This report presents the findings of a national debate on young driver issues undertaken across Scotland. It has been undertaken to meet a commitment in Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to "conduct a public debate on young driver issues including graduated licences and additional training".
The debate has involved young people (defined for this purpose as those aged between 17 and 25), their parents and carers, representatives from the road safety community, the motor insurance industry and other members of the public.
The debate was undertaken using a range of engagement approaches including a brainstorming session, semi-structured interviews with representatives from the road safety community, focus groups, and an online survey. Over 700 people were involved in the debate.
Participants were asked to provide feedback on six generic categories of road safety interventions broadly based around four of the five ‘Es’ which help to deliver Scotland’s Road Safety Framework for 2020 Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Encouragement. The fifth E from the Framework – Evaluation – is considered to be an underpinning discipline for all interventions.
Summary of findings
a) Evidence of effectiveness
It is important to note that there is currently limited evaluation evidence globally regarding the long term effectiveness of many young driver interventions. However, while there is little evidence to prove their effectiveness, there is also limited evidence to suggest that they do not work. While some interventions may not perform ‘conversion’ work on those currently driving or about to drive with bad attitudes road safety interventions may well perform ‘maintenance’ work, supporting and maintaining those whose current orientation is to see good driving as necessarily involving safe driving.
In general, there were strong levels of support and acceptability amongst young people, and parents, carers and others, for interventions relating to education and training for younger children and pre-drivers; interventions relating to enforcement and restorative justice; and encouragement and leadership measures (including incentives). There was widespread support for lowering of the drink drive limit for all drivers. Views and opinions were mixed regarding education, training and testing interventions for learner and novice drivers; graduated driver licensing and license restrictions; and use of technology to regulate driving and encourage better driving behaviour.
Parents were invariably more supportive of any intervention than young people, and young females tended to be more supportive of any intervention than young males.
Differences across the three groups (young males; young females; and parents, carers and others) were most marked for interventions relating to:
- strengthening the learner driver training and testing approach
- graduated driver licensing and license restrictions, and
- use of technology to regulate driving and encourage better driving behaviour.
Most focus groups participants felt that the current driving test does not prepare learners sufficiently well for driving conditions in Scotland but young males were slightly more supportive than young females of making the driving test harder. Young males had confidence in their ability to pass a harder test, while females can find the testing process a stressful experience and favour a minimum period of training or practice before taking the practical test.
Young people, particularly young males, were more supportive of those interventions which would not affect their driving opportunities. For example, both sexes opposed restrictions on driving at night and driving with passengers, but were less opposed to a requirement to display green ‘P’ plates to inform other drivers that they have only recently passed their test; and were less opposed to a ban on driving high performance vehicles, which were generally seen as unaffordable anyway. Young males had mixed views on mandatory use of speed limiting technology, alcolock technology, and continuous and downloadable data recorders. Many commented that they would find ways round the technology if required to install it in their car – in contrast young females, and parents, carers and others were more likely to view these types of interventions as having a valuable role to play.
In general, young males, particularly those still at school and those who had left school but had not continued into further or higher education, tended not to view themselves as being at risk while driving; instead focusing on the risks facing passengers and other road users. Few seemed to be aware that they were more likely to be involved in a road collision than other drivers.
Young people aged 17 to 20 years, were also less supportive of education and awareness interventions than 21 to 25 year olds; and were also less supportive of financial incentives to encourage safe driving than 21 to 25 year olds.
Overall, graduated driver licensing (GDL) options attracted least support from all groups, although in general, parents, carers and others were far more supportive than young males of all GDL options. Opposition reduces with age, from 17 to 20 years to 21 to 25 years) and most forms of graduated licensing would be supported by the majority of drivers on the road, particularly those over 25 years.
Stakeholders from the road safety community considered the most effective interventions to be strengthening the learner driver training and testing approach, a greater focus on pre-driver education and training as part of a life-long approach to road safety education, and some form of graduated licensing. They identified the need for more enforcement by police, awareness courses for young driver offenders, and greater involvement from parents.
c) Implementation risks
Some of the interventions are not within the gift of the Scottish Government as they are covered by reserved powers. However, given the Scottish Government’s willingness to advocate for change to reserved powers where there is evidence that these measures would be effective (for example the call to lower the national drink drive limit) these interventions have been included for consideration.
