Young drivers in Scotland fail to get crucial "diverse and challenging practice driving", Edinburgh university expert says

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Most novice drivers do not get vital “diverse and challenging” driving practice before they take their test, according to an internationally recognised University of Edinburgh expert.

Young motorists must get experience of different conditions, such as bad weather, Dr Jessica Hafetz Mirman urged.

Young motorists must get experience of different conditions, the University of Edinburgh expert said. Picture: Warren Goldswain

Young motorists must get experience of different conditions, the University of Edinburgh expert said. Picture: Warren Goldswain

They are the most likely to be involved in a crash and 314 in their twenties were killed or seriously injured on Scotland’s roads in 2017.

Mirman, deputy director of the Scottish Collaboration for Health Research and Policy at the university, said: “Most supervised practice drives with a parent or non-professional adult supervisor are ad hoc drives of convenience, so like to sports practice or the post office, as opposed to practice drives intended to convey broad and deep exposure to a range of types of driving conditions and experiences.”

These include on rural roads, which have Scotland’s highest crash risk, major roads, residential areas and different weather conditions.

Mirman said: “Drives are typically not structured around teaching hazard awareness.

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“The adult supervisor will still tend to be the ‘CEO’ of the vehicle, in that they are really making all the decisions about what to do, and the new driver is just following instructions.

“Thus, in general, they do not really get an opportunity to think and drive for themselves until after they are licensed.

“In my own research, I have found supervisors who increased their learner drivers’ practice diversity had drivers who were less likely to fail a rigorous on-road driving assessment, thus demonstrating the crucial importance of practice diversity.”

Dr Neale Kinnear, head of behavioural science at TRL, the UK’s transport research laboratory, said: “Several of our studies evaluating novice drivers in Britain have highlighted the importance of variation of practice during the learning to drive process.

“This might include driving in the rain and in the dark, in busy town centres and on higher-speed roads like dual carriageways.

“Our most recent study found drivers who had more practice when learning in a range of different road types had fewer collisions in their first year post-test.

“Essentially it is not just the amount of practice, but also the diversity of that practice that improves the safety of new drivers.”

Neil Greig, policy and research director of motoring group IAM RoadSmart, said: “As much practice as possible in different traffic conditions will make a young person a better driver in the long run.”

He said that could be achieved as part of “graduated driver licensing”, which is being considered by the UK Government.

Greig said the scheme could include a minimum learning period, including in a range of driving conditions.