DRIVER 2020 is a real-world trial of interventions to help newly-qualified drivers improve their skills and safety when they begin driving post-test. It forms part of the Government’s Road Safety Strategy, first mentioned in the 2015 Road Safety Statement. The research is being led by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), helping with delivery of one of the interventions and also helping with the recruitment of learner drivers. This article explains the thinking behind the trial, and explains how ADIs like you can help.
HELPING NEWLY-QUALIFIED DRIVERS IMPROVE THEIR SKILL AND SAFETY
Newly qualified drivers remain a stubborn safety risk on UK roads. The excellent work done by driving instructors across the country in preparing their learners for the theory and practical tests is widely acknowledged, but any additional interventions newly qualified drivers can get to help them adapt to driving after the test are clearly to be welcomed.
Driver 2020 is testing several such interventions, and some of these are targeted at learner drivers; they are additional things that learners can do to supplement what they already get from their driving instructors.
The project is really the only one of its kind in the world. It is using the ‘gold-standard’ method of testing the effectiveness of interventions – a randomised controlled trial (RCT). This is the kind of trial design used in medicine and other areas of healthcare to test new drugs and treatments, and will enable us to say with good confidence which of the interventions being tested actually work to make drivers safer.
The reason an RCT works is that people are not given a choice as to which intervention they receive – people are assigned to a group entirely on the basis of a random process. This means that the Driver 2020 study will avoid the problem with many similar trials, which is that if you allow people to self-select into a particular intervention then any difference in outcomes might be because of the types of people who sign up, rather than the intervention itself.
A good example of this is that people who choose to take part in driver training may be more safety-minded than those who do not; if we were to see such people being safer, it might not be due to the training, but just because of the kind of people they are.
The project will run between now and early 2021, and there is one main challenge. Over the next year or so, we need to recruit upwards of 12,000 learner drivers to take part. This is where you come in.
How you can help
WHAT IF YOU WANT TO BE INVOLVED FURTHER?
Some of your learners, if they sign up to the study, may be allocated to an intervention designed to help them track and plan their learning. If you are approached by a learner in this group they may ask for your help with this, but you don’t need to do anything specific to help unless you are asked by a learner. If you are asked by a learner to help them with tracking and planning their learning, then it is up to you how you support this.
Aside from this, all we would like you to do is advertise the trial to your learners as described above. We’ll aim to keep you up-to-date over the next year or so with progress in recruiting learners, and also beyond that on the rest of the research as the findings become available. Note that the project does run until early 2021 – we need that long to allow the many thousands of people to pass their test, and accumulate enough post-test experience to complete our surveys.
Shaun Helman, Chief Scientist for Transportation and the Project Director of Driver 2020, said: “Without the help of Approved Driving Instructors like those in the MSA GB membership, research projects like Driver 2020 simply cannot succeed. I’m looking forward to great levels of support from the profession, as we have received from previous TRL projects like this.”
He added: “I’m also looking forward to being able to come back to the profession at the end of the project to see what role they can play in implementing whatever we find, so that we can all work together to improve the safety of the people we all serve – those new drivers who are hungry to learn, to improve, and to make the roads safer.”