The interventions considered vary in terms of their affordability. Options relating to graduated licensing would require new legislative powers, an extensive publicity campaign, and significant enforcement (at least initially), and are likely to represent the most costly interventions proposed.
Some interventions will also have adverse impacts on young peoples’ lifestyles and opportunities. Options for strengthening the learner driver training and testing approach or increase participation in post-test training have the potential to increase the average cost of learning to drive. Graduated licensing options could impose significant constraints on young drivers’ lifestyles and opportunities, and would be seen by many as penalising the majority who drive safely. Interventions which require young drivers to use technologies to regulate or encourage better driving would be seen as too much of a ‘big brother’ approach by some young drivers, while compulsory use of continuous and downloadable data recorders as part of a parent-young driver agreement risk removing the trust that exists between parents and young people.
Recommendations for improving young driver safety have been developed drawing on the findings of the debate and a detailed assessment of the options emerging from the debate. Recommendations are categorised as ‘action’, ‘collect evidence/evaluate’ and ‘advocate’. Each recommendation that is accepted will need to be captured in an action plan with lead and support agencies and external partners identified.
Action recommendations (implement now):
- Continue to encourage a life-long approach to learning in all schools, as part of the Curriculum for Excellence through the provision of free resources and support, to help ensure that all pupils are taught about road safety issues as pedestrians and cyclists, as car passengers, and as future drivers. (Recommendation 1)
- Introduce a lower drink drive limit in Scotland for all drivers. (Recommendation 8)
- Ensure police enforcement continues to be a priority and is undertaken in a strategic and targeted manner, focusing on those young drivers most at risk. (Recommendation 10)
- Work with employers to improve the safety of young drivers at work. (Recommendation 13)
- Raise awareness amongst parents regarding their role in young driver safety and how they can best perform this role, highlighting resources already available (e.g. Road Safety Scotland’s ‘So, Your Teenager is Learning to Drive leaflet) and providing advice on parent-young driver agreements. (Recommendation 14)
- In consultation with service users, improve public transport availability at night, in conjunction with ‘reduce mileage/don’t travel’ messages, focused on locations where there are high numbers of young driver casualties and limited public transport provision. (Recommendation 15)
- Encourage better governance and evaluation of interventions. Ensure that road safety education and awareness interventions are based on scientific theory and evidence of effectiveness, and represent good value for money. (Recommendation 16)
- Explore the possibility of using Insurance Premium Tax as a mechanism to raise revenue to fund road safety interventions. (Recommendation 17)
Collect evidence/evaluate recommendations (collect further evaluation evidence before determining the scale and nature of implementation on a wider scale):
- Collect further evidence on the benefits of a broad range of education and training interventions, delivered before and while young people learn to drive. (Recommendation 2)
- Collect further evidence through trials and pilots to determine the effectiveness of road safety messages using a range of innovative approaches, including e-learning methods, computer gaming environments, and web based applications and downloads. (Recommendation 3)
- Evaluate the effectiveness of undertaking post-test training, as part of a holistic life-long approach to learning. Investigate the effectiveness of accreditations for post-test training courses to encourage insurers to offer lower insurance premiums (representing a real discount) for young drivers who have taken effective action to improve their safety. Consider whether financial incentives would be effective in persuading young drivers to take up evaluated post-test training. (Recommendation 6)
- Gather evidence to help consider whether and, if so, how graduated licensing could be implemented in Scotland. (Recommendation 7)
- Undertake a trial and evaluation of an optional road safety awareness course for young driver offenders, as an alternative to a Fixed Penalty Notice and penalty points. (Recommendation 9)
- Undertake separate pilot projects for use of speed limiting technology and black box data recorders, and evaluate the interventions. (Recommendation 12)
Advocate recommendations (encourage others to take action):
- Encourage the Driving Standards Agency to review the case for a minimum period of learning and a requirement to demonstrate experience in different driving conditions via a log book or practical assessments, in no more than five years time. (Recommendation 4)
- Feed into the work of the Driving Standards Agency to develop a Continuous Professional Development intervention and encourage or require Approved Driving Instructors to participate in additional training. (Recommendation 5)
- Continue to press the UK Government to make not wearing a seat-belt an endorsable offence which could result in penalty points on a driver’s licence and a fine for passengers (as in Northern Ireland), in the context of all drivers. (Recommendation 11)