Graduated Driving Licences or Professional Driver Training

Worldwide, statistics consistently indicate that 95% of all vehicle crashes or incidents are caused by driver error.  Unfortunately, ‘new drivers’ in the first 2 years after passing their test are more than 5 times more likely to be a statistic than the ‘experienced’ driver.

Why is this? What should be done about this?  Further restrict the freedom of every new and experienced driver by the imposition of more costly restrictions? Or improve and extend the training of the ‘new’ driver?

For various reasons, and despite the implementation of new procedures such as Theory and Hazard Perception testing, the crash statistics relating to new drivers are not improving.  The lack of improvement is provoking agencies to investigate a new layer of restrictive measures in the form of Graduated Driver Licensing – UK included.

Some authorities already operate a ‘Graduated Driving Licence’ system and it would appear that the benefits are not always as would be led to believe.  A report of the system operated in New Zealand would appear to contradict the claims that GDL is the answer.  (White Rose Research Online

The majority of drivers do not take risks intentionally – they naively and needlessly place themselves and others at risk through a lack of knowledge and understanding.  Regardless of the restrictions placed on them, some of those who may wish to drive ‘competently’ and comply with good driving practice will still be involved in major and minor ’crashes’ due to lack of adequate training.

Those who enjoy ‘risk taking’ will continue to take risks, regardless of GDL restrictions, unless their attitude can be modified before, during and after training.

A very achievable, cost neutral and effective alternative to GDL is to ‘improve and expand the basic training’ of the new driver.

Since 2009, all northern European countries have regulations in place controlling the standards of professional driving instruction and the standard required for a ‘new’ driver to drive legally unaccompanied.

The standard of assessment used for and the range of topics being assessed for the statutory driving test, the driving instructor qualifying examinations and the monitoring of an instructors continued ability to instruct, certainly in the UK and the republic of Ireland, are inadequate and woefully incomplete. The current reviews of training methods and outcomes hopefully may go some way to remedy the situation but it must be said changes are long overdue.

Up to now, the testing agencies have only been able to measure the performance of the test candidate on the day, a problem easily exploited by many instructors and training organisations who just teach their students to pass their test and not to drive or instruct.

Believe it or not, there is a huge difference.

At the same time, many driving students and their parents are only interested in getting their licence as quickly and, in many cases, as cheaply as possible and never think about or question the quality or value of the training they are paying for.

Short sighted and possibly responsible for many of the fatal consequences.

It must also be said that the current accepted testing methods available to the agencies seriously limit their ability to assess a driver’s attitude and their natural response to hazardous scenarios.

Again a very achievable, cost neutral and effective system is available to augment and complement the traditional methods of training and testing and that is to embrace technology.   On line programmes and E-learning can increase the depth of knowledge and help cultivate positive attitudes of a student driver, be they experienced or novice.

Driving Simulators can positively allow students to gain greater experience of how to deal with the most dangerous of hazards and can even assess a driver’s ability to respond correctly to minimise or avoid danger.  Furthermore, the simulator can also very convincingly make a driver very much aware of the consequences resulting from their errors or misjudgements.

GDL may look good in countries where the base level of perception of competent driving and of training and testing is currently sub-standard.

Changes to syllabus content and the quality of delivery of training and coaching plus improved testing and ‘assessment’ criteria is likely to prove in the long term the best solution.

Further restrictions in the form of GDL will not be necessary if quality of training is improved.

As for the designers and manufacturers, certainly of the simulators, they must quickly take a step back and look to see if the technology is being used to the best advantage.  My view is that up to now they are only getting about 10% out of what is possible.  Simulators must change or they will continue to be viewed quite unnecessarily as something better suited to an amusement arcade.

Barry Jones   E-mail: and

2nd October 2010

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Graduated Driving Licences – What are the alternatives?

Worldwide, statistics consistently indicate that 95% of all vehicle crashes or incidents are caused by driver error.  Unfortunately, in the first 2 years after passing their driving test ‘new drivers’ are 5 times more likely to be a statistic than the ‘experienced’ driver.

Since 2009, all northern European countries have regulations in place controlling the standards of professional driving instruction and the standard required for a ‘new’ driver to legally drive unaccompanied.

For various reasons, and despite the implementation in the UK of new procedures such as Theory and Hazard Perception testing, the crash statistics relating to new drivers are not improving.  The lack of improvement is provoking agencies to investigate a new layer of restrictive measures in the form of Graduated Driver Licensing.

