Tuesday, 16 June 2009

£20k awarded to evaluate a project designed to reduce young drivers' crash risk

A Keele Criminologist, in partnership with Staffordshire County Council, has recently been successful in obtaining £20,000 to fund an evaluation of a road safety intervention. Dr Helen Wells, of the Research Institute for Law, Politics and Justice, along with members of the Road Safety & Sustainable Travel Unit at Staffordshire County Council were awarded the funds as part of the RoSPA/BNFL scholarship competition, designed to fund projects which offered 'to carry out research into safety and accident prevention that will produce defined, practical and influential outcomes to help save lives and prevent injuries.' The evaluation project was one of three funded projects selected from over 30 shortlisted applications and the award of the money was made at a lavish awards dinner in Birmingham last month. The RoSPA scholarship scheme was funded by a bequest of £500,000 from BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels Limited), and is intended to run for the next seven to ten years.

The joint project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a crucial element of the Council’s Young Driver Programme – a resource to improve relationships between the parent, young driver, and professional driving instructor during the young driver’s learning period.

Young drivers are over-represented in road casualty statistics. Drivers aged between 16 and 25 years old accounted for 26 per cent of all car drivers killed or seriously injured in 2007 whilst constituting only 13% of the UK population. However, increasing driving experience before the driving test has been shown to reduce the risk of an accident. Private practice involving the parent and young driver is a common way of increasing experience and exposure.

The Cohort II study published by the DfT last year revealed that out of 10, 000 new drivers, 59% had embarked on private practice sessions with relatives or friend. The quality of such private advice however is variable with one survey revealing that 31% of 18-29 year olds had picked up ‘bad habits’ from their parents during practice sessions.

Staffordshire County Council’s Road Safety & Sustainable Travel Unit has developed a Coaching Programme aimed at mentoring young people through the learning process. A Resource Pack provided as part of the programme intends to align parental advice with that of the learner’s Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), and to assist parents in managing private practice. The pack focuses on the relationship between the young driver, their parents, and their ADI.

The aim of the Resource Pack is to improve the relationship between the parent, young driver and ADI, to have a positive impact on the young drivers’ driving practices, leading to a reduction in risk-taking behaviour and, consequently, to a reduction in the numbers of young drivers involved in road crashes. The evaluation will take place over the next 6-8 months.

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