CR 164: Young Driver Research Program: Digest of Reports and Principal Findings of the Research (1996)

The over-involvement of young drivers in road crashes is widely understood in Australia to be a most serious and to date largely intractable road safety problem. Young people aged 15-24 make up 15% of the population but account for 31% of fatalities.

Australia is not alone in experiencing the phenomenon. International road crash statistics reflect the fact that there is a significant over-representation of young drivers in crashes in absolute terms or relative to their proportion of the population, licences held, or distance driven. This serious problem is also currently being addressed overseas. For example, significant attention is being devoted at present to the issue by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The ATSB Road Safety (FORS) research program at the Monash University Accident Research Centre involved a range of research tasks. These were designed to generate information which could contribute to the development of effective and efficient crash countermeasures for young drivers. Major aspects of the research program included:

  • Detailed analysis of crash statistics based on Australia and United States databases. These analyses, in concert with other results, served as a basis for improving our understanding of the characteristics of young driver crashes. This process was complemented by additional information on young and novice drivers derived from recent behavioural studies.
  • Graduated licensing is a high profile approach of significant current interest for controlling the way in which novices are introduced into the driving population. Graduated licensing schemes have been debated widely over the past 20 years. The Young Driver Research Program included an evaluation of Graduated Licensing Schemes implemented in Australian States and Territories.
  • Policies aimed at reducing the risk exposure of young drivers are likely to be effective. The program considered in detail the topic of exposure reduction. In particular, an overview of the possible role of exposure reduction measures in lowering the incidence of young driver crashes was conducted. This overview was intended to provide a comprehensive basis for a detailed consideration of such measures. It is worth noting that countermeasures associated with graduated licensing and exposure reduction are frequently closely associated in analysis and implementation.
  • To aid consideration of exposure reduction an in-depth analysis of the qualitative dimensions of exposure was conducted using both a nationwide driver survey and direct sampling of drivers.
  • A minority group of young problem drivers has been widely regarded as contributing a very significant part of the overall problem associated with novice drivers. This concept was addressed in detail in the research program.
  • The research program analysed in depth the fundamental question of the relative importance of age and experience as contributors to the novice driver problem.

In what follows, the conceptual basis for the FORS young driver research program is briefly overviewed. The findings of the major components of the research program are then presented briefly. These findings do not necessarily represent initiatives proposed by FORS. Application areas will be discussed that appear to have promise for the development of effective novice driver programs, but just as importantly areas will be identified that the FORS program research concluded would be less likely to provide a sound basis for effective or efficient countermeasure development.

Type: Research and Analysis Report

Sub Type: Consultant Report

Author(s): TJ Triggs and KB Smith

Topics: Young drivers

Publication Date: 01/02/96