A new report has been published looking at the future of driving, young drivers and learning to drive.

Taken from this year’s Young Driver Focus – an annual conference organised by FirstCar – it concentrated on the effects of technology and the future of driving.

This is particularly important to young drivers and those learning to drive now. But also, it is important reading for everyone involved in young driver training and road safety.

Academics,  charitable organisations, road safety experts, government representation and local driver trainers and road safety officers took part in the popular event.

There were many highlights and certainly plenty of interesting new research when it comes to young drivers and keeping them safe on the road.

Testing times

Loveday Rider, Chief Executive of the DVSA, admitted that their main focus was on getting test waiting times down following the Covid lockdowns. However, research has found that 53% of learners don’t feel properly prepared for the practical test. This is an important point for driver trainers to take on board. In itself, ensuring candidates are more fully prepared prior to taking the test could make a massive difference to test pass rates. Improving pass rates, reduces retakes and waiting times, but is also likely to produce safer young drivers. But she also admitted that the whole process is a team effort – the DVSA, ADIs, parents and the candidates themselves.

Young driver survey

Dr Jill Weekley and Dr Shaun Helman from TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) looked at some of the results from the Driver 2020 project. Interestingly, one fact that stood out was the fact that drivers who passed before the pandemic were more likely to have a crash in the first 12 months of driving than those who passed after the pandemic started. The working hypothesis is that drivers who passed after the pandemic had their test delayed, spent more time gaining on the road experience.

Another finding was that respondents averaged close to 75 hours of learner driving (43.8 hours with ADI, and an additional 29.7 hours with another supervising driver).

A virtual reality

Dr Devon Allcoat, Assistant Professor, University of Warwick, has been researching the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) in the driver training process. Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people were enthusiastic about this development and using it in the learning process. They engage with it more readily and had greater concentration levels. Although success using this approach only improved results slightly, it’s active learning, engagement, affordability and accessibility provides new possibilities in improving and embedding learning.

Dr Victoria Kroll, CEO, Esitu Solutions, has been studying VR in regard to Hazard Perception. Again, the results are positive though not ground breaking. However, VR-trained drivers had lower speeds, smoother driving paths and higher hazard prediction accuracy than those trained on a single screens or without additional training. Though this difference was not highly significant, it revealed that there are potential positives for driver training and road safety through the use of such technology.

Read the report

Many other speakers and areas of research were discussed. They provide thought provoking information that can help advance road safety and driver training with young people. The evolution of technology is and, will continue to be, an important aspect of the work we do as driver trainers. This report provides a few highlights and insights into the future of learning behind the wheel.

You can read the highlight report of this year’s conference here.