2 The vulnerability of novice drivers |
DEFINING THE PROBLEM
5. In research studies, the definition of novice
drivers tends to be those with less than three years driving experience.
Clearly all drivers aged 20 or under are by definition novice
drivers. But since people pass the driving test at all ages, there
are novice drivers in all age groups. The table below details
the number of people passing the car driving test at different
ages in 2005-06. The great majority of candidates who pass the
driving test are under 25. Of the 794,210 people who passed the
practical test in 2005-06, only 197,137 (25%) were aged over 25.
1: Number of people passing the car driving test in 2005-06 by
||Number passing the practical driving test
|All ages total tests passed
Source: Department for Transport (Ev 85 and Ev
98) and Driving Standards Agency 2005-06 Annual Report
6. The data that would be required to identify exactly
how many crashes are caused by drivers within the first three
years of passing their driving test are not readily available.
Casualty statistics collated by the police include the age of
drivers and casualties, but not the date at which their licence
was issued. As a result, attempts to estimate the novice driver
casualty problem tend to use youth as a proxy for novice status.
Drivers aged between 17-25 years are classed by the Department
for Transport as "young drivers". Because this is the
only data available, much of this report by necessity refers to
"young drivers" rather than "novice drivers".
We recommend that the Department for Transport, in collaboration
with the police, should collect the data necessary to understand
the scale and nature of the crash involvement of novice drivers,
independently of young drivers.
7. Novice drivers are at a significantly increased
risk of being involved in a road collision. Several statistics
illustrate the problem:
- in 1998, drivers aged 17-21
accounted for 7% of the total driving population, but they comprised
13% of drivers involved in collisions;
- one in eight driving licence holders is aged
under 25, yet one in three drivers who die in a collision is under
25, and almost one in two drivers killed at night is under 25;
- 27% of 17-19 year-old males are involved in a
road collision as a driver in their first year of driving;
- 1,077 people died in 2005 in crashes involving
a driver aged 17-25 (of whom 377 were drivers aged 17-25).
8. Novice drivers are particularly vulnerable in
the first year after taking their test. The TRL's Cohort Study
showed that 18% of all new drivers were involved in at least one
crash within one year of passing their test.
This fell to 13% in the second year, and 10% in the third year.
Although the casualty data indicate the alarming prevalence of
young drivers in collisions, this data does not attribute causation
for the crash. However, research undertaken for the Department
for Transport found that young drivers in fatal collisions, especially
those under 20 years, were nearly 12 times more likely than those
aged 35-65 years to have been at fault.
9. The Minister and the Department repeatedly claimed
that these collisions were simply "bumps and scrapes".
But the Department's own evidence demonstrates that nearly 38,800
people are killed or injured each year in collisions involving
at least one driver with less than two years' post-test experience
and nearly 5,000 of these are deaths or serious injuries.
The Minister divided novice drivers into one unproblematic, law
abiding group, and one small group of people who were "rather
lawless and anarchic in their attitudes [
] a [
of the driving population which is driving very dangerously"
who are responsible for the collisions and casualties. The fact
that 18% of all new drivers were involved in at least one
crash within one year, suggests that this division fails to recognise
the risks also faced by responsible young drivers.
10. In addition, young novice drivers tend to drive
older vehicles which have fewer safety features than are offered
on newer cars. This means that in the event of a crash, the injuries
inflicted tend to be worse than they would have been in a newer
vehicle with better secondary safety features. According to the
Department, 20% of the 17-22 year old male drivers killed in collisions
were driving cars more than 13 years old.
