High Accident Risk Among Novice Drivers

Author: Matthias Gaul

Jul 20, 2022 Safety on the road

The DEKRA Road Safety Report 2022 deals with the “Mobility of Young People”. In it, DEKRA presents solutions to ensure that fewer 15- to 24-year-old traffic participants worldwide will be involved in accidents in the future.

Male, driving a car or motorcycle, speeding, and possibly intoxicated: These four factors dominate road accidents involving young people in many countries all over the world. To be sure, the number of traffic participants between the ages of 15 and 24, who are killed or seriously injured in accidents, has fallen significantly over the last ten years. However, in relation to one million inhabitants, the figures for this age group are still significantly higher than the average for other age groups. According to the latest available numbers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, about 175,000 people aged 15 to 24 were killed on roads worldwide in 2019. That represents about 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.
The risks of novice drivers
The risks, whether consciously or unconsciously taken, are well known. Excessive speed, overestimating one’s own capabilities, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and distraction from traffic because of the use of digital media, for example, play just as much a part as not wearing a seatbelt and riding a (motor)bike without a helmet. The risk of accidents also increases in particular for novice drivers on smaller, winding roads outside built-up areas – possibly behind the wheel of an older vehicle with technical defects.
“This must be an unmistakable mandate for all involved to take all possible countermeasures,” said Jann Fehlauer, Managing Director of DEKRA Automobil GmbH, at the presentation of the DEKRA Road Safety Report 2022 “Mobility of Young People” in Berlin. As the report shows, very central factors in the field of prevention and mitigation of accident consequences are: vehicle technology, driver assistance systems, road infrastructure, legislation, traffic monitoring, road safety education including accompanying campaigns, driver training, as well as many other measures.
Immature hazard perception among novice drivers
According to British psychologist David Crundall, the fact that novice drivers are repeatedly involved in accidents is partly due to deficits in hazard perception. In other words, it’s due to insufficient ability to recognize dangerous situations on the road in time to react appropriately and avoid accidents. “This involves a multi-layered chain of behaviors, which only develop with increasing driving experience,” Crundall says. According to him, it starts with recognizing potential “hazard precursors”. This could be, for example, an oncoming vehicle that must cross the lane in order to turn into a side street. Or a vehicle whose structural dimensions obscure a pedestrian. If the resulting indications of a potential hazard are low, ideally the driver continues to scan the area and a priority hierarchy forms over time. “This ranking is constantly in flux, as new elements are added to the list, old elements fall away, and current elements are reordered according to the dynamic situation,” the psychologist explains. If you fail to lock in on a “precursor” before a danger actually arises, it may already be too late for an appropriate response.
Novice drivers often own older vehicles with defects
In order to highlight the importance of a vehicle’s sound technical condition, several driving tests were carried out at the DEKRA Lausitzring in particular for this year’s Road Safety Report. Once again, it became clear that stable contact between tires and road surface – regardless of weather and road surface conditions – is of essential importance. Only then is it possible to ensure that assistance systems such as ABS or ESP work effectively.
In light of the fact that many young drivers very often drive older vehicles, primarily for financial reasons, periodic vehicle monitoring remains a very central element for road safety. This is because aging, wear and tear, and often a lack of awareness of technical defects, as well as saving money on repairs and maintenance inevitably mean that older passenger cars are much more likely to have significant defects and thus pose a greater accident risk than newer vehicles.
“Regardless of the measures taken and technology installed, it’s still the individual who has the greatest influence on the occurrence of an accident,” Jann Fehlauer points out. All traffic participants’ responsible behavior, constant concentration on traffic, correct assessment of their own abilities, and a high degree of acceptance of the rules are indispensable.
The DEKRA Road Safety Report 2022 “Mobility of Young People” is soon available for download online at www.dekra-roadsafety.com. Current all previous reports can be found there, including additional content, for example in the form of moving images or interactive graphics.
DEKRA’s demands for more road safety for young people
  • Particularly dangerous behaviors such as drunk and drugged driving, distraction by smartphones, or excessive speeding must be consistently checked and punished.
  • An absolute ban on drinking and driving must apply to novice drivers everywhere. Experience in various countries, including Germany, proves its effectiveness.
  • The degree of dissemination and use of telematics-based feedback systems must be increased.
  • Young male novice drivers pose a far above-average risk to themselves and others. This group must be given special attention in road safety work – even before the start of driver training.
  • The multi-stage acquisition of the driver’s license has proven itself in many places and should therefore be introduced in more countries.
  • Only a transparent, standardized, and high-quality theoretical and practical test for obtaining a driver’s license, independent of driving schools, ensures the necessary quality standard in driver training.
  • The handling of driver assistance systems and automated driving functions must be taught everywhere during driving training, but the limits of these systems must also be made clear. Ideally, the safe use of these systems should also become part of the driving test.
  • Practical driving training must be as comprehensive as possible with regard to road characteristics (inner-city, narrow country roads, highway) and lighting conditions (night driving) in all countries.
  • Considering the fact that many young people have fatal accidents on rural roads, the primary goal must be self-explanatory roads with error-forgiving side space design, when constructing such new roads or making road design changes.
  • The functionality of mechanical and electronic components of vehicle safety systems must be guaranteed throughout a vehicle’s life. The contents of periodic motor vehicle monitoring must be adjusted accordingly on a regular basis.