Novice drivers

Key points

  • Graduated driver licensing should be introduced
  • Investigation into fatal and near fatal crashes involving novice drivers should include dedicated set of questions on driving experience and training
  • Telematics based insurance should be promoted for all drivers, with government leading the way by requiring it for their associated fleets
  • Driver training should be based on road danger reduction approach, with learner drivers encouraged to attend a speed awareness course, undertake cycle training, and DfT to review the evidence base and effectiveness of Safe Drive programmes



RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has been supporting crash victims for over 26 years. This includes campaigning to end society’s complacency with road danger, and for the justice system to treat road crime as real crime, with thorough and effective collision investigation and appropriate prosecution and sentencing of offenders.


Founded on the principle of road danger reduction, RoadPeace is concerned about the wider impacts of excessive and inappropriate motor vehicle use and supports designing out danger with the responsibility placed on those that pose the risk, rather than those more vulnerable.


Dedication: Ferne Campbell

Our response is dedicated to Ferne Campbell. Ferne was one of the 83 passengers killed in 2016 by a car driver aged 17-24. The driver in this fatal crash had only been driving five weeks, although she was very familiar with the road.


Ferne was killed when the novice driver lost control and ran off the road. Her can then collided with a tree. Ferne was wearing a seat belt but the impact was so severe that she suffered fatal injuries in the collision.


Ferne’s parents, Peter and Ondine, are committed to ensuring lessons are learned from their daughter’s death as no family should have to suffer so much. This includes lessons from how the collision investigation could have been improved as well as the charging decision procedures, and how state agencies communicate and treat bereaved families.


The problem of novice drivers is not new. For over a quarter of a century, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programmes have been promoted to reduce the risk of young drivers. RoadPeace is aware that the British government has resisted introducing GDL and has instead relied on telematics based insurance to reduce the risk of novice drivers. And as shown in Table 1, there have been reductions in the number of people killed by young drivers but this is not good enough.


Table 1: Fatalities in crashes involving car drivers aged 17-24, Great Britain

2010-2014 2016 2017
Drivers aged 17-24 138 109 108
Passengers of driver aged 17-24 80 83 55
Other road user 157 162 150
Total fatalities in crashes involving drivers aged 17-24 376 354 313
Total road deaths (all age drivers) 1,799 1,792 1,793
Percent young driver related 21% 20% 17%

Source: DfT 2018, Table RAS40006



RoadPeace recommendations

With one in six road deaths involving a young driver, RoadPeace recommendations include those specific to novice drivers but also those aimed at reducing the risk posed by drivers of all ages.

  1. Graduated driver licensing. Whilst GDL programmes are common in other high income countries, the British government has persisted in relying on financial incentives in insurance policies with financial incentives for reducing the risk posed by novice drivers.


RoadPeace calls on the government to take action to reduce the risk posed by novice drivers with introducing GDL.


  1. Collision investigation. DfT is currently funding a collision investigation project aimed at improving police investigations so they contribute better to injury prevention.


RoadPeace recommends that a standard set of questions on driving experience and training is developed and used by police investigating fatal and near fatal collisions involving novice drivers. The investigation into Ferne Campbell’s death should be used as a case study in training.


  1. Telematics insurance. Whilst telematics based insurance is not a substitute for GDL, it should be promoted and for all drivers, not just novice drivers. The insurance industry can do more as it has much data on its clients. It will be best placed to know which policies cover novice drivers as well as the relative risk, e.g. safety standards, of the vehicle insured.


RoadPeace urges the government to lead by example and require telematics based insurance in its vehicle fleet. And the insurance industry should do more to highlight the benefits of this.


  1. Road danger reduction approach. With government priorities of tackling climate change, air pollution and sedentary lifestyles, driver training should be based on road danger reduction. Drivers need to know the risks and costs they impose on others by their choices, including the frequency and style of their driving. Driver training should include attendance on a speed awareness programme and cycle training.


RoadPeace spoke at the National Road Safety Conference in 2017. At that event, speakers from TRL and NDORS requested the audience to stop using Safe Drive programmes as these normalized bad driving by young drivers. But these are still being funded and expected to reduce the risk of young drivers, despite the lack of evidence.


RoadPeace calls on the government to promote a road danger reduction approach to driver training and ensure its policies are evidence based policies, with a review of the effectiveness of the school based Safe Drive programmes aimed at young drivers.