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The reality of road safety education aimed at young drivers

It's important to understand how much education can achieve.

Getting the most out of road safety education

Education has an important role to play in supporting road safety culture in Scotland.

However, to give it the best chance of having an effect with young people, there are a number of things you need to take into consideration.

Education seems obvious

If you’re going to help young people understand the risks that come with driving, or being in a car, education appears to make a lot of sense.

After all, it seems natural that it’ll help. It’s also relatively cheap to develop, run and it can reach a lot of people in one go.

What does research tell us?

Studies over the last 30 years have consistently found that road safety education has little or no effect on reducing collisions and injuries involving young drivers.

This doesn’t sound very encouraging. That said, there are some important reasons behind this.

They include:

  • Interventions that lack a clear aim
  • Badly-designed interventions
  • Assuming that young people don’t know about risks
  • Being influenced by stereotypes and expected behaviours
  • Short-term or one-off interventions having little effect

Time is of the essence

The potential impact of any education is limited by the amount of time you can spend with young drivers. This includes the actual number of sessions you’re able to run.

In reality, a one-off, one-hour learning session is unlikely to change attitudes and behaviours that have built up over the years, influenced by the likes of friends, family and the media.

There are ways to make a difference

We can’t expect young driver education to immediately reduce collisions or save lives directly but there are some known ways to reduce risks for young people. It’s vitally important that we understand and support these.

The rest of this section will explain how to give road safety education the best possible chance of making a positive difference.

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