5. Feedback from the national debate

5. Feedback from the national debate

5.1 Introduction

This chapter presents feedback on the broad intervention types described in Chapter 4, from:

  • the road safety community via interviews and email responses;
  • young people via focus groups and the on-line survey; and,
  • parents, carers and others via focus groups and the on-line survey.

The information presented in this chapter represents the views, thoughts and perceptions of those involved in the debate, and are not necessarily points of fact.

Summary statistics from the online survey are presented at appropriate points within the chapter (in Tables 5.1 to 5.5, and 5.7 to 5.8). Respondents were asked to indicate their level of support for potential interventions as ‘very supportive’, ‘supportive’, ‘neutral’, ‘unsupportive’, or ‘very unsupportive’. Overall responses have been categorised on the basis of the proportion of very supportive/ supportive and very unsupportive/unsupportive responses received.

Detailed survey results and a summary of the profile of respondents are presented in Appendix D.

5.2 Intervention Type A – Education and training for younger children and pre-drivers

This section discusses interventions targeted at younger children and pre-drivers, and then specifically examines the use of innovative approaches to getting road safety messages across to young people.

Younger children and pre-drivers

a) Road safety community

Most stakeholders emphasised the importance of a life-long approach to learning, including the need for intervention from an early age. The need for regular interventions to reinforce safety messages and maintain desirable attitudes and behaviours was also stressed. One stakeholder stressed the importance of a wide range of initiatives, reflecting different learning preferences and aims amongst different groups of young people. A focus on attitudes, peer pressure and passenger distraction was seen as being particularly important by the 21 to 25 year old participants.

A number of stakeholders mentioned the ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’ initiative (see Appendix A) as being effective in terms of raising young people’s awareness of the risks associated with driving. Some questioned the argument of recent research by McKenna (2010a) and others which suggests that, while memorable, these types of one-off interventions are limited in terms of their ability to influence driving behaviour. Some of the stakeholders interviewed had not had direct involvement in the intervention but may have been influenced by evidence of positive feedback from participants immediately following such events.

There was some concern that a busy school curriculum means that there is limited scope to address road safety issues; and some frustration that road safety education is not given greater priority. In this context there is a need to look for opportunities to provide parallel messages through joint initiatives involving, for example, the health sector. Road safety messages should also be supported by education and training in wider travel issues, including the provision of cycle training.

There was also concern that school-based initiatives don’t reach everyone; particularly those leaving school at 15 or 16. In addition, curriculum pressures mean that schools have to scale down road safety education for years S5 and S6, a time when young people are thinking about learning to drive.

Once young people leave school the opportunities for receiving road safety education reduce significantly.

b) Young people

Table 5.1 – Intervention Type A - Online survey results

Table 5.1 – Intervention Type A - Online survey results

Young people are generally supportive of a life-long approach to road safety education (Table 5.1), but recognise that this will only influence some young drivers.

"[Education] could make a difference to some folk, but some folk are still going to be dangerous no matter what they are told and what the consequences are." (Focus group participant)

The younger participants of the focus groups (17 and 18 year olds) tended to be less convinced of the benefits of formalised education "as everyone knows that kind of stuff already". The groups who had participated in ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’ courses thought that they were excellent in terms of making young people think about the risks, but were delivered a year too early and need to be carried out when a person has passed their test.

"Prior to passing … the focus for a young person is to pass their test, and they are not interested at all in anything else." (Focus group participant)

Many young people commented that attitudes are difficult to change, and there’s a danger of overload.

"The reason why some people drive fast is the same as why they smoke, it’s cool." (Online survey respondent)

"You’re told the same things from school to actually learning to drive and it gets tedious." (Online survey respondent)

A number of individuals identified the need to focus on better informing young drivers about the financial and practical implications for drivers involved in collisions (including increased insurance premiums and restrictions on independence due to loss of driving licence), as a means of moving away from ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitudes.

In general, it was difficult to engage focus group participants in a lively discussion on this issue, particularly in comparison with ‘more interesting’ topics relating to licensing and testing (Intervention Types B and C) and technology (Intervention Type E). There was a feeling that school-based education initiatives had nothing new to offer, and the topic provoked less extreme views than other issues. Many participants were still in or had recently left full-time education and appeared to have ‘had enough’ of education.

Similarly, only 37 young people responding to the online survey provided a written comment about general awareness raising approaches, compared with 119 commenting on the use of social networking sites (and other innovative approaches), 46 commenting on licensing suggestions, 46 commenting on additional training. Only 38 comments were received about technology interventions. This does not reflect the level of interest in this topic evident at the focus groups.

c) Parents, carers and others

Parents, carers and others also see the benefits of a life-long approach to road safety education (Table 5.1), but again recognise the limits.

"Young men are often risk takers but you will have an effect on some people if you raise awareness and it will work better than new rules which are likely to be disobeyed by the people they seek to target. On the downside, most youngsters know peers who have been killed or injured and many take pride in carrying on as if nothing has changed. ‘Go hard or go home’ stickers in the Inverness area being a sad example of this attitude." (Online survey respondent)

"You can raise awareness, but it won’t stop boy racers doing what they want to do." (Focus group participant)

Suggestions for awareness raising interventions tend to focus on the ‘hard-hitting type’ which highlight the risks of collisions:

"Both my sons attended Safe Drive Stay Alive in Aberdeen in their pre-driving years. Although the whole event was incredibly emotional and informative, the person who made the most impact was the young man in a wheelchair who talked about his life before and after his accident." (Online survey respondent)

"In Iceland when cars are demolished in road accidents they mount the cars onto large billboard frames - with a warning of effect of dangerous driving." (Online survey respondent)

They also suggest that peer-based education interventions will be more effective:

"Use peer education, someone who has been there and survived but living with the consequences." (Focus group participant)

"Youngsters need to be involved in producing anything to help raise awareness. Teenagers won’t listen to adults but will listen to their peers." (Focus group participant)

Innovative approaches to getting road safety messages across

a) Road safety community

Use of social networking website and similar media is seen as essential in getting the road safety message across to young people. Many young people’s lives revolve around social networking sites, and this provides an opportunity for actively engaging with them. The DSA’s use of Twitter and Facebook (see Appendix A) was highlighted as being particularly innovative, with both media receiving a large number of hits. Road Safety Scotland’s Xbox initiative was also highlighted as an innovative approach worthy of further research and development (Appendix A).