Why is this? What should be done about this?  Further restrict the freedom of every new and experienced driver by the imposition of more extremely costly restrictions? Or enhance and expand the basic training of the ‘new’ driver?

The very achievable, cost neutral and effective answer has to be ‘enhance and expand the basic training’ of the new driver.

The majority of drivers do not take risks intentionally – they naively and needlessly place themselves, and others, at risk through a lack of knowledge and understanding.  Regardless of the restrictions placed on them, those who enjoy ‘risk taking’ will continue to take risks – unless their attitude can be modified.

Driver testing agencies can only measure the performance of a test candidate on the day they were tested. -a situation easily exploited by many instructors who just teach their student drivers to pass their test and but not to drive. Believe it or not, there is a huge difference.

The current ‘on road’ testing methods available to the testing agencies make it impossible to assess a drivers likely natural responses to hazardous scenarios ‘post test’ when they are driving either unaccompanied or with a car load of ‘distracting’ friends.

There is a very cost effective solution – use a new breed of driving simulator for training and testing.

Driving simulators can positively and easily overcome the current problems in areas of training, coaching and testing of both attitude and responses of new and experienced drivers.

In recent performance evaluations the modern ‘high realism’ driving simulator is clearly shown to improve standards of ability and attitude in the new driver.

Simulators, where the vehicle cab configuration provides the driver with a wide field of vision, show a 66% lower accident rate compared with the general novice driver accident statistics in the first year of driving.

The wide field of vision desktop group show only a 25% improvement while the basic single monitor group show only 13% improvement.

This improvement is achieved with simulator programmes that do not remotely reach the new standards emerging from CIECA and the DSA in the UK.

A new and fully effective, competent and complete simulator training programme is now available, that, when installed and operated on a high specification simulator, will enable a student driver: –

  • to train to a fully detailed and guided syllabus

from ‘getting into a car for the first time – to a pre test readiness assessment’

from ‘passing the driving test to independent driving solo and with friends’

  • to train to a syllabus that incorporates all 4 Goals in the GDE Matrix
  1. Vehicle Control
  2. Driving in Traffic
  3. Goals and Context of Driving
  4. Goals for Life and Skills for Living.
  • to train to a syllabus that meets all of the requirements of the Driving Standards Agency ‘new’ National Driving Standard and Driver Trainer Standards.
  • to experience learning and personal development in a style and easy format designed to meet modern requirements
  • to develop powers of anticipation, ‘Hazard Perception’  and concentration
  • to develop positive driver attitude and responsibility
  • to experience driving in dangerous situations without any risk to life or vehicles
  1. Overtaking, darkness and in poor visibility due to fog
  2. In variable degrees of rain, snow and Ice
  3. In a variety of vehicles ans range of engine capacities and power
  4. In a range of vehicle types (car, 4 x 4, vans and LGV)
  5. With and without passengers and with variable loading of the  vehicle
  6. to experience the effects of distractions on driver concentration and attitudes
  7. to have  unlimited practice and an ‘action reply’ of any session

At all times this can be achieved in a uniform, structured and controlled manner, avoiding individual instructor idiosyncrasies and deviations, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and every week of the year, in a stress free environment in perfect safety and with an immediate printed assessment of performance on completion of each training session.

When the new simulator programme is used in conjunction with a fully interactive, on-line learning programme, designed to develop knowledge and challenge predisposed attitudes in relation to driver behaviour, the student driver will have the best opportunity to reduce personal risk of being involved in any motoring incident.

Education and ‘experience’ will improve attitudes of new drivers – additional restrictions will only work if drivers are forced to comply.  In these economic times can we make the necessary enforcement resources available?  Very doubtful!

Low cost effective education is available making additional costly and ineffective restrictions and interventions unnecessary.

Barry Jones 2010©

July 2010

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Training for your Driving Test – does it help?

Following on from my previous article I have had a few comments complaining that I am unfairly criticising the UK driving test.   That could not be further from truth and is not my intention.

The UK practical driving test is one of the best in the world.  My criticism is not of the practical test but of the generally poor training that is available for the ‘new driver’ to help prepare them to survive and have an enjoyable and safe, hassle free lifetime of driving.

My criticism not of the test or individual driving instructors but of the system that allows sub-standard training of, primarily, the driving instructors to persist. If instructors do not perform proficiently how can one expect the ‘new driver’ to know any better?  The ‘on-road / in-car’ training element should be recognised as just one part of the learning process.

