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Report highlights driver training for young people



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«*§*■ Bob BrownRA LU X^- Minister for Land Transport 25/92 1 February 1992

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS DRIVER TRAINING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

A report highlighting the need for additional training for young probationary drivers was released today by Federal Land Transport Minister, Bob Brown.

The report, The Impact o f a Driver Training Course on the Causal Attributions o f Young Provisional Licence-holders, undertaken by Dr Don Martin of the University of New England, Armidale NSW, was funded under the Federal Governments' Road Safety Seeding Grants Program.

'Findings show that young drivers tend to blame external factors such as road conditions and bad luck as the cause of road crashes and do not see themselves at fault', Mr Brown said.

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'Nor do they tend to adjust their behaviour as much as more experienced drivers, even after a near-miss or some similar form of accident.

"The report suggests that formal post-licence driver training may provide the necessary challenges to a young driver's attitudes and replace them with views more appropriate to being in charge of a motor vehicle.'

'The results of the study show that after undertaking post-licence training, participants were more aware of the consequences of their own behaviour on whether or not a dangerous situation arose; and were less likely to blame external causes or other drivers.'

Mr Brown said the report argued that early driver training on the open road, supervised by friends or parents, may not be successful in modifying judgements because of a lack of opportunity to challenge the young person's existing world view.

'This is one matter the report says should be further researched as it ils broad implications for all driver training', Mr Brown added.

The findings are in the first of five research reports funded by the Federal Office of Road Safety in 1989-90 to be released. Applications for the 1991-92 round of seeding grants close on 13 March 1992. Details are available by telephoning (06) 274 7140.

NOTE: The Executive Summary of the report is attached. Copies of The Impact o f a Driver Training Course on the Causal Attributions of Young Provisional Licence- holders are available for from Dr Donald Martin, University of New England, Armidale, NSW.

Media contact: Brian Hill (06) 277 7440

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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Attribution Theory and Driver Training 1

S ummary

The present study examines one aspect of the application of Attribution Theory to understanding driving behaviour.

Attribution Theory approaches behaviour from the perspective of a person’s “world view”. It argues that an individual’s actions will depend on their interpretation of the causes of events that they observe around them. These causes can be classified as Internal (within the person) or External (in the environment), and Stable (relatively constant) or Unstable (readily modified).

Our previous research has shown that young drivers place less importance on Intemal/Unstable factors (such as attention and judgement) as causes of motor vehicle accidents than older drivers. Also, they place more emphasis on Extemal/Unstable forces (such as “bad luck”) than the older drivers. We have argued that such a pattern of causal judgements is

maladaptive to the driving task. It indicates that the young people are placing undue emphasis on chance and insufficient emphasis on their own actions as determinants of driving outcomes. An important consequence of this is that the young people will be less inclined than the older people, to adjust their behaviour in the light of near misses or other forms of accidents. This will result in

more accidents occurring due to repeated occurrences of driving practices which the novice driver should have recognised as inappropriate.

The Introduction to the present Report presents a detailed description of attribution theory

and its potential application to the area of driving behaviour. It also presents our argument that the

world view that young people bring to the driving task results from inadequate experience with motor vehicles and a resulting emphasis on their past, inappropriate judgements. We have sugested that formal Post-Licence Driver Training Courses may provide some of the necessary challenges to the existing world view and, in turn, lead to the replacement of that world view with one which is

more appropriate to successful future driving.

The empirical study examined three sets of young Provisional Licence holders. One group undertook a one-day “update” course at the New South Wales Traffic Education Centre, Armidale.

A second group undertook the same course, but with an additional manipulation at the end of the

course, introduced by the researchers. This manipulation was designed to heighten any attributional changes which might occur in the recipients of the unmodified course, and was based on past attributional research conducted in other contexts. The third group in the study acted as controls. They did not undertake the training course.

Attribution Theory and Driver Training 2

All participants in the study responded to a measuring device developed by the researchers and used by them in their previous studies. The device is used to assess the respondents’ world views as indicated in their causal judgements. The respondents are asked to read a number of scenarios describing fictitious motor vehicle accidents and to indicate the importance of a number of

listed “causes” for the described incident.

The results of the study showed that the training course had a significant impact on the most important causal attributions of the young participants. Using a number of forms of analysis, it was clear that after undertaking the course, the participants were more aware of the potential IntemalAJnstable causes of driving outcomes, and were also placing less emphasis than before on

the Extemal/Unstable causes. The additional experimental manipulation did not have the anticipated effect of heightening these changes in the second group.

We have argued that the formal driving course accomplished the desired outcome because it was able to challenge the world views of the participants and to provide them with an alternative, more appropriate set of causal targets. It is possible that typical ab initio driver training which is conducted on the open road under the supervision of parents or friends may not be so successful in leading to modification of causal judgements because too little opportunity is available for the initial

challenge to the young person’s existing world view. This matter should be pursued in future research as it has broad implications for all driver training. ,

We also have suggested a number of additional directions that future research should take. One task involves the development of a standardised systematic means of assessing driving quality. Such a tool would permit further validation of our own cognitive measures as well as a means of examining the cognitive mechanism which we have argued brought about the change observed in the present study. We ourselves had incorporated a measure of driving quality in the present study, but we found it had serious limitations and could not be used as intended.

A further recommendation is that further research is needed to evaluate the long-term durability of the changes which were brought about by the driving course in the present study.