Young driver proposals: a disappointing lost opportunity

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Young driver proposals: a disappointing lost opportunity. Young driver proposals published today by the Department for Transport represent a lost opportunity to embrace the considerable pace of change in telematics.

The proposals appear to completely ignore black box technology or telematics.

A such, they represent more redundant, head-in-the-sands, thinking.

The proposals come from the Transport Research Laboratory which it claims is ‘creating the future of transport’.

Download the shortened summary here:  novice-driver-research-findings

Let’s be clear, there is an enormous issue here. Some proposals are needed because, as the report says:

Twenty-two percent of fatalities on Great Britain’s (GB) roads in 2011 occurred in collisions involving a driver aged 17 to 24 years old (DfT, 2012). In 65% of these collisions the fatal injuries were sustained by passengers or road users other than the young driver. The over-representation of young novice drivers in road injury statistics is a public health risk in GB, and worldwide.

However, the summary and main report almost completely ignore the rise of telematic devices (smart phone apps or in-car devices) as methods of advising, tutoring or indirectly controlling driver behaviour. Although the authors, in the main report, have read the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents report on the potential of in-car devices (black box insurance) they don’t appear to see anything relevant in it – a great pity.

One could say this is hardly surprising.

The Transport Research Laboratory is the same place from which came the report which advised the government to take a lukewarm approach to the EU eCall programme.

(Read more about this in our submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee).

The same heads-in-the-sand thinking is reflected in the summary of research being used as a background to the long-awaited and as yet unpublished green paper on young driver insurance .

This astonishingly [(download here) full report at slide 76] advises the Department of Transport:

‘…to take a reasonably neutral approach to BBT (black box technology) at this point.’

And:

‘… if possible, discourage insurance companies from introducing black box technology unless there are substantial cost savings for young people.’

But to:

‘..emphasise the opportunity for BBT to make the learn to drive process interactive and personalised – using mobile apps.’

Why is the latter sentiment not reflected in today’s report?

Where is the joined-up thinking?

And while we are about it why has it taken until October to publish a report that was completed in July?

This is a wasted opportunity because it means this work is going to have to be done again – in order to take notice of what is happening in the worlds of car insurance, vehicle building and among the more savvy young drivers.

Jonathan Coe

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Jonathan Coe, Editor

Journalist and comms specialist for over 40 years – trained in print, broadcasting, and industrial intranet. Written about comms policy (eg. as radio editor at Time Out); held senior comms roles in public bodies (National Health Service, local government) and privatised undertakings (London Electricity – now Electricité de France). Since, has developed interests in the ordinary citizen's use of judicial review to challenge irrational decisions of government and the use of rights (like the Freedom of Information Act) to explore irrational decisions (like the BBC's original decision to close the BBC digital radio service BBC 6 Music).