However, it was argued that there is a need for proper research and evaluation into the effectiveness of these types of approaches.

A potential location for road safety advertising and information is the insurance comparison websites.

b) Young people

Survey respondents came up with a wide range of suggestions for using new media such as social networking websites (Facebook), video sharing sites (YouTube) and mobile phone downloads/applications to get the road safety message across to young people.

Suggestions include:

  • placing ‘hard-hitting’ video clips on social networking and video sharing sites illustrating the consequences of unsafe driving, including the impact on injured parties, friends, family, and the emergency services; and supporting advice on how to avoid consequences
  • interactive games, e.g. on-line hazard awareness games with leagues to encourage participation and competition
  • learning applications and driving simulation software / learning applications relating to the highway code and driving theory test / question and answer pages / information about safe driving
  • use of controlled viruses or pop-up adverts to circulate ‘hard-hitting’ video clips, games, adverts for further driver training, driving tips from famous drivers (e.g. Top Gear/Fifth Gear presenters or Formula 1 drivers)
  • alerts about adverse weather conditions in the local area and tips about how to drive in these conditions
  • publicity about the number of accidents and deaths involving young people in the local area / naming and shaming those with driving offences, and
  • rewards (e.g. music downloads) for young drivers with a clean driving licence.

The most common suggestions focused around the use of ‘new’ media to circulate hard-hitting videos showing collisions and the consequences, raise awareness of the issues and encourage discussion amongst young people. A number of young female (and parents, carers and others) suggested providing alerts about adverse weather conditions in the local area and tips about how to drive in these conditions12.

Views varied regarding the appropriateness of using the above type of media for getting across road safety messages. While many young people were supportive of the approach, others were very much against the suggestion, particularly the use of social networking sites.

"No, don't try to be hip and cool. Social networking sites are not the correct forum for such a campaign." (Online survey respondent)

"I don’t think they should be used. People look on those sites for entertainment not for advice/public announcements. If you force people to watch them during their 'fun time' they will ignore the message." (Online survey respondent)

Young people (and others) use these sites for socialising, not for information or learning. Using Facebook, to publicise road safety messages is seen by these respondents as patronising, inappropriate and intrusive; and risks alienating certain groups of users. Young male respondents were more likely to express this view than females. Respondents also commented that many Facebook pages and other websites are already cluttered with adverts, which many people ignore.

A number of focus group participants commented that television and cinema is a more appropriate media for road safety adverts. Many could remember a number of high profile advertisement campaigns.

c) Parents, carers and others

"If you start using social networks you also run the risk of an anti-improving group arising, which might be seen to be cooler." (Online survey respondent)

A number of survey respondents felt that every possible means of getting across road safety messages should be used, and felt that the popularity of this type of media amongst young people should be exploited.

"It’s how they communicate, so let’s use them." (Online survey respondent)

Respondents often commented that these types of media should be used to change the image of driving, so that post-test training and safe driving in general is seen as the norm. However, others identified a number of risks associated with this approach. These include:

  • risk that interventions will encourage risk takers to record their dangerous driving practices and create a competition to produce the most daring video
  • risk of information overload and dilution of the road safety message
  • social media is not targeted and young people can choose to or choose not to engage with it
  • some messages/interventions are designed by people who do not use social media and the language and approach is inappropriate
  • no control over the age of young people viewing hard hitting adverts/videos
  • use of mobile devices to provide road safety interventions might send out the wrong message about the use of mobile phones while driving, and
  • difficult to monitor if people are taking the information on-board.

5.3 Intervention Type B – Education, training and testing for learner and novice drivers

This section presents feedback relating to the current test and then discusses views regarding post test driver training.

Current test

a) Road safety community

Stakeholders raised concerns that the current approach to driver training and testing is not sufficient to equip young people with the skills and knowledge needed to drive safely.

There was some support for updating the test to cover a wider range of ‘real life’ driving conditions (such as motorway and night-time driving) through both professional lessons and private practice; for a minimum period of learning; and greater or mandatory use of learning log books showing experience of driving in different conditions and enabling learners to reflect on progress to date.

Some concerns were raised about variation in the quality of driving instruction across Scotland; an issue which the DSA is looking at.

There was strong support for young drivers being encouraged (but not required) to undertake as much driver training as possible. This needs to cover a wide range of competencies and areas relating to the driving experience, including attitudes, behaviour, use of in-car technology (e.g. driving with a sat-nav, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking systems), and understanding how a car actually works. Training should be seen as more than ‘a means to get a licence’. There is a need to make young people aware of the benefits of being a ‘good driver’ and understand that they will only become safe drivers as they build up their experience.

Driver training for young people needs to be part of a lifelong and structured approach to learning, and needs to be supported by pre-driver education from an early age and ongoing post-test training.

b) Young people

Table 5.2 – Intervention Type B - Online survey results

Table 5.2 – Intervention Type B - Online survey results

Most focus group participants, except those still at school13 and those from the ‘hard to reach’ group who had yet to pass their test, felt that the driving test does not prepare learners sufficiently well for driving conditions in Scotland.

Explanations included:

  • can only sit test in perfect weather conditions, some young people learn in the summer and have no experience of driving in winter conditions
  • doesn’t test driving at night, on motorways, in busy conditions, or in adverse weather including snow and ice

"We learn on rural roads with only a couple of roundabouts and traffic lights. The first trip most people do when they pass their test is to the cinema in Dunfermline where we have to drive on the motorway. Doesn’t make sense not to teach us how to do this whilst learning to drive." (Focus group participant)

  • some test locations do not encompass busy roads or certain types of junctions, and

"You shouldn’t be able to take your test in a small town like that." (Focus group participant)

  • doesn’t prepare you for solo driving, would be useful to drive solo while learning, with an instructor following.

