An overhaul of training for young drivers to include more direct feedback about the dangers and consequences of speeding could help lead to fewer fatal collisions, new research from UNSW Canberra shows.

There were 1202 deaths on Australian roads in the past year, about 20 per cent of which involved people aged between 17 and 25. Speeding is consistently an aggravating factor in more than 40 per cent of road fatalities each year.

UNSW researchers have been examining speed management in young drivers to help reduce the number of fatalities in this age group.

A series of studies have been conducted to understand young drivers’ speeding behaviour, situations in which they speed, and examine the effect of a cognitive-based training intervention. Young drivers participated in a series of tests, including driving on the road and in a simulator and completing several surveys.

Providing young drivers with feedback about their driving, the safety implications of speeding, and the potential financial penalties they could face, resulted in reduced speeding in between 85-100% of the young drivers.

Lead researcher from UNSW Canberra, Dr Oleksandra Molloy, said providing a single dose of feedback to young drivers during their training could make them significantly safer drivers.

“Our research has confirmed that young drivers have difficulty managing their speed and maintaining it in a safe range,” Dr Molloy said.

“Young drivers struggled most with managing their speed in low-speed zones, such as areas with speed limits of 40 or 50 kilometres per hour (km/h). This is particularly concerning as these areas often have high pedestrian activity or are school zones.

“Young drivers tend to not believe anything negative will happen to them while driving. This optimism is combined with a distorted perception that they are better and more skillful than other drivers and is not challenged by the current driver training scheme.

“The problem is not that young drivers fail to consider driving as dangerous, but they do not perceive the danger as applying to them personally.

“However, our research clearly demonstrated that when young drivers were given specific feedback on their driving and the dangers of speeding, their speed reduced. And this was shown to be the case up to six months after receiving the feedback.

“If we can incorporate more targeted education and, in particular, feedback into young driver training, we can save lives.”

In one test, participants completed two drives in a simulator one week apart.

One group of drivers was given clear feedback on their performance in the first drive, including their maximum speed and the number of times they exceeded the speed limit. They also received information about the financial penalties they could face for speeding and the safety implications of crashing at a higher speed.

This group reduced their speed by an average of 2-3 km/h during their second drive, unlike the control group, who received no feedback, and either displayed no change or increased their speed.

Dr Molloy said that investing in cognitive-based driving training, which focuses on improving and mastering cognitive skills such as hazard perception, risk management, and decision-making, could deliver great results.

“There are currently no training programs that focus specifically on young drivers’ speed management,” Dr Molloy said.

“In one experiment where young drivers wore glasses fitted with eye-tracking technology, we observed that young drivers tend to focus mostly on the road ahead of them with limited checks of mirrors, speed signs, the speedometer, and other instruments needed for safe driving.

“If we can teach young drivers to be more consciously aware of the road and their speed, we can save lives. Ultimately, it all comes back to better education.”

The research project was funded by the Road Safety Innovation Fund administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and Arts.

Speed management has been identified as one of the key themes and priority areas of the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030.

Media Contact: Dr Oleksandra Molloy, UNSW Canberra; phone: 02 5114 5184; email: