Young Drivers

Young Drivers


  • In 2016, 13% of all car occupants killed or seriously injured were young car drivers aged 17-25 years. For this age group there were 110 fatalities in 2016, a 17 per cent fall from the 2011-15 average (RRCGB, DfT, 2017). These reductions may reflect the proportion of young drivers with a licence which has decreased since the early 1990s.

  • These reductions may reflect fewer young drivers on the road. The proportion of young adults (aged 17-20) with a full driving licence has decreased since the early 1990s. In 1995/97, 43% of those aged 17-20 held a full licence, compared with a low of 27% in 2004 and 31% in 2016.

  • At the same time, young car owners seem to be relatively vulnerable to a shift to being car non-owners. The chance of such a change occurring in 2010-2011 was estimated to be 206.1% higher for households where the oldest person was aged 16-24 than for households where the oldest person was aged 45 to 59 years old.

  • Department for Transport reported that young drivers aged 17 to 24 years in 2009 were over represented in car accident statistics. They accounted for 12% of all licence holders, but of all accidents, 26% (over 42,000) involved at least one young car driver.

  • In 2009, young car drivers were most often driving straight ahead immediately before the accident (46%); the corresponding percent%age was slightly lower for older drivers (43%).

  • In 2009, negotiating a curve, bending left or right, accounted for twice the proportion of young car driver manoeuvres compared to older car drivers prior to an accident. The figures were 14% for young car drivers versus 7% for older car drivers. Most young drivers (43%) were not at a junction when they were involved in an accident compared with 38% of older car drivers.

  • When analysing the first years of licensure, drivers’ aberrant behaviours, such as aggressive violations, ordinary violations, errors and slips, are exhibited more frequently. This appeared to be a case for all subsets of drivers and was particularly noticeable for males and younger drivers.

  • A survival analysis of the length of time to new drivers’ first accident found three factors were associated with longer ‘survival’ rates: increased age, driving experience (possibly driving in busy town centres and in the rain) and a self-reported driving style characterised as ‘attentive, careful, responsible and safe’.

  • While driver age is a risk factor for collisions (with the youngest new drivers at most risk), the experience drivers gain in the first six months after passing their test plays a more significant role in reducing their collision rates.

  • However, young drivers generally decouple themselves from young drivers’ collision statistics and ascribe them rather to a few irresponsible individuals. Experience does not seem to be a key quality in their view. Becoming a good driver is merely associated with gaining confidence at the wheel.

  • There is a need for greater clarity about what needs to be learned in order to drive safely and to encourage learners to take responsibility for their learning, through effective progress reporting and self-evaluation.

  • Young people in one study defined being a good driver as the mastery of three different and parallel kinds of activity:

  • Driving as a physical activity is about safely controlling and guiding a physical object through a complex environment (controlling the car, reading and reacting to road conditions, reading and anticipating other drivers).

  • Driving as a social activity is about operating in a shared space in a way that ensures everyone is kept happy, and in a way that builds and maintains a desired image of oneself as a driver.

  • Driving as an emotional activity is about preserving an appropriate frame of mind to drive well in the face of distractions and annoyances (right level of mental alertness and assertiveness).

  • Addressing driving as an emotional activity can be particularly difficult in the case of adolescents since this developmental stage is characterised by emotional distortions and reactions. Moreover, in some social circles, this lack of self-regulation may become a way of self-expression and, along with car modifying, may become a means of creating and sustaining individual and collective identities of young people.      

  • Learner drivers with a more tolerant attitude to their own driving violations (many of them speed-related) tend to go on to have a higher post-test accident liability, based on measures from the Attitudes to Driving Violations Scale (ADVS).

  • The current arrangements for training and testing appear to motivate drivers to apply for the test as soon as they think they have a moderate chance of passing. In order to improve their safety on the roads, learners and new drivers need to be encouraged to learn more than what is currently tested – for example, getting experience of the full range of driving conditions, such as night-time driving and driving in bad weather and on motorways.

  • There is little research evidence that increased formal driver training improves safety. A number of themes have emerged that offer the hope of improving the effectiveness of training, one being the desirability of improving the hazard perception skills of learner drivers.

  • The introduction of multiple components of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) could result in saving at least 4,478 casualties, which is considered to be a conservative estimation. In terms of absolute number of casualties, it would be more effective in the more populated and more urban regions, whereas when considering relative numbers, it would be more beneficial for rural regions. Limitations on passenger numbers (in general) and on driving between midnight and 5 a.m., would be welcomed by over 60% of British adults aged 16-75. In the group of employed young adults aged 17 to 19 years old who commute to work with the use of their own car, this amounted to 29% and in the group of 20 to 24 years old it was 46%. 

  • Graduated Driver Licensing has not currently been introduced as a government scheme in the UK. Whilst not a complete substitute, there is a role for parents in the first months after licensure. As the car key-keepers, parents’ actual engagement in post-licensure driving development (through imposing rules and limitations on their children and their use of the car) could assist in those highly critical first months of driving.



  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:08 AM
  • Last Update: 12 Jan 2018, 12:32 PM