"It can be daunting to get into your car completely on your own the minute you pass your test". (Focus group participant)

Young people responding to the online survey expressed ‘mixed views’ about ‘a harder test for all’.

Focus group participants showed more support for updating the test to cover a wider range of ‘real life’ driving conditions (incorporating topics covered in Pass Plus). However, it was recognised that this could pose difficulties in rural areas where there are no motorways or busy junctions, and could require the use of driving simulators to test some conditions. Use of off-road centres to test car control in difficult conditions, as used in Finland, was suggested by a number of participants; however one participant thought that, unless extensive training is received:

"In the heat of the moment it just goes out of your head." (Focus group participant)

Some female participants suggested that rather than making the test harder or more comprehensive, the focus should be on experiencing different driving conditions during the learning process through undertaking practical assessments with a driving instructor before sitting their test or demonstrating experience through use of a log book or checklist.

Others just wanted to pass their test and thought that they could learn more about driving in adverse conditions once they had their licence.

Respondents to the online survey showed ‘moderate to strong approval’ for ‘a minimum period of learner training/practice’ (Table 5.2). This would reduce pressure to pass quickly, and provide more opportunity to experience different driving conditions.

"Some young drivers see passing their test as a competition, and try and pass with fewer hours or lessons than their friends." (Focus group participant)

Those against this proposal thought that the ‘learning period’ should reflect individual ability and circumstances or that instructors should decide when a pupil is ready. A number of focus group participants cited examples of friends who had passed their test shortly after their 17th birthday because they had been driving around the family farm since an early age or had experience of rally driving. Some thought a minimum period of on-road learning would still benefit these individuals and address issues of over-confidence.

Providing robust evidence to demonstrate supervised driving experience with parents could be difficult and mandatory, paid, lessons with qualified instructors would be unpopular.

Some participants suggested that the approach would be more palatable if the minimum age for ‘learning’ was reduced to 16 years, and if insurance premiums were reduced. Others felt a short minimum period wouldn’t make much difference, as most people learn over an extended period and it can take about three months for a test date to come through.

Some participants agreed that the inclusion of an awareness course or assessment as part of the learning to drive process would be beneficial, but pointed out that they receive awareness courses at school. Others were more sceptical.

"Careful drivers don’t need them and dangerous drivers wouldn’t pay attention." (Focus group participant)

Many wouldn’t attend unless the courses were mandatory. Some felt that attitudes are very difficult to change.

"I know somebody who’s just gone to jail because somebody died in a car. All his friends are still driving around like idiots." (Focus group participant)

Several participants identified graphic images of accidents as being memorable and effective in terms of making them think about the consequences of unsafe driving behaviour (based on attendance at Safe Drive Stay Alive performances, and other similar events), but felt that these type of interventions would have more relevance if offered to young drivers post-test. For example, there was support amongst one group for the approach in Bulgaria where new drivers are required to watch graphic images of car crashes after passing their test and before receiving their licence. Some participants felt that at the moment there can be quite a gap between attending an awareness-raising intervention and starting to drive independently, and it isn’t until a person has experienced being behind a car themselves that they fully comprehend the potential risks facing them as a driver. A number of groups agreed that the closer the awareness course is to a person actually driving, the better.

Cost was a significant concern regarding the above proposals. Participants felt that learning to drive is already very costly, and that the above proposals could add to the cost of learning due to the need for more training, longer lessons, more expensive tests and/or more re-tests.

Participants also recognised that some young people will continue to drive dangerously regardless of any changes to the learning or testing requirements.

"It’s just the way some folk are." (Focus group participant)

c) Parents, carers and others

Parents, carers and others were more supportive than young people of a ‘harder driving test for all’. They showed strong support for ‘minimum period of training/ practice’, matching the views of young females (Table 5.2), but highlighted similar issues and concerns as young people.

Post test driver training

a) Road safety community

A number of stakeholders questioned the effectiveness of Pass Plus training in making young people safer drivers, and raised concerns that many Approved Driving Instructors deliver the six hours of training in one day, rather than over an extended period. Stakeholders also raised the following concerns:

  • no formal nationwide evaluation of the scheme has been undertaken to date
  • the numbers undertaking the training are going down
  • tuition does not explain why a driver should approach a situation in a certain way
  • the scheme is seen by many young people as a means of getting low insurance or keeping parents ‘on side’ rather than a means to becoming a better driver, and
  • the cost deters most young people and the current economic climate makes it difficult for local authorities to offer subsidies.

It was suggested that Pass Plus, or any similar course, needs to be quality assured, subject to a full and published evaluation, and marketed more effectively.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) Advanced Test is seen as providing a comprehensive and thinking-based approach to driver training, but its ability to reach young drivers is seen as being limited by a poor image amongst young people (the course is associated with middle aged drivers); cost (£140, though often subsidised by local authorities); and the time commitment required (many weeks of preparation followed by a full test).

Other interventions highlighted as providing cost-effective and good quality training to young people include:

  • Kirklees’ Enhanced Pass Plus initiative – initial evaluation evidence available based on reduced reported collisions
  • Staffordshire’s Pass Plus Extra scheme – no collision-based evaluation currently available
  • the Institute of Advanced Motorist’s Momentum driver training initiative – recently launched to provide young people with an entry point to subsequently taking the full IAM Advanced Test
  • a2om’s e-learning package – based on research evidence and currently being offered to 5th and 6th year students in Fife (where the impact on casualty numbers will be compared after two years), and
  • the BTEC in Driving Science run by Fife Council – developed by Fife Road Safety Unit and a2om, in conjunction with the Driver Behaviour Centre at Cranfield University.

Further information about these interventions is provided in Appendix A.

Post-test on-road training will need to remain voluntary, for a range of practical reasons. For example, some road conditions (e.g. motorways, box junctions, etc.) do not exist in parts of the Highlands and Islands, making a requirement to demonstrate competencies in these areas difficult for young drivers living in these locations.

