Advice for the Rural Motorist
Winter 2019/20: Be Prepared
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Young Drivers Commentary


Tomorrow the RSGB Young Driver Focus conference and awards will be taking place in London, where we have been shortlisted in one of the categories. Which very neatly follows on from a new report from Co-Operative Insurance Young people in the driving seat, which took my eye.

With the failure of the young driver’s green paper to make it through the coalition government, it seems as though the likelihood of GDL and a full review of the learning experience coming up again on the agenda any time soon is slim at best. However, this report identifies that of their sample, the majority are keen to have many these changes implemented. Changes such as; Longer or fixed learning periods, to include driving on the motorways, and at night.

However, as practitioners, we have very little influence over decisions that are made at the top level, so what can we do to improve the situation?

Traditional road safety practice would be to tell them all how much they are at risk just by being both young and a driver, and that they must not do all of the things that they already know are bad. Indeed, the report does point out that 24% admit to break the speed limits, 16% use the phone while driving, and 10% get easily distracted.

However, when we take a look at these statements again from the opposite view…; 76% don’t break the speed limits, 84% don’t use their phones while driving, and 90% don’t easily get distracted.

All in all, the majority of these young people are doing the right things, this reflects a lot of our own research. As a demographic, the young people of today are all round much better behaved in general. They have incredibly low intentions of performing bad behaviours, but by constantly telling them what not to do, they are coming to the assumption that more people do these bad things than actually do.

Our approach is to use the carrot rather than the stick. We flip things on their head and use positive framing and messaging to help them realise that hardly anyone is doing these bad things, because just like you thought; they’re stupid.

We try to instil a sense of cultural change among this age group by improving the ‘social norm’ around Young Drivers and their behaviour. We don’t deny that they are at greater risk, but not because they do stupid things, but because they are inexperienced. We encourage them to take longer to learn and to expose themselves to different kinds of driving situations before taking their test.

We may not be able to change the law, but we can encourage self-regulation among these younger people to try and fill the gap that GDL is yet to fill.

Co-operative Insurance were earlier adopters and advocates of telematics insurance, a system that monitors their driving and provides rewards for good driving in the form of discounts off their premium. It’s a mechanism of encouragement for the driver to be as good as they can be.

This combined with positive social messaging can help progress society without the need for legal changes to help instigate it.

DriveStart is an innovative program aimed at doing just this. Delivered through a growing programme of experience days, support for accompanying drivers and extensive online and social media engagement, it uses positive messaging to encourage a wider change in perceptions, not just in an individual.