Archive for the ‘Essential Thinking Skills’ Category

Young Drivers and Deadly Passengers

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Young Drivers and Deadly Passengers is the fourth part in Stephen Haley’s thought provoking series titled “How to Make Novice Driver’s Crash”.

“Three teenage passengers killed themselves and their driver in a horrific crash last night.”

It’s a headline you will never see. Drivers are required to be in control, whatever their passengers do.

Yet it is well documented that the crash rate of young drivers is greatly increased when they carry peer passengers. And the passengers are not always aware of the influence they are having.

This article is about how this happens and can be prevented. It sets out specific and simple ‘passenger skills’ for both drivers and passengers. The material is easy to use for the youngsters themselves, or for adults running groups sessions.

Graduated licensing systems often place restrictions on peer passengers, but when it is possible we should see ‘how-to-do-it-safely’ as a better and fairer approach than ‘just-stop-doing-it’.

Banning young people from risky things might seem an easy and obvious solution. But it holds them back, and usually feels unfair to them. It stunts development, and is also likely to surface as resentment somewhere. The vast majority are not deliberately reckless. They are fun loving and excitable, certainly, but not suicidally so.

The increased risk when young drivers have peer passengers is not inevitable, and a lot more could be done to teach specific passenger skills. Not only to youngsters who are learning to drive, but also to all children as part of road safety training at school.

Putting encouragement before restriction is a more positive and helpful adult role – and means thinking harder about how to teach young people to manage risk safely.

This not only gives them the benefits of the activity – in this case driving, it also instils a far more self- reliant, robust and responsible approach to becoming an adult themselves. It’s a better picture of what an adult needs to be.

Young Drivers and Deadly Passengers

Download a PDF copy of the article

Post-test training too late for young drivers

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The IAM proposal today to Mike Penning MP misses the point [1]. The call for compulsory post-test training for young drivers might help, but it overlooks the most critical part of the problem.

Suggesting that training should be required within a year of passing the test is also too late. Crash statistics show that the worst period for young driver casualties is concentrated in the very first few months after the test. By the end of the first year new drivers have already significantly reduced their crash rate by themselves without any further training.

So how can we say that a vital need for better safety training can be left until post-test? Any skills which could achieve “outstanding results” must surely be implemented pre-test. Also, since these crashes involve a lot of other road users, there is an even stronger case for these skills to be included in the test and examined on a pass-or-fail basis.

Therefore it is incorrect to say that high casualties “…graphically highlights the need for legislation that insists on post-test training…”. In fact, the need is clearly to improve pre-test training and the test itself.

Not just young drivers at risk – but all “new” drivers
Young drivers are often stated as a statistic when it comes to casualties, however the issue it much is wider than ‘young’ drivers alone. Data from the Cohort II study in 2008 showed that ‘New’ drivers of all ages have a high crash risk immediately after passing the test, which is only slightly reduced with the age of the new driver [2].

If ‘learning-to-drive’ is seen as a process, the failure point is clearly the test standard. Passing the test moves drivers from a very safe category (Learner) instantly to the most dangerous (novice). No business would be allowed to tolerate such a dangerous process, so why do we allow our young drivers to take to the road without the skills required to make them safer?

Increased focus on post-test training is always welcome. But the best contribution, especially for young drivers, would be to acknowledge that the current test standard is creating unsafe drivers. The DfT must stop denying Learners the safety skills we all know they need. This is the unacceptable killer. calls on Mike Penning MP to undertake an urgent review of Learner training and testing, so that passing the test is not such a dangerous event.


[2] Road Safety Research Report No. 87, Learning to Drive: The Evidence”, DfT, May 2008, p16

Peer Pressure – Driving Under the Influence

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Stephen Haley has written a third article in his thought-provoking series, “How to make novice drivers crash”. This one is on Peer Pressure.

