Driver Training

Driver Training



  • In research, and general road safety literature, the terms ‘driver training’ and ‘driver education’ are often used interchangeably.

  • McKenna (2010) differentiates “training (which is concerned with skills acquisition) from education (which is concerned with knowledge acquisition) in the driving field” and acknowledges that “there is little evidence that people note the difference” (p6).

  • Helman, Grayson and Parkes (2010) note that ‘education’ is the preferred term in North American literature and ‘training’ in European literature.

  • In this synthesis, the terms ‘training’ and ‘education’ are used synonymously unless the evidence specifically requires a commitment to one term or the other. In these cases we will use the term identified.

  • Driver training (and education) for non-professional drivers in Great Britain (GB) can be classified into the following driver stages:

    • Pre-driver – the provision of instruction that intends to inform the development of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours related to driving, clearly aimed at those who have not yet obtained their provisional drivers licence.

    • Learning to drive – in-vehicle and largely on-road instruction aimed at developing driving skills (mainly, although not exclusively, vehicle control skills) necessary to pass the driving test.

    • Post-license – interventions targeted at novice drivers (mostly young) that aim to combat their greater relative risk of being crash-involved.

    • Driver improvement – this might involve voluntary take up of driver training with private organisations or a course offered following the committing of a road traffic offence (e.g. speeding or drink driving).


  • The key mechanisms through which driver training (and education) propose to improve safety are:

    • Provision of information

    • Influencing attitudes

    • Training of driving skills

  • Effectiveness

  • All programmes should be evaluated against their aim. Most of the time the outcome measure is therefore safety. That is, what evidence is there that driver training (or education) can improve driver safety? In some instances, there may be an alternative aim, such as training to pass the driving test or to discourage reoffending behaviour.

  • Pre-driver

    • A recent review of pre-driver training and education found no evidence to support the presumption that such programmes directly improve driver safety (Kinnear et al., 2013). While there was some evidence of short-term attitudinal change, the vast majority of programmes are not evaluated sufficiently, or at all, to determine if this is a consistent finding.

  • Learning to drive

    • The vast majority of drivers who pass the driving test in GB have some form of driver training prior to taking the test (Wells et al., 2008). Driving instruction in this sense seems to be useful in helping to develop the skills necessary to pass the practical driving test. However it should be noted that there has been little formal assessment of the effectiveness of driving instruction in GB either at preparing learner drivers for the practical test, or in terms of its impact on safety.

    • There is some evidence that hazard perception skill may be important in safety terms. Wells et al. (2008) and Boufous et al. (2011) have both shown that better performance on the hazard perception test is associated with a lower risk of crashing when driving post-licence (in GB and Australia respectively). However it is not clear if this is due to training, or simply due to the fact that the hazard perception test measures an important competency for safety, therefore delaying access to driving to those drivers who lack the required level of skill.

    • There is not yet a consensus for how to best train, or test, higher order skills such as hazard perception. Studies have shown for example that hazard perception can be trained by having drivers undertake on-road training (McKenna & Crick, 1994), by listening to a commentary drive accompanying video (e.g. McKenna & Crick, 1997), and by interacting with hazards in a simulator (Vlakveld et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2010).

  • Post-licence

    • New drivers are at the highest risk of being crash involved when they first receive their full drivers licence – higher than at any other time in their driving career. Their crash risk drops sharply with on-road experience, and with increasing age.

    • Several reviews and meta-analyses of driver training and education targeted at improving the safety of new drivers have been conducted, using data from a range of countries. The findings are consistent. All of the reviews have concluded that driver education and training has little or no reliable direct effect on road safety in terms of reductions in collision risk for new drivers (e.g. Brown, Groeger, & Biehl, 1987; Christie, 2001; Clinton & Lonero, 2006; Helman et al., 2010; Kinnear et al., 2013; Mayhew, Simpson & Robinson, 2002; Mayhew, Simpson, Williams, & Ferguson, 1998; Roberts & Kwan, 2001; Vernick, Li, Ogaitis, Mackenzie, Baker & Gielen, 1999).

    • A systematic review of post-licence driver training (Ker et al., 2003) looking largely at remedial education courses in the United States, came to the same conclusion as novice driver training reviews; there is no strong evidence that such interventions reduce crashes, and only very weak evidence that they reduce re-offending. There are some promising findings from recent research (e.g. af Wåhlberg, 2011), but as yet firm evidence showing consistent positive benefits of such training are lacking.


  • In the absence of strong evidence of effectiveness, the most important advice for those seeking to administer training and education interventions for pre-drivers, learner drivers, and novice drivers is to ensure that such interventions are based on formal theory and knowledge from relevant domains such as psychology and the other behavioural sciences, and to ensure that such interventions are properly evaluated using scientifically robust designs (e.g. Helman et al., 2010; McKenna, 2010; Kinnear et al., 2013.; Lonero & Mayhew, 2010; Thomas et al., 2012).

  • While driver training and education has failed to demonstrate effectiveness for improving safety directly, researchers nevertheless acknowledge that training and education play an extremely important role in developing cultural values, beliefs, skills and legitimising safety relevant enforcement and legislation.

  • Driver training and education should not be expected to improve safety on its own. Driver training and education should occur within an evidence-based holistic and lifelong driver licensing system, such as graduated driver licensing, with a developmental curriculum providing support and legitimacy for the things that do reduce risk (for example enforcement and reduced exposure).

  • The value to society of driver training and education is probably not in direct prevention of crashes and casualties, but in the legitimising and developing a safety culture that can provide mechanisms that do reduce the risk of crashes and casualties.

  • Evaluation in this context is manageable (i.e. the aims are more easily tested) and critical to determine that maximum benefit is being derived from programme resources.

  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:09 AM
  • Last Update: 01 Feb 2014, 11:34 AM