Learning to drive safely: Reasonable expectations and future directions for the learner period

Bruce Simons-Morton, Johnathon P. Ehsani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The young driver problem is typified by high crash rates early in licensure that decline with experience, but are higher initially and decline more slowly for the youngest novices. Despite considerable effort, only Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS) policies have been shown to improve novice young driver safety outcomes. Unfortunately, GDLS policies are mostly limited to countries with a relatively young licensure age. Meanwhile, it is not entirely clear how GDLS and other young driver transportation safety efforts, including driver training and testing, supervised practice and parental management of young drivers, can best be configured. Notably, professional training can foster improvements in vehicle management skills that are necessary, but do not assure safe driving behavior. Substantial recent research has focused on training methods to improve driving skills, but the safety benefits of driver training have not been established. While prolonged practice driving increases experience and provides supervisors with opportunities to prepare novices for independent driving, the transition to independent driving challenges novices to employ, on their own, poorly-mastered skills under unfamiliar and complex driving conditions. Licensing policies and parental management practices can limit the complexity of driving conditions while novices gain needed driving experience. Nevertheless, an emerging body of literature suggests that future advances in training and supervision of novice teenage drivers might best focus on the translation of learning to independent driving by fostering safe driving attitudes and norms, judgment, dedicated attention to driving tasks and self-control at the wheel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


  • Attention
  • Crashes
  • Expertise
  • Learning
  • Risk taking
  • Safety
  • Training
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Safety Research


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