Young drivers in their first few years of driving have a much higher risk
of crash involvement that results in death and injury than experienced
drivers. This phenomenon has been reported in many countries and has led
road safety bodies to target young driver crash involvement as a key public
health and road safety issue.
In Australia, there is popular support for driver education programs.
Disappointingly however, driver education and training programs have not
been shown to have a significant impact on young newly licensed driver
crash involvement. Indeed, there is consistent evidence that
inappropriately targeted education and training programs for young drivers
could potentially be harmful.
There has been however, growing interest in the possibility that well
planned and researched young driver programs can have a positive impact on
safety outcomes. To optimise success it appears that such programs need to
be developed and delivered in a way that reflects current understanding of
the young driver problem, the target group itself, and proven behaviour
change principles and practices.
The P Drivers Project presented below represents best practice as it is
currently understood. The development of the structure and content of the
program has been informed by relevant research in the domains of road
safety, injury prevention, psychology, health and adult education.
The high level of crash involvement of young drivers is a complex
phenomenon. It is difficult to influence all of the risk factors associated
with young driver crashes in a relatively short program of 8 hours
duration. Extending the program to address more of the phenomena creates a
different set of challenges and practical implementation problems and is
also likely to see attrition of participants.
The P Drivers Project therefore has focussed on identifying a set of
"target behaviours" that are known to have a key role in crash involvement
and that may be amenable to change (or improved
management) through a program using behaviour change principles.
The key objectives of the program are not to increase knowledge or to
changes in attitudes - they are behavioural. Achieving behavioural change
and a resulting improvement in safety outcomes requires a program
philosophy and methodology that makes use of appropriate behaviour change
strategies. The program does not aim to change values, attitudes, or
personality traits. Although there is a small correlation between them and
crash involvement, psychological research indicates that relatively stable
factors like these are difficult to change, especially in a short term
This approach has raised significant challenges for program and curriculum
development given that there is little prior research or application of
behaviour change based "education" programs specifically targeted at
reducing crash risk in young drivers. Consequently a theoretical approach
was required which drew on research and experience from other successful
health and injury prevention related interventions targeting behaviour
change in young adults. This has been supplemented by "expert opinion"
within the fields of road safety, adolescent psychology and health.
The overall goal of the P Drivers Project is to generate sustained changes
in the behaviour of young drivers of a kind that will substantially reduce
their risk of crash involvement, particularly during the first year of
driving when the risks are highest.
The specific aims are:
· A reduction in the number and/or severity of crashes. Meeting
this aim will be a significant challenge as there is little research
evidence available that supports the effectiveness of education programs in
road safety. Drawing on recent research and evidence of best practice from
other fields increases the chances of success.
An improvement in safe driving behaviours among young drivers.
A reduction in crash involvement or severity will only occur when there
is an improvement in safety-related behaviours among young drivers. The
emphasis of the program is therefore on behavioural change and the
curriculum content and activities are directed towards achieving
positive changes in driving behaviours.
Increased awareness by young drivers of the risk factors that
contribute to their high crash risks. Young drivers can reduce
their crash involvement by making decisions that alter their exposure
and management of risk.