Young Driver Research Strategy

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #85 - 1996

Authors: A. Cavallo; T. J. Triggs

Full report in .pdf format [2.2MB]


Road accidents remain a leading cause of injury and death for young drivers in Australia. This Research Strategy provides a plan for young driver research and outlines some interventions to redress the young driver problem. Initially, the factors involved in young driver accidents are reviewed. It is argued that a comprehensive and coordinated approach to young driver research and intervention offers the most promise, and that such an approach should encompass education, licensing, legislation, enforcement and technology (e.g. simulation). A prioritised list of programs for research and countermeasure development across these areas is provided. It is envisaged that road safety agencies will utilise this information when planning research and interventions to address the young driver problem.

Executive Summary


Young drivers constitute a large, robust and, to date, an intractable road safety problem world-wide. At the same time there is significant potential for improvements to their risk of road trauma.

This Research Strategy identifies key areas for young driver research and also proposes the types of interventions which can help achieve a safer driving system for young drivers.

The aim of the research proposed in this Strategy is to facilitate the development of a comprehensive, well co-ordinated and integrated set of intervention programs, backed up by sound scientific data. In line with this, a programmatic focus is used in defining research needs. The contents of this document can be used to support the recently launched "Safety First" Victorian Road Safety Strategy.

This Research Strategy draws on a more comprehensive paper entitled "Directions for Improving Young Driver Safety in Victoria: A Discussion Paper".


Despite a significant improvement between 1990 and 1994, the cost of young driver deaths and injuries in this time is estimated to be in the vicinity of $750 million in total, and approximately $150 million per annum.

Road accidents continue to be the primary cause of death for young adults aged 15 to 24 years for both Victoria and Australia.


A variety of research topics and programs across the domains of education, licensing, legislation, enforcement and technology has been proposed to reduce young driver involvement in road accidents. Optimisation of some current programs, significant changes to others, and new types of initiatives are suggested.

A comprehensive and integrated range of interventions and related research projects have the most potential for achieving young driver accident reductions. Improving young driver skill for instance, without the containment of young driver overconfidence and risk acceptance or the deterrence of high risk behaviours for example, could limit the effectiveness of efforts in this area.

A two-staged process was used to define research projects:

  1. consideration of factors contributing to young driver accidents and general types of measures which could counter or reduce these factors, and
  2. consideration of research topics to augment and facilitate the development of effective and efficient interventions and strategies.

The first stage of this process is reported in its entirety in the companion discussion paper. The second stage is reported more completely in this Strategy document.

The framework used for defining research topics and intervention strategies is depicted below.


RESPONSE Research to develop a new Licensing System

and new training programs to better prepare & train new drivers

Research to manage high risk driving situations and promote accumulation of low risk experience Research to increase deterrence of high risk driving behaviours Research to develop effective education, promotion & incentives to support goals of licensing, deterrence, changes in social norms and risk acceptance to achieve behavioural shifts Research to develop preventive programs to deter traffic offenders and young problem drivers
LEARNER DRIVING strategies to increase skill of newly licensed drivers

enhance learner driving experience

support preparation for licensed driving via new training methods & programs - use of technology

strategies to encourage more learner driving practice   educational programs & promotional strategies across school, peers, parents, health settings, the media

successful school-based health education models

peer education programs

LICENCE TESTING develop quality tests & new methods of testing

use of technology

minimum licensing age 18 review effect of reduction      
PROBATIONARY LICENCE PERIOD (3 YEARS) design a safe driving passage using GLS principles

support skill development via new training methods &

strategies to encourage low risk and discourage high risk driving using regulation, promotion or incentives legislation & improved penalty systems



supported by

education & training to increase awareness of risk and limitations of own driving capacity

use of technology

successful health promotion

measures targeted

at offenders

FULL LICENCE PERIOD UP TO 25 YEARS programs   promotional

activities oriented to young driver



social modelling strategies

communication strategies

preventive & remedial programs

It is argued that a combination of integrated and interlocking strategies with consistent aims will produce greatest effect. Hence research topics are derived from across this framework. Potential countermeasures and intervention strategies are discussed at a general level only because several policy variants could equally be justified, based on current knowledge of likely effectiveness.

Initiatives across the strategic areas summarised below are proposed within the Research Strategy:

  • Research and development of a comprehensive new driver licensing system and new programs and methods to prepare and train new drivers
  • Research and development of policies & programs to manage travel patterns & reduce high risk driving situations for young drivers
  • Research and development of educational and promotional programs to reduce the impact of age related motivations, moderate risk acceptance & risky driving
  • Research and development of optimised deterrence programs to reduce specific high risk driving behaviours by young drivers: Speed, Alcohol & Restraints
  • Research & review to improve deterrence programs & penalty systems to reduce traffic offences and related high risk behaviours amongst young drivers
  • Research and interventions to target young offenders and young problem drivers to reduce illegal & aberrant driving
  • Research for effective incentives to encourage the adoption of safe behaviours, use of safety devices and driving under low risk conditions for newly licensed drivers
  • Research into the use of technologies for the development of training & licensing programs, & for in vehicle highway systems
  • Other research including accident risks, longitudinal research, evaluation of programs, international review of developments in licensing, technology, and other relevant areas.

It is envisaged that road safety agencies will utilise this Research Strategy for planning future research and setting directions for the development of young driver interventions. A prioritised listing of program areas and projects for research and countermeasure development is provided for planning future directions. An expert group should review the proposed research and provide guidance as to the expected timing, costs and priority of the projects which are likely to lead to cost effective countermeasures.

A list of potential action items, which with modest or minimal research could be usefully implemented in advance of an integrated package of research and measures, is provided in Appendix A of this report.

It is recommended that a Young Driver Taskforce be established to ensure the use of research outcomes and implementation of appropriate interventions in a co-ordinated, integrated and timely way.

Sponsoring Organisation: Baseline Research Program - Department of Justice, Transport Accident Commission, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd, VicRoads