which emphasises that any amount of alcohol will increase crash risk. The choice for 0.2 g/l alcohol limit is based on the relative low risk below the 0.2 g/l limit, the possibility of false positive results in tests and the withdrawal of enforcement capacity form the high risk categories (above 0.2 g/l) leading to a potential increase in alcohol related crashes. These arguments would in principle suggest 0.2 g/l as the more effective measure.
Night time restrictions
Young drivers have a particularly high crash risk during night hours. Thus, restrictions on night time driving are often included in graduated driving license systems, of which they are considered to be one of the most beneficial elements in lowering crash involvement and severe crashes during solo driving.
However, the benefits of this countermeasure need to be weighed against the social equity issues of mobility and access.
Presence of peers as passengers
Driving with other young people in the vehicle increases young drivers' crash risks. Thus, limits on driving with similarly aged passengers are widely used in the intermediate stage of graduated driving license.
Again, social equity and access to the benefits associated with mobility is an issue. With this in mind, in almost all systems where this restriction is used it does not apply to family members.
Compliance is vital in order for protective measures to have an effect,. This requires effective enforcement. However, targeting on young people can lead to serious suggestions of discrimination and in many countries it may not be possible from a legal point of view. This implies that initiatives aimed at all drivers are particularly relevant for young drivers, who are most likely to commit many violations and to have high a crash risk.
New developments in the field of information technology systems may, in future, assist in focusing enforcement on certain high-risk groups.
Special attention should be paid to unlicensed driving. The more regulated and demanding the licensing process becomes, the more tempted novices will be to drop out of the licensing process and to drive without a licence.
Speed enforcement, both by the police and by automatic systems, is essential for ensuring young driver safety, but has limited effects. In this sense, while it may be a good tool for focusing on specific problems, such as illegal races, it is not a solution against the mass phenomenon of inappropriate speed choices made by young, novice drivers. This can only be achieved by the use of electronic devices, like black boxes, that make continuous monitoring of driver behaviour possible.
Also, a stringent demerit points system or restrictions regarding alcohol, night driving, and carrying passengers could mitigate the effects of speed.
Clearly, enforcement plays a key role in preventing drink driving. Random and targeted breath testing (RBT), meaning that drivers are selected purely on the basis of chance, during periods when and at locations where high alcohol use is expected, is an effective policing technique. RBT increases the potential offenders' perception of the possibility of being caught, which affects their drinking and/or driving behaviour.
Police enforcement in this field can be targeted on specific problem areas where higher proportions of impaired individuals can be expected among the driving population, such as close to discotheques, music halls or leisure-time areas. In this sense, it should be noted that patterns of youth drinking may differ from those of older people.
Although social tolerance on drink driving has decreased over time, the effectiveness of RBT requires intense enforcement activity on the road and accompanying media coverage.
One basic problem in dealing with drug-related road safety risk is that, in roadside testing, drugs are less easily detected than alcohol, as the technology both for detecting them, as well as for determining their level of presence, is not yet as precise as it is for alcohol. This may induce some people to opt for drugs rather than alcohol.
Clearly, enforcement of drug driving would be enhanced by improved roadside testing technology, as well as by appropriate legislation. More detail on the issues of risk and roadside testing is available form the EU's ROSITA (www.rosita.org) and IMMORTAL projects, and the literature review by Lenne et al .
One disincentive for risky driving is the threat of losing one's licence or having to pay more to renew it. This is often enforced through demerit points assigned to drivers caught breaking rules. Demerit point systems for young and/or novice drivers have in common that the frequent violation of traffic rules committed by novice drivers is punished more severely than that committed by more experienced drivers.
Evaluation studies show mixed results on the effects of demerit point systems, in particular regarding their lasting effect. Experiences with 'general' demerit systems for all drivers have demonstrated that, after an initial positive effect, the impact decreases over time to zero in conditions where police enforcement is low. This indicates that demerit point systems are only effective if the chance of the police detecting a violation is high.
In addition, the fact that licence revocation as a part of point system may lead to an increase in unlicensed driving also needs to be counteracted in order for demerit point systems not to lose credibility.
Publicity campaigns pursue the aim of persuading young people to drive safely. Their overall effect was estimated by the European project GADGET (1999) to reduce the number of crashes by 8.5% during the campaign period. During the period following the campaigns, the overall effect nearly doubled, to 14.8%. These results must be attributed to all components of the campaign, including other actions like police enforcement, rewards, legislation, educational programmes, etc, and not only to the media campaign itself. These programs can be directed at youngsters and/or their parents or caretakers. However, most programs target on youngsters; not many programs focus on the role of parents .
Parents need to play an active role in moderating high risk among young, novice solo drivers. Many programs and instructional materials have been developed to help parents teach adolescents to drive, but few educational materials are available to encourage and teach parents how to deal with young driver risks.
Parental management (monitoring and restriction) is undoubtedly an important influence on teen driving and safety when imposed, but unfortunately, parents do not perceive teen driving as highly risky and establish few restrictions on teens once they have gained their licence. Therefore, the first step should be to increase problem awareness.
Persuasive information campaigns should be employed in combination with other countermeasures, such as enforcement and education, as a means of positively changing attitudes towards safe driving.
It is especially necessary for these campaigns to make a thorough analyse of target groups and the appropriate message for them, and specifically target on young males.
It is also necessary to ensure ongoing evaluation and improvement of these campaigns.