The cost of motor insurance - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Cadence Driver Development (CMI 04)

1. The issues surrounding younger and less experienced drivers are extremely complex and extend far beyond the question of high insurance costs, which is the main focus for The Committee at this time. Insurers in general, base their quotation premiums on actuarial statistics and historical trends. We have had numerous discussions with insurers on the subject of young drivers, in particular cost-effective and workable proposals for reducing the disproportionately high and socially unacceptable number of incidents involving this category of risk.

2. Insurance costs have risen dramatically, particularly for young drivers, as statistically, they are the group most likely to be involved in an injury or fatal crash. These significant rises are no doubt linked with the increase in the payouts awarded through the "no win, no fee" culture, as insurers are forced to cover their inflated costs in order to protect their exposure to risk.

3. The focus of our submission is based on a lifetime of experience, training and coaching drivers after they have passed the DSA theory and practical tests. We all expect young people to take personal responsibility seriously but in order to develop safe attitude, firstly we have to nurture a set of values and beliefs at the developmental stage and that necessitates time. We must make every effort to guide them in the most effective way so they can make sound judgements, in order to reduce their own exposure to risk.

4. There are many professionals who would challenge the veracity and completeness of the current standard. The DSA considers the test fulfils the criteria of ensuring those who pass are "careful and competent" drivers. Statistics regrettably, provide us with contrary information. Statistics have shown that young drivers have a disproportionately greater likelihood of being involved in a crash than any other age group. In particular, young male drivers are at considerably greater risk of being killed or seriously injured in the first year of driving unsupervised than any other group of drivers; they are almost twice as likely to kill or injure their passengers - and are penalised accordingly when applying for insurance cover.

5. We fully appreciate the political obstacles that make it so difficult to create a more robust training and testing schedule for novice drivers, particularly in a period of austerity but despite the most recent changes to the driving test, we maintain that we owe it to "the next generation" to offer them complete solutions. We also have to balance the effects of governance and state intervention with the cultural and societal benefits of encouraging people to adopt safe strategies and cooperative values, attitudes and behaviours through self-discipline and motivation - and we appreciate the necessity of achieving a fine balance in regulation that does not encourage an increase in unlicensed driving.

6. Scientific research has provided evidence that young drivers are rarely lacking in mechanical proficiency - they often demonstrate remarkable reactive aptitude and could probably outperform many a highly experienced and mature driver. Where the knowledge and skills appear to be deficient is often down to age - and in most situations it is the different rates at which areas of cerebral development occur. Scientific studies have proved that the frontal lobes are the last area of the brain to develop - and in most cases do not reach fully functional maturity until the age of 22-25 - and yet this is the area of the brain we rely upon to make critical risk assessments and use for reasoning, planning and problem-solving - all of which are highly desirable qualities in the safe driver.

7. Additionally, research has revealed a tendency for new drivers to "fixate" on a point close to the vehicle, rather than scanning the distant, peripheral and rear views. The fully developed frontal lobes are also used to control emotional and impulsive behaviour. The typical teenager rarely possesses a death wish, which culminates in the typical single vehicle loss-of-control crash scenario; he actually has little natural control at this period of his development. However, to suggest that we do not allow people to drive until they are 25 would be foolish, impractical, unworkable and politically suicidal.

8. Young people perceive driving as the most effective method of removing the parental shackles and gaining freedom. It is understandable (although highly undesirable) that they wish to gain their freedom in the shortest possible time at the least cost, with little thought to the consequences of lack of experience - but you cannot buy experience off a shelf. We are not suggesting that we restrict young people's desires for independence. We should encourage them to have healthy aspirations but they have to be made aware that there is a direct correlation between responsibility and independence. The ability to drive is not an automatic right - it is a privilege that has to be earned and they have to be accountable for their actions.

