Young driver licensing – the Queensland journey

image-58Queensland is the capital of road safety this week, with more than 300 researchers and practitioners meeting in Brisbane for the Sixth International Conference on Traffic and Transport Psychology (2-5 August 2016).

I was pleased to give conference delegates a policy perspective of Queensland’s experience of reforming licensing for young drivers – and our ongoing efforts to improve road safety for this key risk group.

Queensland’s graduated licensing system recognises that young drivers need time to gain experience and develop their driving skills under protected conditions.

In 2007, key reforms were introduced, including:

  • a requirement for learners to gain 100 hours of supervised on-road driving practice, recorded in a logbook
  • a two-stage provisional licence – P1 and P2.
  • a peer passenger restriction for P1 licence holders from 11pm to 5am.
  • a requirement to pass an online hazard perception test to progress from P1 and P2.
  • a zero alcohol limit for P1s and P2s aged under 25 – later extended to all regardless of age.
  • introduction of mobile phone restrictions for Learner and P1 drivers

Reflecting on this experience 10 years on, I believe there are four key lessons for policy development.

Lesson 1 – bring your community along

We had evidence from crash data about the problem, and scientific evidence that graduated licensing works. There was also strong community appetite for change and we consulted widely on the reforms. A discussion paper was released in 2005 and we ran forums, surveys, online consultation and accepted submissions from the community. Consultation maximised the effectiveness of our policy development and implementation.

Lesson 2 – be flexible

From listening to the community, we could find out where flexibility was needed – so we could build it into the system.  For example, the proposal for a minimum number of logbook hours had majority support. But there were concerns raised about the practicality in rural and remote communities and for disadvantaged young people. So we came up with an alternative for those groups, where they could hold their learner licence for two years instead of one.

Lesson 3 – evaluate

In 2011, the department engaged the Monash University Accident Research Centre to evaluate the reforms http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Safety/Road-safety/Road-safety-research-reports#young which found that the new system was associated with a 31% reduction in fatal crashes involving new drivers. The University of New South Wales is finalising a second full evaluation of the changes.

Lesson 4 – … and innovate

Innovation means taking calculated risks and trying new solutions that may not have been evaluated yet, but can potentially help us to solve complex policy problems. In TMR, we are continuing to look to innovation, combined with a customer first approach. Our work with young drivers is a great example.

We are looking at innovative ways to reach young people, including:

  • Learner Logbook app to make it easier to record practice hours
  • Developing resources that support the role of parents
  • Exploring prospects for technology and gamification
  • Developing online tools to support learning and assessment – which may ultimately replace the written test.

Engaging young people can be difficult – but our experience is that, once they are engaged, they have a lot to say.

  • Last year, TMR’s Co-Lab Youth Innovation Challenge asked young people to develop creative solutions to address their over-representation in the road toll.
  • The winning team’s Settle Down Stallion online campaign, launched in June, features an edgy video and social media memes that have reached over 3 million people via social media.

I believe that Queensland’s experience can serve as a guide for policy makers from around the world when introducing a graduated licensing system.

Watch the Settle Down Stallion campaign:
http://jointhedrive.qld.gov.au/settle-down-stallion

Download the Learner Logbook app:
http://www.qld.gov.au/transport/licensing/getting/learner-logbook/#logbookapp

Mike Stapleton
Deputy Director General
Customer Services, Safety and Regulation