Research challenges and findings from a driver training pilot study in China
The George Institute in Australia and China collaborated on a pilot study, funded by the FIA Foundation, to develop and evaluate a driver education and training program to reduce novice driver crashes in China. The program was established and implemented in Beijing during 2010-2011. A randomised control trial was conducted with recently licensed drivers recruited through official driving schools. Block randomisation was used to randomise participants to the intervention (n=64) or control group (n=63), with the latter receiving roadside assistance memberships to similar monetary value as the intervention. The intervention included a DVD education program on novice-specific risks plus six hours of in-vehicle training focused on maintaining a safety gap around the vehicle. Participants completed baseline and follow-up questionnaires at approximately four months apart. Recruitment proved challenging, however, once involved, all participants bar one continued through to follow-up. Relatively equal distribution by age, gender and other characteristics was achieved. Very low incidence of any risk taking was reported. Trained participants were significantly more likely to transition to driving-related employment positions and also, but not significantly, reported greater average driving exposure, driving risks and inflated perceptions of their ability than controls. There was no difference in crash involvement (9 participants or 14% in each group). Findings may reflect cultural differences in research familiarity and reporting as much as actual outcomes of the intervention; notwithstanding limitations in participant numbers and self-reported methods applied. The potential for the program to lead to over-calibration and increased risk cannot be discounted. More effort is needed in future studies to build rapport with participants and to have local endorsements to support truthful responding without consequences. Representative research and more local data on novice crash and offence issues is also needed to increase our understanding of novice driver risks in China and how to best address them.