9. There is sufficient anecdotal evidence to conclude that young drivers perceive the learning process as merely an unavoidable means of achieving their goal. They actively seek the cheapest novice instructor, rather than looking for one who is a highly skilled teacher and mentor. Often, what the instructor is forced to teach bears no relation to real-world driving but the instructor is constrained by outmoded dogma in the modular content and methodology. Because young drivers know no better, they are often unaware that the mechanical skills of driving account for only 20% of the driving process - and ignore the critical 80%, which forms the basis of sound reasoning and higher order cognitive processing, a vital element in the progression towards becoming a careful, competent and safe driver.

10. Many novices have voiced their opinion that the Theory Test can be passed through guesswork and the Hazard Perception Test is merely a road-related on-screen game. If the current teaching and testing process was actually "fit for purpose", there would be far fewer drivers taking further training - from our experience of the training and coaching world, a great number of drivers appreciate, often after a crash, that there is considerably more to safe driving than mechanical skills and a small amount of theory.

11. The most effective means of guaranteeing a sufficiently effective practice period, would be to initiate a two-tiered licensing system. Such a system would offer partial freedom during the formative, experiential period. Our depth of research and experience in the range of systems used in European and other countries provides us with the understanding of how best to initiate the most appropriate structure for the UK.

12. Keeping a firm guiding hand on these drivers during the period of development of their risk-assessing skills is critical and offers an acceptable solution to their welfare and alleviates the need for raising the driving age, which is politically controversial. It would be prudent to initiate a two-tier programme of driving development to gain the full licence and have an extended period of restricted driving to enable drivers to consolidate their experience in "real world" conditions. Those who break the terms and conditions of their restrictions would run the risk of losing their privileges.

13. A two-tiered approach can be implemented at little cost to central Government and has already been applied to motorcycle training and testing.

14. The current elements of the driving test - the Theory Test, Hazard Perception Test and the Practical Driving Test (to be called Part A) would effectively remain unchanged. However, instead of receiving a full licence that can last unchallenged for the next fifty-three years, at this stage, the candidate would instead receive a restricted licence, lasting for a period of up to two years.

15. In the majority of instances, the restriction would involve a two-year period during which:

  1. ¾  Drivers would only be permitted to drive close family members or people who have held a licence for a minimum of three years. This would significantly reduce the peer pressure and risk-taking elements and would greatly assist in learning how to manage distraction.
  2. ¾  Drivers would be governed by a zero or lower-alcohol level < .03% in line with the majority of all other nations. Recidivist drivers would receive substantial bans.
  3. ¾  It would be compulsory for drivers to display an "R" plate (of equal dimensions to the present "L" plate) at the front and rear of the vehicle they are driving at all times. (See Northern Ireland regulations.) The means of attaching the plate would be either magnetic or self-adhesive and should be removed when full licence holders are driving the vehicle (in line with current rules governing "L" plates). Use of "R", denoting "Restricted" is less confusing than use of unofficial green "L" plates or "P" plates, which could denote either probationary or provisional. As technology advances, the "R" plate could become driver-specific and linked in with the ANPR/DVLA systems.
  4. ¾  Drivers would be encouraged to gain experience in lower powered, unmodified vehicles (max 1400cc) taking additional account of relevance of power-to-weight ratio - they would be rewarded by receiving lower premiums for this category. (Higher performance cars would not be excluded but would carry the highest premiums to act as a disincentive).
  5. ¾  Drivers receiving six penalty points would be required to re-take all elements of Part A at their own cost (use of qualified instructors mandatory) (an extension of the current six month period).
  6. ¾  Consideration should be given to restricting the maximum legal speeds for new drivers. Northern Ireland currently restricts new drivers to 45mph for one year. Although controversial, by reducing their maximum speeds for a specific period, we would be handing a lifeline to new drivers, creating the opportunity for them to develop their mental processing skills and buying them time and extra space on the approach to each potentially hazardous situation that requires intellectual evaluation.
  7. ¾  At the end of the two-year period, drivers would be required to take a "signing-off" extended test (1 hour) to demonstrate their enhanced mental processing abilities. Using DSA examiners would be impractical, as they are already overloaded. As an alternative, suitably qualified advanced level driver trainer ADIs would be invited to submit themselves for the newly-created rôle of "Part B Examiner". They possess the additional skills of instructing at higher speeds in more complex environments than is required of the DSA examiner. This method of testing has no financial implication to Government as the assessment process for the advanced trainer would be self-funded.
  8. ¾  In certain circumstances, those drivers who display the ability to demonstrate a level of driving competency commensurate with an "advanced driver" may opt to reduce their period of restriction by taking additional (self-funded) coaching followed by a comprehensive test (as above) - in the areas of concentration, observation, deliberation, planning, scanning, anticipation, accurate choice of suitable speed for the prevailing conditions and the ability to create time and space in which to deal with the ever-changing driving scenario. The ability to "fast-track" will appeal to many young drivers and will provide an incentive to develop their cognitive skills
  9. ¾  Apprenticeship scheme employers could be encouraged to sponsor suitable candidates
  10. ¾  Motivated parents could subsidise the costs of professional driver development for their children
  11. ¾  A limited amount of funding could be set aside from the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to support lower-income families who are similarly motivated (particularly useful for supporting young drivers in rural areas).