Stakeholders agreed that a range of incentives is required to encourage young drivers to take up further driving or education. The insurance industry, employers, the police, the fire and rescue service, parents and schools all have an important role to play. Insurance discounts for those who have undertaken post-test training are expected to provide an incentive for some. However, the cost of insurance is prohibitive to many young drivers, and substantial discounts would be required to encourage some young people not to break the law and drive unlicensed. Hard-to-reach groups, including high risk takers, are likely to require more targeted intervention, such as awareness or rectification courses for young offenders, discussed in Section 5.5. Incentives are discussed further in Section 5.7.

b) Young people

Many focus group participants were open to undertaking post-test driver training, provided the cost was low and there were real financial benefits in terms of reduced insurance premiums. Some participants (including non-drivers) thought that additional experience would be sufficient.

Most were against compulsory further training, stating that the main test should be sufficient. Others felt that it would need to be compulsory in order to get the right people to undertake further training.

Some who had taken Pass Plus questioned the value of it in reducing insurance premiums and improving driving standards (quality of instructors varies; examples of participants receiving the certificate without completing the course; one participant covered three modules in one night and questioned the value of this; not long enough or sufficiently comprehensive). Others had decided not to undertake Pass Plus due to a lack of real financial benefits, reporting that they had been able to purchase cheaper insurance from insurers not requiring Pass Plus (or similar qualifications).

Cost and inability to influence some young people were also raised as issues.

"Until further training is either compulsory or ‘cool’ it will remain problematic to attract those most at risk." (Focus group participant)

Any proposals that reduce the real cost of driving would encourage wider take-up of these interventions, but would not necessarily prevent certain groups of young drivers from reckless behaviour. Incentives are discussed further in Section 5.7.

c) Parents, carers and others

Parents agreed that some form of refresher course would be particularly useful after passing the initial test. Ideas ranged from 6 months to a year. The parents did acknowledge that this should apply to all new drivers and not just young drivers.

5.4 Intervention Type C – Graduated driver licensing and licence restrictions

This section firstly considers views and opinions regarding graduated driver licensing, and then presents feedback regarding the possible lowering of the drink drive limit.

Graduated driver licensing

a) Road safety community

The majority of Scottish stakeholders involved in the debate were supportive of some form of graduated licensing being introduced in Scotland, provided that the rationale for restrictions and requirements for different stages of licensing are clear and based on evidence about casualty risks to young people. They identified a need for further consideration to be given to restrictions relating to use of high performance cars, driving at night, and carrying of passengers. There was also some limited support for mandatory use of P (probationary) or N (novice) plates for newly qualified drivers14.

There were views expressed that progression to a full unrestricted licence should be linked to both age (with some support for restrictions placed on those under 20) and driver training/practice. One stakeholder suggested that limiting restrictions to the first six months of driving might make the approach more palatable for young drivers, and would reflect evidence such as 500 - 1000 miles of post-test driving helps drivers to better appreciate road risk (Kinnear and Stradling, 2011).

Those who were less supportive considered that training and education initiatives would provide a better approach for all. They also highlighted concerns that the benefits derived from schemes in other countries may not be transferable to a Scottish context.

All stakeholders raised concerns about the practicalities of enforcing such a scheme, given the limited resources available to the police and the fact that drivers are not currently required to carry identification. The view was that while some young people would adhere to the requirements, others would not. Restrictions enforceable by ‘observation’ (e.g. those relating to young people driving at night and use of high performance vehicles) were considered more practical than those requiring vehicles to be stopped (e.g. restrictions relating to use of a manual gear box, or the number of passengers falling within a specific age range). Stakeholders also raised the following issues:

  • how should the police deal with passengers where a young driver is found ignoring licensing requirements, should they be left at the side of the road?
  • introducing a passenger limit might result in more cars on the road, and
  • introducing restrictions relating to the use of high performance cars might require families to purchase an additional vehicle or might prevent young people from learning to drive or benefitting from additional practice using the family car.

There was some support for a voluntary graduated licensing system linked to additional training as part of an insurance discount scheme. The ‘multi phase’ system in Austria was also highlighted as a potential model for Scotland (see Appendix A). This requires novice drivers to undertake three additional training modules within a year of passing the ‘first phase’ theory and practical test. Those who don’t, have their licence withdrawn.

b) Young people

Table 5.3 – Intervention Type C - Online survey results

Table 5.3 – Intervention Type C - Online survey results

In general, young people (particularly males) were not supportive of graduated licensing restrictions (Table 5.3). There was more support for a ban on driving high performance cars, a lower drink drive limit for all drivers, P plates, and a 6 month probationary period with restrictions and/or mandatory modules than for other licensing restrictions. For many, high performance cars were unaffordable so restrictions on driving these types of vehicle would have little impact on them. P plates were seen as less of a restriction and therefore more tolerable than other conditions.

"I’d rather have these and drive about than not at all." (Focus group participant)

Opposition reduces with age, with 21 to 25 year olds less likely to be opposed to proposals than 17 to 20 year olds.

Young females showed ‘strong approval’ (11% more than young males) for a scheme involving a ban on driving high performance cars. Female focus group participants tended to be more likely to acknowledge that carrying passengers can be ‘off-putting’ for the driver.

A six month probationary period was seen as preferable to a year long period by both young males and females.

There are a range of reasons why young people do not like graduated licensing options. For example:

  • placing restrictions on all young drivers, including those who drive safely, is seen as unfair

"Not every 17 to 25 year old drives irresponsibly." (Focus group participant)

  • restrictions should be based on experience rather than age, placing 25 year olds in the same category as 17 to 20 year olds was seen as patronising
  • targeting the young may alienate some drivers and encourage them to offend number of driving offences likely to go up, others would become nervous and wary of the police/enforcement would be difficult
  • blanket restrictions do not address the need for more experience and training, and may reduce the amount of practice and experience gained during early years of driving

"As a new driver I think that restricting when you can drive would be detrimental to my development as a driver, as I feel it is essential to gain as much experience as possible in different situations." (Focus group participant)

