Report numberRA-2016-003
TitleTowards a reformed driver education
SubtitleStudy into the effectivity of models and subcomponents for driver licence education category B
AuthorsKris Brijs
Karin Van Vlierden
Ariane Cuenen
Veerle Ross
Judith Urlings
Ellen Jongen
Katrien Declercq
Tom Brijs
Geert Wets
Published byPolicy Research Centre for Traffic Safety 2012-2015
Number of pages339
Document languageDutch
Partner(s)Universiteit Hasselt
Work packageOther:
Following the sixth (Belgian) state reform a number of mobility- and traffic safety-related responsibilities were transferred from federal to regional policy levels. Before this ‘regionalisation’, driver education as well as driving schools and examination centres fell under the federal policy domain. As a consequence of the regionalisation, responsibilities related to driver education, driving schools and examination centres were transferred to, among others,  the Flemish policy level. For Flanders, this was the occasion to consider an eventual reform of the official driver education in its current form.
A view on the current driver education system in Flanders showed us that there is no conclusive evidence indicating that participation into License at School (i.e., a non-compulsory high school program allowing youngsters willing to learn to drive to be prepared for and to take the theoretical exam at school, and to obtain a provisional driving licence) is related to a higher chance for success at the theoretical test. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to conclude that participation into the License at School program is not a significant predictor for the likelihood that one will (or will not) pass the practical driving test.  
In general, there are not much effectivity criteria that mutually differ in function of the type of provisional licence model a candidate is opting for (In Flanders, candidate drivers can choose between a provisional licence type ‘18 months’ (i.e., minimum age required is 18 years and a minimum number of 20 hours practice lessons with a professional driving instructor is required where after a candidate is allowed to drive alone under restricted conditions for a minimum period of 3 months before being allowed to take the practical test) and a provisional licence type ‘36 months’ (i.e., minimum age required is 17 years and practice lessons with a professional driving instructor are not compulsory but a candidate is required to always drive accompanied by a lay instructor for a minimum period of 6 months and reaching the age of 18 before being allowed to take the practical test)). The accident risk AFTER obtainment of the full licence is mainly influenced by the amount of driving experience and does not seem to vary in function of the type of provisional licence. More in detail, during the first thousands of kilometres AFTER obtainment of the full licence, a strongly increased accident risk is reported that steeply decreases in a first stage and then gradually further decreases afterwards. Pass rates on the practical driving test as well do not seem to differ significantly in function of the provisional licence types.
Both the number of violations as the number of accidents DURING the practice period are low for full licence candidates in the two provisional licence categories. A proportionally higher number of violations and accidents for candidates with a provisional licence type ‘18 months’ cannot be seen in isolation from a higher number of practice kilometres driven compared to candidates with a provisional licence type ‘36 months’. Spreading over time and variation in terms of practice locations also does not differ significantly in function of the type of provisional licence. Interestingly, a substantial proportion of candidates in both provisional licence categories spontaneously combines lay-instruction with professional instruction. More in detail, almost 60% of the candidates with a provisional licence type ‘36 months’ takes up a number of practice hours with a professional instructor even without the obligation to do so. Also, 50% of the candidates with a provisional licence ‘type 18 months’ declares they drive regularly accompanied by a (professional and/or lay) instructor while except from certain pre-specified conditions, they are allowed to drive independently. Concerning the cost of the education officially required in order to be able to obtain a full driving licence in Belgium/Flanders, it appears that, depending on the type of provisional licence (i.e., 18 months vs. 36 months), the minimum cost varies from very low to relatively high compared to other European countries.      
The above mentioned findings, together with a review of the international literature on the effectivity of already existing models in other countries resulted in the following policy recommendations:
  1. The amount of independency while driving is best to evolve progressively when preparing for the obtainment of a full licence: first, practice should be supervised (Learning stage), next independent practice should be restricted to specific conditions (Practice stage), then practice should be further perfectioned (post-licence perfectioning stage), and after that, refreshed at regular and well-tailored occasions (Continuous learning stage).
  2. A logically built up curriculum with formal end competences and subordinate competences should allow for a learning trajectory that aligns with the GDE-matrix and that makes less complex skills precede more complex (higher order) skills.
  3. Extend duration of the practice stage so that driving skills can be sufficiently routinized. Prevent that candidate drivers are allowed to drive independently too soon (preferably not before the age of 18). 
  4. Stimulate candidate drivers, lay instructors and professionals to work more as a team.
  5. Provide enough professional formation and support to candidate drivers and their lay instructors in terms of how to set up and accomplish a well-structured and sufficiently varying learning trajectory. 
  6. Support the learning process for instance, by means of vehicle systems that register the driving behaviour of candidate drivers and that offer periodical reports of driving patterns via feedback platforms.
  7. Integrate higher order skills in formal education. A post-licence ‘perfectioning stage’ can partially meet this objective if the appropriate pedagogical methods are implemented (e.g., feedback drives, psychological group discussions, coaching sessions on a test track) and if such a stage is not limited to one-off initiatives that focus exclusively on mastering technical skills.
  8. Invest enough time in risk perception skills in formal education. Such skills can be improved if the appropriate training methods are used, which in turn seems to have a positive impact on the road safety of young novice drivers.
  9. Align the examination with the end competences and learning goals targeted by formal education. Dedicate sufficient attention to higher order skills and risk perception.
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The Policy Research Centre for Traffic Safety carries out policy relevant scientific research under the authority of the Flemish Government. The Centre is the result of a

cooperation between Hasselt University, KU Leuven and VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.


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