Road user education should be part of the national school curriculum and start from an early age. Likewise, parents should realise just how much influence they have over the formation of their children’s attitude to driving. Without either of these two elements, ‘poor quality’ instruction’ can literally be the final nail in the coffin.

Most of the ‘tweaks’ to the UK test are arguably only necessary because the problems are not being dealt with adequately, in most cases, during the practical in car training.  The best example of this is the Hazard Perception test – it does nothing to identify or develop a drivers powers of ‘anticipation’ or ‘response’. The HP Test was deemed necessary because, lamentably, the vast majority of instructors were unsuccessful at developing or just didn’t bother to develop student drivers’ powers of anticipation, attitude or response.

In the last 40 years I have trained, assessed and conducted statutory driving tests on thousands of drivers and driving instructors in all categories of road vehicle in the UK and abroad.

It is easy to assess a drivers mechanical and control skills and also to identify a drivers powers of anticipation and situation judgement.  When routinely conducting driving tests, it is also very easy to identify which instructors consistently fail to do a thorough job.  Some drivers do not have a chance because of the obvious incompetence of their instructor.

When one supervises instructors, as part of the statutory ADI register check test requirement, the situation is even more alarming with obvious deficiencies showing, even with many of the instructors whose pupils normally perform reasonably well on their driving test. The test does not confirm a driver is ‘good’ – it just acknowledges that a MINIMUM standard was observed at that particular time!

The standard of driver and driving instructor training in the UK can and should be urgently and significantly improved. Putting patches over the cracks may make it look better, and may convince some to believe everything that can be done is being done, but, the problems will remain!

A tougher test will produce an increase in the number of people driving untested and unlicensed. More restrictions may reduce casualties to a degree but they will needlessly restrict and criminalise many of the competent and responsible new drivers and will be ignored by the natural violators anyway. Additionally, if enforcement is to be uniform and thorough the added restrictions will put a huge demand on resources that we don’t have.

Don’t let’s have more patches – instead, let’s improve the standard of training made available to the unsuspecting public.

The other answer of course is to reduce the ‘bad’ instructor influence by using a properly designed driving simulator to provide uniform and consistent training for 75% of the training process.  Yes, this is very achievable.

At least with a good driving simulator, and they are as rare as hens teeth at the moment, you can train and test a driver in situations that cannot ever be tested on the road.

Barry Jones

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75 Years of the UK Driving Test – Is the system working?