  • some drivers will drive recklessly whether or not they have restrictions placed on them
  • night restrictions would limit employment, social and possible education opportunities, particularly in rural areas; could be very restrictive in winter, if based on hours of darkness, as it gets dark at 3 or 4pm; what about emergency situations / lack of transport provision at night limits alternative options / some young people feel safer driving than travelling by public transport at night, parents would have to continue to transport young people around
  • carrying passengers is not seen by some young people as creating an additional risk / passenger restrictions could create difficulties for young families / could create a perverse situation whereby a driver aged 21+ could accompany a provisional driver but at a 25 year old would not be able to drive alone at night / three passengers talking amongst themselves may be less distracting than holding a conversation with one passenger / might result in more cars on the road / might encourage young drivers to travel separately in convoys or do ‘shuttle runs’ for friends / contradicts sustainable travel messages about car-sharing (environmental issue)
  • most young people can’t afford high performance cars / lower performance cars can be modified to make them go faster / low performance cars can still be driven recklessly / high performance cars often have more built-in safety features / an engine-size or power threshold might send out the wrong message about the safety of smaller cars / police often target young drivers with high performance cars anyway, and

"They might think I can rev the engine off that wee thing, but still smack into a tree and kill themselves." (Focus group participant)

  • P plates viewed as being ineffective / young people were unclear about how these would help / not viewed as ‘cool’ at the moment / concerns about standing out / won’t change the way most young people drive / may encourage some drivers to behave inappropriately towards new drivers / may make new drivers think they are safer than they are.

One of the school-based focus groups suggested that restrictions might result in young people delaying learning to drive until they were old enough to do so without restrictions. Evidence presented in Chapter 2 suggests that this would have safety benefits.

There was some support for restrictions on maximum speed, but travelling at 45 mph on roads with higher speed limits (as in Northern Ireland, see Appendix A) was seen as dangerous by others. Two focus groups were supportive of the system in Australia where different stages of ‘P’ plates have different maximum speed limits. The speed is written on the ‘P’ plate making the regulation easy to enforce.

A number of participants suggested that restrictions should be focused on only those drivers who have committed serious driving offences. One group suggested a free ‘follow-on’ test/assessment, three months after passing the practical test, to check progress and give feedback.

c) Parents, carers and others

In general, parents, carers and others were far more supportive of most graduated licensing restrictions (Table 5.3), and felt that a probationary period would allow young people to gain experience and develop their skills in less challenging conditions and/or in potentially safer vehicles.

Tighter legislation could also enable parents to take a more active role in influencing young driver behaviour and to a degree could assist with removing concerns about demands on police enforcement.

"I would like to have the back up of legislation to ban my son from having several passengers or driving late at night while he gained his driving experience. I realise that parental rules might [currently] be ignored once out of sight. Legislation would back up parental concerns and these new rules would have to be followed." (Online survey respondent)

Drink drive limit

a) Road safety community

There was strong support for a lower drink drive limit for all drivers, not just young or novice drivers. Drink driving is not just a problem amongst the young, and in some parts of Scotland the main offenders are those aged 35 to 55. Most stakeholders felt that allowing more drinking once drivers reach a certain age would convey the wrong message at the wrong time. Such an approach would also be difficult to enforce. Only one stakeholder supported a lower limit for younger drivers, but questioned whether this should be related to age or experience.

b) Young people

There was moderate to strong approval from survey respondents for a lower drink drive limit (Table 5.3). Focus group participants were strongly in favour of a lower drink drive limit, but for all drivers not just the young. Some participants admitted incidents of drink-driving and many were unclear about safe drink driving levels. Some relied on breathalysers to check blood alcohol levels. A minority were concerned that ‘zero tolerance’ would limit socialising opportunities or thought it unnecessary.

c) Parents, carers and others

There was strong approval (81%) from parents, carers and others responding to the survey for a lower drink drive limit. This was further reinforced at the focus group with parents agreeing there should be a lower drink drive limit but that it should be the same for all drivers, not just young and/or new drivers. This group thought that young drivers were possibly more aware of drink driving than other generations and perhaps less likely to offend.

5.5 Intervention Type D - Enforcement and restorative justice

This section presents views and opinions on interventions relating to enforcement and restorative justice.

a) Road safety community

"A visible presence on the road makes most people drive safely." (Focus group participant)

The effectiveness of an increased police presence in encouraging all drivers to drive safely was highlighted by a number of stakeholders. However, it is recognised that such an approach is unlikely to be affordable in the short to medium term given the current pressure on public spending.

A more targeted approach is therefore required. One stakeholder reported that a number of community police officers have developed good relationships with drivers of modified cars (‘cruisers’) and have ensured that modifications to vehicles are within legal requirements. Another stakeholder suggested greater use of ‘Bluetooth’ technology to send road safety text messages to young people before they leave ‘high risk’ venues, e.g. pubs and clubs. The police are able to do this providing they are in close proximity to the venue in question. Some forces have used a similar approach to remind people not to drink and drive over the Christmas period.

Another stakeholder identified the need for legislation to make non-wearing of seatbelts an endorsable offence, in the same way as mobile phone use, speeding and drink/drug driving are.

There was support for the introduction of driver awareness courses for young offenders in Scotland. Specific reference was made to English-based interventions being implemented by Thames Valley and Lancashire Police. The Thames Valley intervention is specifically targeted at young people and has been shown to reduce re-offending rates by more than 60% (see Appendix A). Lancashire Police recently invited offenders to attend a short course, one or two days after an offence the offence had been recorded rather than waiting several months (no collision-based evaluation evidence yet available).

In addition, a need for a more targeted and tailored support for young drivers who lose their licence was identified (involving attitude or speed awareness training, for example); rather than just allowing them to re-take their test.

b) Young people

Table 5.4 – Intervention Type D - Online survey results

Survey respondents showed strong approval (Table 5.4) for road safety awareness courses for driving offenders, amongst both age groups: 17 to 20 year olds and 21 to 25 year olds, with hardly any dissenters.

Focus group participants, however, had mixed views on the effectiveness of this approach. Some participants thought that penalty points are more effective and have a financial impact on young drivers for longer, and a number thought that awareness courses should be in addition to penalty points. Some saw awareness courses as an easy option.