The article opens with: “Another title for this article could have been, “Friends Killing Each Other”. It is about peer pressure on young drivers – how it works, the effect and how to overcome it”.

See what you think. I believe that, for both adults and youngsters, this article contains a lot of very practical help in a vital area of driving.

The full article can be downloaded from this link: Peer Pressure – Driving Under the Influence by Stephen Haley


Young drivers still have about five times the death rate of other drivers, and a strong influence in raising their risk is peer pressure.

At the root of the problem, adolescents feel a strong need to impress their peers. And this obsession is a weakness in making their own decisions. Peer pressure is anchored in a subconscious belief that, “I must do what my peers want and expect”. But trying to impress rarely has the intended effect – especially with reckless driving.

The motives of people who apply this pressure are explained, especially that it is a form of exercising control. Also set out are the reasons why peer pressure is so strong for adolescents in particular.

A separate section, written more directly to young people themselves, offers Twenty Tips for handling peer pressure. These include how to prepare for it in advance, and how to make it less likely to happen.

Importantly, it is not inevitable that peer pressure will make young drivers more dangerous. With the right help, they could handle it.


Why reduce the speed limit to 50mph on rural roads?

Friday, January 1st, 2010 – the UK’s most popular website for safe road driving, condemns the recent Government guidance to Councils to reduce the speed limit on many rural roads to 50mph. Why? Because it’s not roads that are dangerous but poorly trained drivers.

Lowering speed limits is an easy but ill-conceived and ultimately ineffective solution to tackling casualties. The wrong thinking also has no end. Why 50mph? Why not 40mph, or even 30mph?

The authorities know that most casualties occur below the posted speed limit on a given road. Trying to reduce casualties with speed limits alone would, therefore, need them to be set and rigidly enforced at levels that interfere with reasonable mobility.

Official figures also show that ‘exceeding the speed limit’ is reported by the Police as a contributing factor in only 7% of accidents for drivers aged 17-19, and less than 2% for drivers aged over 25 who form the majority of road-users (1).

Declaring more of our safe driving to be illegal is a weak and unthinking step for genuine road safety.

There is considerable concern over the ongoing proliferation of the Speed Kills campaign. This policy is continuing to create a population of drivers who do not know how to determine what a safe speed is for a given road or situation.

For more than a decade, Speed Kills has been teaching people, including millions of new drivers, that just keeping to the speed limit will keep them safe. This is a dangerous form of ‘zombie’ driving, meaning people focus much more on their speedometer as an indicator for safety, rather than the real hazards going on around them. is passionate about good safe driving, and believes that setting speed limits too low works against safety. It causes frustration in the average, responsible driver and focuses the driver’s mind on an arbitrary number (the limit) rather than encouraging good judgement of the speed which is safe for the conditions.

Sometimes even 30mph can be too fast for a rural road, whereas 60mph may be appropriate if the conditions are right for that road. Safety will always depend more on the circumstances than the posted limit.

The Government should be providing better driver training to stop the decline in driving ability. There are simple and teachable skills that would make drivers more aware of risk, give better control of hazards and improve the ability to select a correct and safe speed, yet these skills are not being taught.

It is also not only ‘young drivers’ who are let down by their training and the over-emphasis on speed. Crash figures show that ALL ‘new drivers’ irrespective of age have high crash rates – until they start to overcome for themselves the shortcomings in what they have been taught. Clearly, new drivers improve with experience, but this should not excuse inadequate training for learner drivers from day one (2). calls on the Government to abandon the simplistic and distracting focus on ‘speed’, and use the next decade to concentrate on tackling the fundamental failures in driver training to really improve road safety in the UK.

1) DFT Road Safety Research Report No.87 Learning to Drive: The Evidence. Figure 5.5: Proportion of drivers in accidents with factors attributable to the driver, by age group of driver, 2006

2) DFT Road Safety Research Report No.87 Learning to Drive: The Evidence. Figure 1.1: The effects of age (maturation) and experience on accident liability