The Cohort study was initiated in 1988 to examine the contribution that training can make in preparing young and novice drivers for the risks they will face on the roads. This report is the third in a series of four, and deals with a survey of the experiences of about 9000 novice drivers during their first three years of driving after passing the L-test. The objectives of this survey were: (i) to determine the exposure to risk of newly qualified drivers, (ii) to obtain data on the numbers and circumstances of the accidents in which these drivers were involved, (iii) to obtain information about the offences these newly qualified drivers had committed during these early years, and (iv) to establish relationships between accident liability and the variables which influence it. As part of the first year survey, the cohort sample who passed their test in November 1988 (phase 1) were asked questions about the accidents in which they had been involved when learning to drive. The report gives details of the Cohort drivers' exposure to risk in the first three years of driving, in terms of how often they drove in different conditions, the number of miles they drove, and the proportion of time they spent on different types of road. The report also provides a summary of the accidents and offences in which the drivers had been involved. Tabulations of accident frequencies by mileage, age and sex are given. The frequency of occurrence of offences is reported and the relationship between accident and offences is illustrated. A multivariate analysis of accidents demonstrates that the first few years of driving are crucial in determining the accident liability of new drivers; accident liabilities fall by some 35-40 per cent due to experience alone in the first year of driving. Increasing age also results in a reduction in accidents, although the magnitude of this effect in the first few years of driving is considerably less than the effect of added experience. The non-proportional effect of annual mileage on accident liability is illustrated. The analyses reported here will form the basis of part 4 of the Cohort study which will relate accident liability to methods of learning to drive, performance on the L-test and self reported driving behaviour. (A)

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