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Visual skills gap blamed for novice driver accidents

Press release -

Visual skills gap blamed for novice driver accidents

A new research project is set to show that poor awareness and visual skills explain why inexperienced drivers are three times more likely to have accidents.

BSM rolls out Risk Awareness programme nationwide

A new research project is set to show that poor awareness and visual skills explain why inexperienced drivers are three times more likely1 to have accidents.

The University of Nottingham and BSM, the UK's largest driving school, are looking at the critical differences in driving behaviour between novice and experienced drivers, particularly the way they perceive and react to hazards. By teaching learner drivers the hazard perception techniques of experienced drivers, the project will aim to try to reduce these statistics.

Scientists at the University believe that of all skill-related accidents on the road, the lack of appropriate visual skills is one of the major reasons why novice drivers have more accidents. Experienced drivers increased perception of and quicker reaction to hazards reduces the likelihood of being involved in an accident.

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

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

The first part of the project is a national study, which will be conducted using driving simulators at 92 BSM centres. It will measure learner drivers' responses to hazards and ultimately compare whether awareness levels are improved out on the roads as a direct result of training provided during the BSM Risk Awareness simulator programme.

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

Robin Cummins, road safety consultant, at BSM said: “It is hoped that this new research will give a revolutionary insight into the different ways novice drivers and experienced drivers approach situations on the road.

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

“In the future we aim to use this knowledge to enhance our new training package so novice drivers can learn the hazard perception skills of experienced drivers, that currently only time on the road can provide.”

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

“Using sophisticated technology in the laboratory we will be able to fully understand how learner drivers react to hazards. Using these insights and those gained from BSM's nationwide network of simulators, we'll gain the fullest understanding of learner drivers' hazard perception skills – or lack of them – to the benefit of thousands of learner drivers in the UK.”

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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

- Ends -

Notes to Editors:

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

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 Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK Government's leading funding agency for research and training in engineering and the physical sciences. Grant number EP/D035740/1.

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

RAC press office:

Name: Lucy Haughey
Telephone: 01603 354337/ 07800 690149

Name: Liz Kennett
Telephone: 01603 688 263/ 07800 699667

University of Nottingham press office:

Name: Tim Utton
Telephone: 0115 846 8092 / 07917 261 338

Lexis PR:

Chris Lauwerys or Catherine Greenwood
Tel: 020 7908 6488

Case studies of BSM instructors and pupils are available. Visit the Media library for a selection of BSM images.

About the Risk Awareness simulator programme

The Risk Awareness simulator programme lasts one hour and is available at 92 BSM centres across the UK. The programme costs approximately £16.50 or £12.00 if purchased as part of a BSM package. BSM advise taking the programme as preparation before the mock or initial practical test.

About BSM

Founded in 1910, BSM is the UK's most experienced national driving school. Each year it teaches over 170,000 learners how to drive. It has over 100 BSM centres and 3,000 BSM instructors across the UK.

While BSM is best known for teaching learner drivers, it is also one of the largest providers of training for driving instructors. It is a founding member of ORDIT (Official Register of Driving Instructor Training) and plays an active role in lobbying the government on road safety and learner driver related issues.

About RAC

With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading 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 of around 14 per cent.

About the University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham undertakes world-changing research and provides teaching of the highest quality. Ranked in the THES World Top 100 Universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. An international institution, the University has campuses in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.


Notes to Editors

For all media enquiries, please contact the RAC press team on +44 (0)1454 664 123. The line is manned by an on-call press officer outside office hours. ISDN radio studio facilities are available for interviews Monday to Friday.

About the RAC

First formed in 1897, the RAC has been looking after the needs of its members and championing the interests of drivers for more than 120 years.

Today it has more than eight million members and is one of the UK’s most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistanceinsurancebuying a used carvehicle inspections and checkslegal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information – the RAC offers a solution for all motoring needs. The RAC is committed to making motoring easier, safer, more affordable and more enjoyable for drivers and road users.

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