Visual skills gap blamed for novice driver accidents

Article date: 15 June 2006

  • BSM rolls out Risk Awareness programme nationwide

A new research project is set to show that poor awareness andvisual skills explain why inexperienced drivers are three timesmore likely1 to have accidents.

The University of Nottingham and BSM, the UK’s largestdriving school, are looking at the critical differences in drivingbehaviour between novice and experienced drivers, particularly theway they perceive and react to hazards. By teaching learner driversthe hazard perception techniques of experienced drivers, theproject will aim to try to reduce these statistics.

Scientists at the University believe that of all skill-relatedaccidents on the road, the lack of appropriate visual skills is oneof the major reasons why novice drivers have more accidents.Experienced drivers increased perception of and quicker reaction tohazards reduces the likelihood of being involved in anaccident.

The three-year joint research project2, examines whether learner and newly qualified drivers’inadequate visual skills – and not simply the fact that theyhave less driving hours under their belts - is why they are morelikely to have accidents. These include:

  • poor scanning
  • reduced peripheral vision
  • being drawn to dangerous hazards for longer than the typicalexperienced driver

The first part of the project is a national study, which will beconducted using driving simulators at 92 BSM centres. It willmeasure learner drivers' responses to hazards and ultimatelycompare whether awareness levels are improved out on the roads as adirect result of training provided during the BSM Risk Awarenesssimulator programme.

This data will be combined with a laboratory study using astate-of-the-art eye tracking device to identify and compare theeye movements of new drivers with those of experienced drivers.These findings will then be incorporated into a training packageavailable at selected BSM centres.

Robin Cummins, road safety consultant, at BSM said: “It ishoped that this new research will give a revolutionary insight intothe different ways novice drivers and experienced drivers approachsituations on the road.

“Far too many novice drivers are involved in accidents butwith this project we have the potential to drastically cut thesenumbers and improve their overall driving skills.

“In the future we aim to use this knowledge to enhance ournew training package so novice drivers can learn the hazardperception skills of experienced drivers, that currently only timeon the road can provide.”

Head of the University of Nottingham research project, Dr DavidCrundall, commented: “The scale of this research and therevolutionary equipment being used makes this project unique.

“Using sophisticated technology in the laboratory we willbe able to fully understand how learner drivers react to hazards.Using these insights and those gained from BSM’s nationwidenetwork of simulators, we’ll gain the fullest understandingof learner drivers’ hazard perception skills – or lackof them – to the benefit of thousands of learner drivers inthe UK.”

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical SciencesResearch Council.

For more information on the current BSM Risk Awareness programmecall 08457 276 276.


Notes to editors:

1 DfT statistics based on accident rate per 100,000 licenceholders:

Casualty rates for car drivers per age group,2004 17-20 21-29
Rate per 100,000 licence holders 189 60

2 The research project is funded byThe Engineering and PhysicalSciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK Government's leadingfunding agency for research and training in engineering and thephysical sciences. Grant number EP/D035740/1.

For further information or to be sent a copy of the accompanyingB Roll footage, which includes an interview with Robin Cummins andDr David Crundall please contact:

RAC press office:
Lucy Haughey
01603 354337/ 07800 690149

Liz Kennett
01603 688 263/07800 699667

University of Nottingham press office:
0115 846 8092 / 07917 261 338

Lexis PR:
Chris Lauwerys or CatherineGreenwood
020 7908 6488;

Case studies of BSM instructors and pupils are available. for aselection of BSM images. 

About the Risk Awareness simulatorprogramme
The Risk Awareness simulator programme lasts one hour and isavailable at 92 BSM centres across the UK. The programme costsapproximately £16.50 or £12.00 if purchased as part of a BSMpackage. BSM advise taking the programme as preparation before themock or initial practical test.

About BSM
Founded in 1910, BSM is the UK’s most experienced nationaldriving school. Each year it teaches over 170,000 learners how todrive. It has over 100 BSM centres and 3,000 BSM instructors acrossthe UK.

While BSM is best known for teaching learner drivers, it is alsoone of the largest providers of training for driving instructors.It is a founding member of ORDIT (Official Register of DrivingInstructor Training) and plays an active role in lobbying thegovernment on road safety and learner driver relatedissues. 

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's mostprogressive motoring organisations, providing services for bothprivate and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance,windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicleinspections and checks, legal and financial services orup-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able tomeet motorists’ needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC AutoWindscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings togetherRAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise andleading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance(part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer,insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share ofaround 14 per cent.

About the University of Nottingham
TheUniversity of Nottingham undertakes world-changing research andprovides teaching of the highest quality. Ranked in the THES WorldTop 100 Universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since2003. An international institution, the University has campuses inthe United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.

Back to top