Revisiting the concept of the 'problem young driver' within the context of the 'young driver problem': who are they?

Research paper by B B Scott-Parker, B B Watson, M J MJ King, M K MK Hyde

Indexed on: 25 Jun '13Published on: 25 Jun '13Published in: Accident Analysis & Prevention


For decades there have been two young driver concepts: the 'young driver problem' where the driver cohort represents a key problem for road safety; and the 'problem young driver' where a sub-sample of drivers represents the greatest road safety problem. Given difficulties associated with identifying and then modifying the behaviour of the latter group, broad countermeasures such as graduated driver licensing (GDL) have generally been relied upon to address the young driver problem. GDL evaluations reveal general road safety benefits for young drivers, yet they continue to be overrepresented in fatality and injury statistics. Therefore it is timely for researchers to revisit the 'problem young driver' concept to assess its potential countermeasure implications. This is particularly relevant within the context of broader countermeasures that have been designed to address the 'young driver problem' Personal characteristics, behaviours and attitudes of 378 Queensland novice drivers aged 17-25 years were explored during their pre-, Learner and Provisional 1 (intermediate) licence as part of a larger longitudinal project. Self-reported risky driving was measured by the Behaviour of Young Novice Drivers Scale (BYNDS), and five subscale scores were used to cluster the drivers into three groups (high risk n=49, medium risk n=163, low risk n=166). High risk 'problem young drivers' were characterised by greater self-reported pre-Licence driving, unsupervised Learner driving, and speeding, driving errors, risky driving exposure, crash involvement, and offence detection during the Provisional period. Medium risk drivers were also characterised by more risky road use than the low risk group. Interestingly problem young drivers appear to have some insight into their high-risk driving, since they report significantly greater intentions to bend road rules in future driving. The results suggest that tailored intervention efforts may need to target problem young drivers within the context of broad countermeasures such as GDL which address the young driver problem in general. Experiences such as crash-involvement could be used to identify these drivers as a preintervention screening measure.