"Would be seen as a ‘tick box exercise’ by some". "Would go in one ear and out the other". (Focus group participant)

Mandatory use of technology interventions by offenders and a graduated licence intervention for offenders also received support.

Police enforcement is seen as effective, but generally needs to be more frequent and more targeted at high risk locations (rather than just where speeding is known to be a problem), particularly on rural roads. One participant commented that drivers can be encouraged to continue to drive recklessly if they are stopped by the police but not prosecuted. There were some claims that young drivers can be unfairly targeted. Police intervention is seen as focusing on punishing poor driving behaviour rather than encouraging safe driving. A small number felt that the police should focus on serious crimes and shouldn’t bother with traffic offences.

c) Parents, carers and others

Parents, carers and others also showed very strong support for road safety awareness courses for driving offenders (Table 5.4), but also saw this as an easy option compared with penalty points.

A clear and consistent policy regarding enforcement action by the police would be welcomed.

5.6 Intervention Type E – Use of technology

This section presents feedback on technology based interventions to regulate driving or encourage better driving, and also includes a separate section on technologies that make cars safer.

Technologies to regulate driving or encourage better driving

a) Road safety community

Views regarding the role for this type of technology in improving young driver safety varied. Most stakeholders recognised the potential benefits of technology-based interventions, but considered the opportunities for changing behaviour and driving style to be limited. The scope for mandatory use (and widespread voluntary use) of in-car devices was seen as being restricted by enforcement issues – those who want to, will find ways around the technology – and affordability issues. In addition, there were concerns that mandatory use of technology by young people would be seen as too much of a ‘big brother’ approach, and an unfair burden to place on the majority of young people who drive safely.

There was also some concern that relying on technology is not the right way to change behaviour as this approach seeks to deter or prevent drivers from driving dangerously or while under the influence of alcohol, rather than seeking to change attitudes.

The role of event (crash) data recorders in enabling the police to identify causes of collisions involving vehicles driven by all ages was highlighted by many young people.

Continuous (and downloadable) data recorders were seen as having a useful role to play in some families, recognising the significance of parent influence (currently underused). However, units have been costly to fit and insurers have struggled to provide appropriate incentives to date15, not all parents have access to a computer, and not all parents are willing to be involved. Some stakeholders pointed to the initial success of Staffordshire’s Young Driver Coaching Programme which involved young drivers installing continuous data recorders as part of an insurance-based intervention (see Appendix A, initial evaluation evidence available based on number of recorded risky manoeuvres); but suggested that this type of intervention would only work with certain groups of young people.

The use of Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) in all cars was strongly supported by a number of stakeholders, but it was recognised that further development and piloting needs to be undertaken before this can be implemented. It was noted that ISA does not address inappropriate speeds for particular conditions.

Stakeholders were sceptical about the benefits of wide-spread use of ‘alcolocks’ in Scotland. The culture and level of enforcement in other countries where they are common was seen as being very different to that in Scotland.

b) Young people

Table 5.5 – Intervention Type E - Online survey results

Table 5.5 – Intervention Type E - Online survey results

Technology-based options received ‘moderate’ to ‘strong’ approval from survey respondents, with some ‘mixed’ views from young males and females (Table 5.5). Young females were substantially more supportive of speed limiting technology and ‘alcolocks’ than male drivers. This may reflect lower levels of confidence in their driving ability and less of an association of driving with power, speed and ‘showing off’. Focus group participants appeared to be more supportive of these interventions than survey respondents16, and could see clear road safety benefits.

Mandatory use of additional technology is seen as too intrusive on young people’s freedom and seen as creating a ‘big brother’ society. However, voluntary use of technology linked to lower insurance premiums, in a business context, or by parents as a condition for lending their car, was seen as more acceptable. There was a view that young people shouldn’t be singled out for this type of intervention, and that the focus should be on all drivers or offenders. The technology must be unobtrusive, reliable and low cost for it to become acceptable. Focus group participants and survey respondents raised a number of issues which questioned the effectiveness of these types of interventions (Table 5.6).

Most comments against ‘alcolock’ technology related to the likelihood that people would find ways around it. A number of focus group participants suggested that newly qualified drivers should be given breathalysers to test their alcohol level before driving. Another suggestion was that breathalysers should be available in pubs, clubs and restaurants.

c) Parents, carers and others

Parents were more supportive of technology-based interventions (Table 5.5), but some questioned the effectiveness of the approaches and felt that there was a limit to how much could be done to protect young drivers.

"I think you’ve just got to grit your teeth when your kids pass their test." (Focus group participant)

Technologies that make cars safer

a) Road safety community

"Young drivers probably aren’t interested in safety features, but this is because safety isn’t a message that has been pushed". "The typical profile of a lost life is a young person who when buying a car would not even think about air bags or other safety features." (Focus group participant)

One stakeholder suggested that there should be greater coverage of the use of common in-car technology (e.g. sat-navs, adaptive cruise control, ABS, etc.) within the formal driver training and testing approach.

Manufacturers and car magazines are also seen as having an important role to play. However, it was noted that most young people buy second-hand cars, so the potential for improvements in this area to be effective is limited, unless insurers support young drivers in purchasing new, safer vehicles.

Table 5.6 – Comments from young people, for and against technology based interventions

Comments in support of technology based interventions

Comments against technology based interventions


  • Would influence driving style and behaviour of some drivers
  • Could encourage insurance companies to offer cheaper car insurance, Rewards good drivers


  • Adds to the cost of driving
  • Doesn’t tackle the root causes of accidents / preventative measure rather than a cure
  • Would find a way around the technology

Data recorders:

  • Could provide evidence in the event of a collision or incident
  • People who drive safely should have nothing to hide
  • Could be used in training to show when a driver has made a mistake and what the consequences could be / enables parents to help young people learn to drive and advise new drivers

Data recorders:

  • Young people don’t like the idea of parents knowing their exact movements
  • Removes trust between parents and young people
  • Parents are often poor drivers and are not in a position to comment on young people’s driving
  • Could make some young drivers self-conscious or feel under pressure
  • Data could be incorrectly interpreted
  • Wouldn’t affect driving style at the time / drivers would forget about the technology
  • Would only work on people who drive safely anyway

