Risk factors & young drivers

Why do young drivers need interventions to influence their driving behaviour? What exactly is the young driver problem?

The Young Driver problem

The young driver problem can be defined as:

  1. An over-representation of those aged 16-24 years old in road traffic accidents compared to other age groups
  2. Young males are more prone to being involved in road collisions than females
  3. Young drivers exceeding the speed limit and driving too fast for the conditions are key contributory factors to accident involvement
  4. Collisions are more likely to occur in the night time hours, rural roads, single vehicle and on Fridays and Saturdays (Husband, 2010, p.12: numbering added.)

Figure 1 illustrates points 1 and 2.

fatality bar graph

Figure 1 Fatalities in Great Britain 2007 – rate per 100,000 population (from DfT (2009) ‘A safer way: Consultation on making Britain’s roads the safest in the world’. London: Department for Transport

The particular skill deficits of Young Drivers are well summarised by Lerner (2001):

  • Visual search – young drivers tend to be more vehicle focused than looking ahead for hazards
  • Automaticity – young drivers have a lack of experience and therefore have not acquired fluid switching of driving tasks under stressful conditions
  • Hazard detection – young drivers detect hazards slower compared to older more experienced drivers. Young drivers with a lack of experience are likely to have deficiencies in their hazard perception compared to more experienced older drivers.
  • Perception of risk – risk tends to be underestimated by young drivers
  • Attention allocation – young drivers are easily distracted by passengers and in car electronics
  • Self assessment – young drivers tend to overestimate their ability to drive
  • Vehicle control – young drivers have less experience at making emergency manoeuvres and are vulnerable to over compensating and losing control
  • Anticipation – young drivers are less likely to look ahead for developing situations and emerging hazards.