It is widely accepted in Great Britain (GB) and across the world that those drivers who have only recently become licensed to drive unaccompanied (especially if they are also young) are at a greatly increased risk of having a collision while driving, when compared with drivers who have more experience. In GB the most recent evidence (see Wells, Tong, Sexton, Grayson & Jones, 2008) suggests that the average driver who begins to
drive at 17 years of age is 50% less likely to have a collision after just one year of postlicence
driving when compared with their level of risk in the first six months post-licence. A number of systematic reviews of the driver training and education literature have shown that training and education as delivered in the past for new drivers has been ineffective in lowering their collision risk. Helman, Grayson and Parkes (2010) among many others have suggested that one possible reason for this is that traditional approaches may have been focused on vehicle control skills and other factors that are required to pass practical driving tests but may not be related to collision risk.

With the intention of improving the extent to which learning to drive prepares learners for post-licence driving, the DSA have developed a new syllabus which is designed to be delivered in a ‘client-centred’ style similar to the ‘coaching’ approach used in the EU Hermes project. It is intended that the new syllabus and process will lead to learner drivers taking more ownership of their own learning, and will result in them beginning their unaccompanied driving careers with safer attitudes to key risk-relevant behaviours.
The learning to drive evaluation project This report discusses two years of quantitative research carried out as part of an overall evaluation study of the new syllabus and process. An earlier report (McWhirter et al.,
2012) reported on the qualitative research carried out as part of the same overall project.

The study utilised a design in which participants experienced either the new syllabus (treatment group), or the existing approach to learning to drive (control group). Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) who volunteered to take part in the research were assigned randomly to one of these two groups, meaning that their learner drivers were effectively assigned to one of the groups pseudo-randomly (that is, by virtue of the ADI they happened to choose for their lessons). Data on what the ADIs in the two groups actually delivered, and their attitudes towards what the learning to drive process should focus on, were collected through a questionnaire mid-way through the study. Data on a number of demographic, attitudinal and behavioural variables were collected from learner drivers at a time point early in their learning process, and then again after they had passed their practical driving test. The purpose of this design was to establish if the treatment group showed a different pattern of changes on the measures used over the learning period than the pattern of changes observed in learners in the control group. The data recorded from learners related to their characteristics (age, gender, personality), the learning to drive process itself (number of lessons, amount of private practice, time taken to pass theory and practical driving test), and to a number of self report attitudinal and behavioural variables that are either known or strongly suspected
as being linked to collision risk (for example attitudes to risky driving behaviours such as speeding, and scores on the hazard perception element of the theory test).

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