Speed limiters:

  • Could reduce fuel consumption
  • One less thing to worry about
  • Could also prevent people driving too slow
  • Would target ‘risk-takers’

Speed limiters:

  • What about in emergency situations when faster speeds are required to avoid an accident; overtake or get to a destination
  • Takes away opportunity to do something wrong and learn from it
  • Speed cameras can do the same job more cheaply

Alcolock technology:

  • It would make people think twice about drinking and driving and would possibly stop it altogether
  • Good for the day after drinking alcohol as it is difficult to sometimes know if you are still over the limit
  • If it was linked to a person’s thumb print or retina then it that would be a good idea

Alcolock technology:

  • Could easily get someone else to use it who hadn’t been drinking.
  • Unsure as to how would they be fitted on all cars
  • Would cost a lot of money
  • A preferred option is for pubs, clubs and restaurants to have breathalysers so that people could use them before they tried to drive home

5.7 Intervention Type F – Encouragement and leadership, including incentives and working with the private sector

This section presents views and opinions regarding the separate roles of the insurance industry, employers, parents and carers, and central government in providing incentives to encourage young people to drive safely and providing an encouragement and leadership role.

Role of the insurance industry

a) Road safety community

Stakeholders identified a road safety role for the motor insurance industry in terms of providing road safety information offering real discounts on premiums for those taking action to demonstrate safe driving, reducing premiums for learner drivers to enable more young people to use the family car for supervised practice, and as part of a voluntary GDL initiative based around a parent-young person agreement.

A number of companies have developed insurance policies that are targeted at young drivers (see Appendix A), but this remains a ‘niche’ market. For example, Young Marmalade offers a combined car purchase and insurance scheme, and insurance and GPS provider, i-Kube, encourages young people to leave their car at home between 11pm and 5am by offering financial discounts on premiums.

A number of stakeholders highlighted a need for more insurers to provide financial incentives for steps taken to reduce risk (like the Young Marmalade and i-Kube schemes) to make the market more competitive. There is currently limited competition in this part of the insurance market, and insurance comparison websites now enable young drivers to purchase cheap insurance from insurers who do not require additional qualifications (such as Pass Plus) or other protective measures.

Insurance initiatives involving the use of continuous data recorders to encourage safe driving were seen as having a role to play. At present, cost is a limiting factor, but as the cost comes down it is expected that more insurers will be incorporating this type of technology into policy offerings in the coming years.

The nature of the business model which many insurers follow means that actively encouraging safer driving is not as high a priority for most insurance companies as other aspects of the business, such as maximising margins from wider investments and tackling the increase in personal injury claims. In addition, many claims relate to low speed ‘prangs’, when drivers temporarily lose concentration.

Insurers are only able to offer reduced premiums where there is clear evidence that a road safety intervention reduces the number and severity of collisions and hence, the number and size of claims made. There is scepticism about the impact of Pass Plus on claims and insurers have mixed views regarding the value of IAM qualifications. A common view amongst insurers is that those taking advanced driver training are genuinely interested in becoming better drivers, and probably already represent a low risk. Other young drivers see advanced training as a tick box exercise and further training may not lead to safer driving. Issues relating to Pass Plus have already been discussed in detail in Section 5.3.

When new initiatives are introduced, lack of evidence about impacts means that insurers often choose not to take the new initiative into account until evidence on benefits becomes clearer. If the cost of a proposed technology option is high and there is a risk of damage in a collision, then this might outweigh any road safety benefits for insurance premiums.

Concerns were raised that there is a huge amount of ignorance amongst young people about what insurance is for, with many believing that it is intended just to cover the cost of the vehicle. A number of stakeholders felt that this topic should be given much greater coverage in pre-driver training and education initiatives.

Two stakeholders felt that there was too much emphasis placed on insurance companies providing the ‘big solution’; and that others, including parents and employers, have a part to play. Put another way, if other non-insurance initiatives work, then the cost of insurance will potentially fall naturally in future.

b) Young people

Table 5.7 – Intervention Type F - Online survey results

Table 5.7 – Intervention Type F - Online survey results

Cost was a significant concern for young people regarding proposals relating to training, testing and use of technology. Cheaper car insurance or financial support to help with training fees were popular suggestions for encouraging young drivers to undertake additional driver training amongst most respondents but were least popular with male drivers aged 21 to 25 years17.

Role of the employer

a) Road safety community

Employers have a ‘duty of care’ towards their employees. A number of stakeholders identified a need for employers to take more responsibility for how employees drive, and for the road safety community to raise awareness of this duty and provide appropriate support. This might include paying for young drivers to participate in driving at work training interventions provided by a2om, drivesmarter, IAM, RoSPA and others.

"Employers can’t influence what vehicles employees drive to work, but can play a role in promoting the road safety message through posters, company policy (e.g. no use of mobiles while driving, zero blood alcohol level), not phoning employees while they are driving, not setting unrealistic schedules, providing employees with road safety education." (Focus group participant)

One stakeholder identified a need for additional driver training qualifications to be given more prominence by employers.

"There should be an opportunity for young prospective employees to demonstrate to potential employers that they are responsible drivers – perhaps through the type of licence they hold or through additional training they have done." (Focus group participant)

One stakeholder thought that the Scottish Government should work more closely with the alcohol industry, to promote road safety messages.

Another felt that the Health and Safety Executive could play a greater role in enforcing employers’ duty of care towards their employees; combined with a programme of measures designed to raise awareness about their role in ensuring employees are safe while driving at work.

b) Young people

Table 5.8 – Intervention Type F - Online survey results

Table 5.8 – Intervention Type F - Online survey results

Only 39% of young male drivers aged 21 to 25 years supported the proposal for greater recognition of additional driving qualifications by employers, although support was higher amongst all young male and female respondents, including drivers and non-drivers (Table 5.8). This may reflect concerns about reduced employment opportunities.