16. Consideration could also be given to restricting driving during the hours of darkness that have been statistically proven to have the highest crash incidence for younger drivers (22.00-05.00hrs). We do however appreciate this element would have a far greater social impact, particularly on country dwellers who often have no alternative transport system and would not include this element in the current submission.

17. There would be a specific fast-track mechanism (similar to the motorcycle Direct Access scheme) for new drivers over the age of 25. On production of a certificate of successful completion of an approved advanced driving course operated by post-test instructor/coaches, they could reduce the probationary period and receive their full licence (Part B) after six months.

18. Similarly, those who have recently passed the current test would have the opportunity of volunteering for inclusion in the restricted scheme and would receive insurance cost incentives to actively participate.

19. Professionals in the insurance industry with whom we have collaborated, consider a two-tier system as a most effective method of tackling the issues of reducing crash incidence. They have cooperated with the DSA in the past by offering discounts for new drivers who undertake the six hours of "Pass Plus" but their statistics have shown this small amount of post-test training as an ineffective tool and most companies will no longer offer a discount to those who take the six modules.

20. We have conducted significant research into the most effective structure and methodology of development within the two-year restricted licence period, details of which fall outside the scope of this submission. There will be a requirement for closer collaboration between post-test driver trainers and the insurance industry, based on encouragement and reward for restricted licence holders, who actively work on developing their higher order cognitive processing skills. It is entirely possible to stimulate earlier development of the frontal lobes rather than waiting for nature to take its course. The scheme will have significant effects in the area of road safety; it will create a culture of self-motivation.

21. In the short term, lower insurance premiums may not correlate with actual costs to insurers and they may have to underwrite some losses. However, in the long term there will be benefit for all. Fewer crashes will result in fewer claims. Fewer crashes will significantly reduce the related costs in emergency and hospital services. Fewer crashes will have a significant social effect and benefit.

22. Finally, in all other aspects of personal and professional development, further training is almost always compulsory. We willingly accept the need to learn more and broaden our skills in order to become more knowledgeable and achieve promotion but this culture does not extend to driving. By adopting a broader and more challenging approach to unsupervised driving, we will enhance the quality of life for all road users. This proposal is supported by members of the insurance industry.

Cadence Driver Development - Qualifications, Experience and Expertise

DSA Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) Highest Grade

Former Police Driving School Instructor

RoSPA Examiner

RoSPA Diploma

Under 17s Driver Workshops

Driver Rectification Consultant

Special Services Consultant

Motor Industry Research Consultant

Skid Prevention Consultant

CAA Instructor Examiner (multi-engine rating)

Author and Expert Advisor (motoring periodicals; print and electronic media)

AIRSO (Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers) member


Submission to New Zealand Government Road Safety Strategy to 2020

EU Hermes Project

CIECA International Commission for Driver Testing

Scientific Research Projects - University of Nottingham; University of Waikato

The Principles of Safe Driving (Cadence Driver Development) ©

The Common Sense Guide to Safe, Enjoyable Driving (Cadence Driver Development) ©

Selected Published Articles on Improving Road Safety (Cadence Driver Development) ©

November 2010

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