Association found between school safety program and reduced risk of crash

New research investigating the benefits of young driver education programs has shown that a best practice program in schools was associated with a 44% reduced relative risk of crash in a study released this week. The program moves beyond simply learning about road risks, to arming students with strategies to avoid risky situations. These new findings are part of Australia’s largest study of young drivers, the DRIVE study, which involved over 20,000 young drivers.

Motor vehicle crashes are the single leading cause of death of youth in Australia, and driver education programs are often sought by parents and young drivers to improve safety. But to date, there is little evidence that such programs reduce road crashes. Researchers from The George Institute assessed the impact of the Reduce Risk Increase Student Knowledge (RRISK) program on risk of crash in subsequent years.

"We found that young drivers in our study who attended the RRISK program had a 44% reduced risk of a car crash compared to others in the study. The program doesn’t just educate young people, but helps them to adopt safe behaviours. It arms them with strategies that ensure safe driving, such as managing pressure from peers, checking how much a designated driver has had to drink, planning a safe return from parties and generally encouraging them to make informed decisions about road safety," said Dr Teresa Senserrick, The George Institute.

The program incorporates a whole-of-community approach that is broadly focused on reducing youth risk-taking rather than driving risks only. The program includes factual presentations, drama, peer education, real life experience with strong support from local businesses, university, police, ambulance, radio broadcaster and road safety organisations.

"This research suggests that such programs may be effective tools in managing risk in young drivers. However, while this research is indicating some promise, there is a need for further rigorous evaluation of such programs before they can be rolled out on a large scale," added Dr Senserrick.

These results are part of a series of analyses from the DRIVE study, which is the largest survey of young drivers ever undertaken and was funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, NRMA Motoring and Services, and NRMA-ACT Road Safety trust and the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW. The DRIVE study recruited over 20,822 young drivers holding red P-plates in NSW aged 17-24 years and examined their crashes reported to police. The overall aim of the study is to investigate the risk factors in motor vehicle-related crashes and injuries among young drivers and to find ways to improve the safety of young drivers and help make roads safer for all users. The education program assessed comprised well-attended one-day courses supplemented with prior training workshops and on-going activities focused on reducing risk-taking or building resilience (see the RRISK website for more information).

This particular analysis investigated the benefits of young driver education programs. Additional results due to be released during 2009/2010 includes rural and socioeconomic factors for young drivers, pre-licensing driving experience, ethnicity, mental health, and sleep habits. See more information at the Young Driver Factbase website.