Monday, 17 May 2010


By Helen Wells

Research recently conducted by a team involving Keele University, Staffordshire County Council and RoSPA, found that parents’ involvement in driving lessons (for instance sitting in the back seat during a lesson) helped to cut out the age-old quarrels between learner drivers and the mums and dads who offer private practice, resulting in a more productive practice experience.

An evaluation of the initial few months implementation of the Staffordshire Young Driver Coaching Programme (YDCP), has found that young drivers’ learning experiences can be enhanced by getting their parents more involved in lessons generally. The evaluation, carried out as part of the RoSPA/BNFL scholarship scheme, also found that an accompanying resource pack full of materials designed to be used during private practice sessions also proved vital to producing better, safer drivers.

The 17-24 age group is a priority area for Staffordshire County Council as, although that age group represents about 10 per cent of the population, it makes up 28 per cent of all fatal driver casualties.

Although the study could not, at this stage, research long-term goals such as reduced crash rates, it did highlight the kind of good practice - such as parents sitting in on lessons – which other research has suggested might enable those aims to be achieved. The underlying principles of the YDCP are to increase the effectiveness of private practice in conjunction with professional instruction, and to involve parents in the learning to drive process. These principles are supported by findings from international research on road safety, learning to drive, and adolescent development.

A quarter of all approved driving instructors (ADIs) in Staffordshire signed up to the scheme, which is now in its tenth month.

As well as parents recording progress in the learner’s training book, they also received guides about how to support the lessons conducted by the learner’s ADI.

An evaluation of the resource pack’s effectiveness found that it improved the structure of private practice by giving parents a better understanding of their child’s progress with their instructor, while also updating their own knowledge of the Highway Code. This resulted in parents having more confidence to supervise learners and more efficient paid-for lessons - not to mention the guides being used to solve arguments in private practice.

It also culminated in a closer working relationship between ADIs and the local authority road safety unit.

The programme’s evaluation was funded by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ scholarship scheme, which was set up after British Nuclear Fuels donated £500,000 to support research that would have a significant impact on improving safety in the UK and around the world. A grant of £20,000 was successfully submitted by Dr Helen Wells of the Research Institute for Law, Politics and Justice, and the Road Safety & Sustainable Travel Unit at Staffordshire County Council.

For more information on the research, contact Dr Helen Wells.

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