Every year, around 2 million driving tests are conducted in the UK of which over 98% are carried out in a ‘driving school’ vehicle. That means over 98% of new drivers have had some contact and, one would hope, input from a ‘qualified’ driving instructor. Despite having received input and influence from their chosen ‘professional’ instructor 57% of all tests will result in a fail.
Regardless of whether the candidate passes on their first or their umpteenth attempt, the newly licensed driver is at least 5 times more likely to be involved in a serious motoring incident, in the first 2 years after passing the test, than a driver with more than 2 years experience. It is a fact that more teenagers die as the result of a motoring incident than from any other cause.
Although much research has been done by various bodies in the last 20 years to identify some of the causes, some of the findings have been obvious for many years. Unfortunately the obvious conclusions and the implementation of the necessary solutions may not be popular in many quarters, particularly the commercial end of the business.
There are a number of reasons why so many test candidates achieve such abysmally poor results when they present themselves for their driving test and why the so many of the drivers who have passed their test become involved in so many serious motoring incidents.
After 75 years of testing why do 53% of all tests result in a fail? Is it that the test is too difficult? Who or what is to blame?
The attitude of the ‘new drivers’? Parental behaviour and example? Society attitudes?
The Instructor? The company that trained the instructor? The training syllabus?
The test? The assessment criteria? The testing agency? The government?
We could go on and on but, in fact, all are responsible to some degree and the combined irresponsibility contributes to the overall appalling, yet very avoidable, situation.
Let us review a few contributing factors and consider what is being done or could be done better, to minimise the number of potential incidents that ‘new’ drivers are exposed to.
In no particular order: –
At last, after more than 15 years of research, the it appears to have become accepted that driver training should not just concentrate on teaching the driver how to handle a vehicle in certain situations, (mainly to pass the test!), but that more emphasis should be placed, belatedly and quite correctly, on the cultivation and development of ‘driver’ attitude, prior to and during training, and that ‘road user’ education should be delivered in the curriculum in schools from a very early age.
Absolutely brilliant, but, this will only work effectively if parents also accept responsibility for the attitude of their offspring by displaying a more responsible attitude as ‘parent drivers’ when chauffeuring their kids around to during their early formative pre-licence years. This means that parents must demonstrate proper attitude and brush up their own powers of anticipation and, for instance, respect and understand the use of speed, parking and other traffic regulations, drinking habits and attitude and consideration for others, to mention but a few!
Also, ‘New’ drivers, and their parents, must accept that a driving licence is a privilege and reward that can be withdrawn – not a birth rite – and accept that the system of professional training, development and assessment is a necessary element to protect themselves and others in society.
So, let’s heap the blame on the instructor.
Let’s face it, after 75 years of regulation and standards setting, since the implementation of the driving test and over 40 years of regulation under the Approved Driving Instructor registration plus 20 years where the DIA, MSA and DSA have ‘tirelessly’ tried to regulate the training of Driving Instructors through ADITE, DIARTE and ORDIT schemes, things haven’t worked out very well. A 57% failure rate for the basic driving test and a 72% failure rate for ADI part 3 does go some way to prove the point!
Let us be absolutely honest, some instructors should not be on the register – they come into the ‘driver training’ business because they need a job, have a licence and their friends say they can ‘get on well with people!’
Some unsuspecting, genuine potential instructors are misled by glossy advertising, false promises and big names but cannot qualify because their chosen training organisation (including some on the ORDIT register) hasn’t got a clue and is more interested in selling courses and selling franchises than the quality of instruction and the welfare of their clients.
DSA figures indicate that 90% of all persons training for the ADI qualification fail. Over 40000 ADI’s on the register, around 40000 in training in any year (up to 2010) and yet only around 4000 qualify!
Some dedicated instructors try hard to do a good job but, unfortunately, are still not ‘good’ instructors because, again, they received very poor and in many cases, incompetent training, yet, still qualified as an ADI.
Some, but only a small percentage, do a thorough and effective job.
So, is that the fault of the individual instructors, the ADI training organisations, franchise organisations who make millions a year by pretending to be Driver and Instructor Training Organisations yet, in reality, are just a driving lesson marketing agency, or is it totally the fault of the regulatory and driving instructor representative bodies?
The bodies representing the ADI do not want to lose members. Any changes DSA may wish to introduce to realistically and effectively raise standards of instruction would be resisted by the organisations if they thought any member may lose their ADI qualification because they could not meet new higher standards.
The DSA have their hands tied. On one side by the ADI organisations resisting improvement of instructional standards if it would affect their membership numbers and on the other, by the government of the day resisting any change that may cause a drop in pass rate – after all, if it fell too much it would be a vote loser. Road Safety can’t afford narrow minded and commercially orientated views.
So what has been done in recent years to address the problem?
‘We need a theory test’ everyone shouted some 15 years ago. DSA introduced one that has generally only required the new driver to match the correct answer (which is in front of you) with the question. Don’t bother to understand the Question or the Answer – just match the two up.
‘I know, Hazard Perception is the problem, lets introduce a Hazard Perception Test!’ everyone shouted a few years later. So, after much experimenting, a test was introduced that only roughly measured that a person could actually spot a hazard – brilliant.
‘Oh dear, the statistics have revealed that things aren’t improving. Why is that?’ Perhaps it’s because the HP test doesn’t actually confirm that a driver knows how to avoid or respond to a hazard.
‘What can we do next? I know, let’s think about a graduated licence scheme’. Let’s tell the new drivers that they can’t drive in the dark, can’t carry passengers, ask them not to speed or drink and if we restrict the power of the vehicle that should do the trick. Let’s face it, after 12 months of voluntarily behaving themselves those that survive should be OK, don’t you think?
‘I know, in the meantime, lets introduce independent driving into the test. I’ll bet that will do the trick.’
So what should we do?
Should we continue to allow ‘new drivers’ to needlessly kill and maim themselves and others at the same rate, or, should we consider that the problem might actually be due to poor driver attitude, general parental apathy and, in the majority of cases, a distinct lack of availability of good quality training for new instructors and new drivers.
Perhaps we should accept as fact that the tweaks to the driving test and the threat of additional restrictions on ‘newly qualified drivers’, have and will not work on their own?
Parents must be made to realise that they are predominantly responsible for the cultivation of driver attitude in their offspring and the DSA, the instructor training organisations and the majority of driving instructors, must accept responsibility for the appallingly low standard of professionalism and competence that exists in the instructor training and driver training industry today.
The good instructors do not receive support from any quarter by virtue of the fact that the bad instructors and incompetent instructor training organisations, are allowed to exist.
For new instructors and new drivers – survival is a lottery.

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