11. While all novice drivers face an increased risk
of collision compared to more experienced drivers, men are particularly
dangerous drivers, as Table 2 shows. This is despite women having
a lower pass rate in the driving test than males: 35.8% and 47.8%
respectively. The trend shows that over the past four years, young
male driver casualties have reduced, while young female driver
casualties have increased. Nevertheless, more than three times
as many young male drivers are killed or seriously injured, than
2: Young driver casualties by sex
|17-19 old drivers killed or seriously injured
12. Novice drivers are clearly very vulnerable
on the road. They also pose considerable danger to their passengers
and other road users. The Department for Transport must ensure
that tackling this group of casualties is given a high priority
LACK OF PROGRESS
13. The Department has introduced a variety of incremental
measures designed to improve novice driver safety over the past
decade or so. These include:
- introduction of "Pass
Plus" on a voluntary basis in 1995 to provide further training
for newly qualified drivers;
- the New Drivers Act 1995 introduced revocation
of licences for new drivers who accumulate six penalty points;
- introduction of the theory test in 1996;
- changes to the practical test in 1999 (the test
length was increased from 35 to 40 minutes, test routes include
higher speed dual carriageways, all less serious faults are recorded
and more than 15 result in failure);
- launch of the Driving Standards Agency's Driver
Record logbook in 2002; and
- the introduction of the hazard perception test
14. However, the measures introduced to date appear
to have had only a marginal impact on novice driver safety. As
the figures in Table 3 below show, the rate of novice driver fatalities
as a proportion of licence holders has increased substantially
over the past ten years. The number of young people holding a
driving licence has fallen quite sharply between the early 1990s
15. In comparison to this deteriorating picture of
novice driver casualties, the number of people killed and seriously
injured in road traffic collisions as a whole had reduced by 33%
in 2005 compared to the 1994-98 average.Table
3: Fatality rates for car drivers aged 17-20: 1992-2004
||Deaths||Full Driving Licence figures
||Rate (per 100,000 licences)
Source: Department for Transport (Ev 162). Licence
figures for 1995 onwards are based on weighted data.
16. We questioned several witnesses about the reason
for the increased novice driver casualty rates but were unable
to identify the cause of the problem. The Minister suggested that
the worsening rate could be to do with the increasing number of
miles driven and an increase in lawlessness among some young people.
The Cumbria Road Safety Partnership developed this picture, suggesting
that some young people's attitude to driving "reinforces
established understanding of young peoples' attitudes to risk
taking behaviour [
] across a range of activities including
alcohol and drug abuse and sexual behaviour [...]"
Superintendent Thwaites added, "It is part of a wider agenda
] about anti-social behaviour and nuisance in general.
17. The Minister accepted that there is a problem,
and indicated a commitment to tackle it: "I am accepting
there is a problem. Even if that is a problem of something getting
worse or a problem of it not getting better fast enough, I am
entirely accepting there is a problem which needs to be addressed."
He also agreed that, in addressing the novice driver casualty
problem, the Department "should follow the evidence and everything
else is just prejudice".
We support this statement and hope to see the Department live
up to this standard.
18. The overall gains made in road casualty reduction
as a whole, since the targets were set in 2000, have not been
matched among novice drivers. Indeed, the rate of novice driver
casualties appears to be worsening, and there is little understanding
about why this is the case. The measures implemented by the Department
over the past twelve years have been incremental and have failed
to cut novice driver casualties. A change in approach is now required.
There should be research into the reasons for the increasing rate
of novice driver casualties in order that policy-makers better
understand the problem and are able to design initiatives to address
it. The Government must consider much bolder action to prevent
these tragic deaths and injuries.
5 Persons in receipt of the higher rate of the mobility
component of the disability living allowance may be issued with
a licence at 16 years. Back
Driving Standards Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2005-06 Back
Ev 85 Back
Ev 20 Back
Department for Transport informal briefing to Committee 13 December
2006. The total number of road deaths in 2005 was 3,201. Back
Forsyth, E. (1992a) Cohort Study of Learner and Novice Drivers,
Part 1 TRL Report 338. Forsyth, E. (1992b) Part 2 TRL Report 372.
Forsyth, E., Maycock, G. and Sexton, B.(1995) Part 3, Project
Report 111. Maycock, G. and Forsyth, E. (1997), Part 4, TRL Report
275. Transport Research Laboratory, Crowthorne, UK. Back
Department for Transport (2007) Second Review of the Government's
Road Safety Strategy, page 19, quoting Ward, H; Christie, N; Broughton
J; Clarke D; Lyons R; Trends in Fatal Car Occupant Accidents,
DfT London (2007) www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/strategytargetsperformance/2ndreview/
Qq 347, 353, 377, 406 Back
DfT (2002) Introducing a more structured approach to learning
to drive: Consultation. By way of comparison, in 2002 there were
39,407 people killed or seriously injured in traffic collisions
in total (Road Casualties Great Britain 2005). Back
Qq 347-349 Back
Department for Transport (2007) Second Review of the Government's
Road Safety Strategy, page 19 Back
The National Travel Survey suggests that the proportion of people
aged 17-20 holding a licence increased from 27% in 2004 to 32%
in 2005, after a steady downward trend from the peak of 48% in
Department for Transport Road Casualties Great Britain 2005 Back
Qq 360-361 Back
Ev 126 Back