More generally, focus group participants recognised that employers have a role to play but views varied in terms of whether responsibility should be focused on the employer or the young driver. A number of participants described incidents where they had felt uncomfortable being asked to drive an unfamiliar vehicle (car or van) without any training or advice.

Role of parents and carers

a) Road safety community

The potential valuable role of parents in influencing driving behaviour and attitudes, and supporting young drivers, was stressed by most stakeholders.

Most felt that the ‘parent role’ is an underused resource, but acknowledged that parents are often unaware of the role they can play and that the road safety community could do more to address this. Most identified a need for more guidance for parents on their role in supporting young drivers.

However, it was felt that parents differ in their views about bringing up their children, in terms of their potential and ability to be a good role model. It was acknowledged that it can be very difficult to influence the behaviour of young people, particularly if they have their own money and have a strong interest in cars. In addition, parents that are interested in taking a more active role are probably the ones who are already setting a good example.

One stakeholder described difficulties in involving parents in road safety education events; reporting that many did not see driving or road travel as a high risk. Another pointed out the mixed evidence regarding the effectiveness of parent-child contracts or agreements.

In general, limited evaluation evidence makes it difficult to determine what form of parent-related intervention is most effective.

b) Young people

Focus group participants had mixed views about the role of parents, some seeing them as an important influence on driving style and behaviour, others stating that they wouldn’t be influenced by their parents’ bad habits and that parental advice can ‘go in one ear and out the other’.

There was some support for parents attending some sort of awareness course while their children were learning to drive. Fifty-seven percent of young males and 65% of young female survey respondents were supportive of awareness courses for parents.

c) Parents, carers and others

Seventy-three percent of parents, carers and others responding to the online survey were supportive of awareness courses for parents.

Parents see their role as instilling safe driving behaviour, and supporting and supervising learning. Post-test, their role depends on whose car the young person is driving and who is paying for the insurance and petrol. Once young people buy their own car, the parental role virtually disappears. Parents generally viewed their role as limited and believed that young people needed to be allowed to learn from their own experiences.

Role of central and local government

Focus group participants were asked if there was anything that would encourage them to drive less often. Higher fuel prices, cheaper and better public transport, and better local facilities were identified as factors that would encourage young people to drive less. However, a number commented that there was no alternative in rural areas.

"I live in a small town. I need to drive…there aren’t any major bus routes" (Focus group participant)

5.8 Summary of debate findings

Table 5.9 identifies the preferred approaches for addressing young driver safety, as identified by stakeholders from the road safety community; young people; and parents, carers and others:

  • stakeholders were asked to identify their top three suggestions for addressing young driver safety. The number of ticks indicates the relative popularity suggested approaches
  • online survey respondents were asked to indicate their level of support for a range of approaches. Table 5.9 identifies those which received ‘strong support’, i.e. 65 to 100% of responses were ‘very supportive’ or ‘supportive’. Responses are shown separately for young male and young female respondents, and
  • focus group participants were asked to write down what they thought were the three best ways for improving road safety amongst young drivers in Scotland. Those approaches included in Table 5.9 represent the top five suggestions. The numbers in brackets indicate the number of participants suggesting these approaches. Some participants used this exercise as an opportunity to highlight their opposition to specific interventions - "Allow young people to drive at night." (Focus group participant).

The approaches presented represent common themes considered within the debate.

Approaches ‘preferred’ by all four groups include:

  • strengthen learner driver training and testing approach (Intervention Type B), and
  • road safety awareness courses for pre-drivers, learners, novice drivers and, in the opinion of the road safety community, younger groups (Intervention Type A).

In addition, awareness courses for young driver offenders were identified by three groups (Intervention Type D). This topic was not widely covered in focus group discussions.

In general, there was strong support amongst young people, and parents, carers and others, for interventions relating to education and training for younger children and pre-drivers (Intervention Type A); interventions relating to enforcement and restorative justice (Intervention Type D); and encouragement and leadership measures (Intervention Type F). Views and opinions were mixed regarding education, training and testing interventions for learner and novice drivers (Intervention Type B); graduated driver licensing and license restrictions (Intervention Type C); and use of technology to regulate driving and encourage better driving behaviour (Intervention Type E).

Parents were generally more supportive of interventions than young people, and young females were more supportive of interventions 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 (Intervention Type B)
  • graduated driver licensing and license restrictions (Intervention Type C), and
  • use of technology to regulate driving and encourage better driving behaviour (Intervention Type E).

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, and
  • young males had mixed views on mandatory use speed limiting technology, alcolock technology, and continuous and downloadable data recorders; and 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 type 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. They did not seem to be aware that they were more likely to be involved in a road collision than other drivers.

Young people aged 17 to 20 year olds, 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 options attracted least support from all groups, although in general, parents, carers and others were far more supportive than young males. However, opposition to these options reduces with age, from 17 to 20 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.

Table 5.9 – Summary of preferred approaches (common themes) amongst those involved in the debate

Proposed intervention

Themes receiving strongest support from interviewees

Young people
Themes receiving strong support

Young people
Themes receiving strongest support from focus group participants

Parents, carers and others
Themes receiving strong support

A – Learner driver training, education and testing

A greater focus on pre-driver education and training (as part of a life-long approach to road safety education)

√ (M, F)

√ (awareness courses while learning or post-test –
mentioned by 19 participants)

B – Other education and awareness interventions

Strengthen learner driver training and testing approach

√ (F)18

√ (make Pass Plus compulsory or incorporate into main test – mentioned by 36 participants)

Insurance incentives to undertake additional driver training

√ (M, F)

C – Graduated driver licensing and licence restrictions

Some form of graduated licensing

√ (F)19

√ (limit on engine size –
mentioned by 26 participants)

Lower alcohol limit for all



√ (mentioned by 37 participants)


D – Enforcement and restorative justice

More enforcement by police




Awareness courses for young driver offenders

√ (M, F)


E – Use of technology

Financial incentives to encourage voluntary use of safety-related technology such as alcolocks


√ (M, F)


Mandatory use of alcolock technology


√ (F)


Greater use of speed limiting technology



F – Encouragement and leadership

Encourage greater involvement of parents by providing appropriate information and support tools

√ (F)