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New Drivers and the Level of Experience.

Studies have shown that one in five new drivers are involved in an accident during their first year of driving. That many have their licences cancelled after totting up 6 or more penalty points within the first two years. Lack of experience can be exacerbated by overconfidence or nervousness. This first year of driving is where the new novice driver learns to drive.

The basics of vehicle control can be mastered within around 15 hours of tuition and practice. Passing the driving test, although an elation, is just the beginning of the driver learning process. The novice driver has yet to develop the skills of hazard awareness and anticipation. Understanding and responding to other road users behaviours only comes with experience. This is a period of risk that should be understood by employers of newly qualified company car drivers.

Beyond the highway code, the basic vehicle controls, and rehearsed manoeuvres there are many skills left for the new driver to learn. First time experiences in addition to driving solo include, driving with passengers, driving new routes and at different times of the day and night, driving on the motorway or into the city centre. For a newly qualified company car driver driving for work, there is the addition of appointment times, destination, and parking and after the task is done getting back in rush hour traffic.

Discerning and reacting to potential hazards, being visually aware of the proximity of vehicles and objects and increased horizontal scanning of the road are learned experiences. Using the mirrors more objectively and responding to warnings comes with driving time and mileage. The question is do all new drivers understand this and are they aware that to become a good driver, that these attributes are absolutely necessary?

Unfortunately, overconfident drivers believe that they are better drivers than they are. This perception can lead to situations where they have not got the skill or control to deal with a hazard event. They believe that they can handle corners quicker, ignore speed restrictions or engage in multitasking that will distract leading to loss of control. Risky behaviours then become habits that will lead to accidents and endorsements. If an employee, driving for work engages with such risk-taking, then they are not only putting themselves in danger but they also compromise the employer in their duty of care requirements.

For some new drivers, the whole process of driving and controlling a vehicle is a daunting process. Typically the nervous driver lacks confidence, is overly cautious and in being so can be a risk to themselves and others. The hesitant driver can be a dangerous driver, failing to react quickly to a potential hazard or over reacting to a circumstance that can cause loss of control.

Businesses and organisations can help with the development of their newly qualified drivers by being aware of the need for progressing the skills and attitudes required. Making the drivers aware of what constitutes a good driver is a starting point and enforcing the realisation that 6 points or more will lead to a cancelled licence, if within two years of passing their test. Possibly resulting in a termination of employment where driving is a core activity of the job.

Monitoring the new drivers by ongoing checking of their driving licence and setting a suitable checking frequency is an appropriate measure. In respect of the 6 points and a ban rule, monthly checking is advised. Encouraging safe driving practices and greater driving confidence will help the first year driver to reach the level of experience required for today’s driving conditions.

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