An exploratory study into South African novice driver behaviour

Venter, Karien (2014-04)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Driving is a complex task that requires both the physical ability to drive a vehicle and the cognitive ability to do so safely. The ability to correctly integrate and apply information from the driving environment is essential for safe driving. In South Africa approximately 33 people per 100 000 population are killed annually in road accidents. Recent mortality data from South Africa has indicated that the age group 15 to 19 years old are the age group most likely to be involved in fatal vehicle crashes. Novice driver behaviour has been confirmed as problematic across the globe and extensive research into novice driver behaviour has been conducted to understand and ultimately to curb novice driver deaths. Very little is known about South African novice drivers. This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to plan for training, education or preparing young South African novice drivers for the challenges they are likely to face on the road. This study is a first stepping stone to understand this problem. This study utilises naturalistic driving studies as a method to explore differences between novice and experienced driver behaviour at a few preselected location types. Since 2005 naturalistic driving studies (NDS) have been employed extensively in the rest of the world and this study is South Africa’s first small attempt to employ this methodology and apply it to specifically novice driver behaviour. This thesis therefore not only explores novice driver behaviour in the context of South Africa, but also provides an overview of how the ND methodology can be developed for use in South Africa. The document provides an overview of both novice driver behaviour and naturalistic driving study methodologies from abroad. Where available, reference to South African research and reports are made. The literature review considers demographic, developmental and personality factors that could potentially (and have internationally been proven to) influence novice driver behaviour in the context of society, family and physical environments. Popular theories that have been applied to novice driver behaviour are reviewed. These theories include the Theory of Planned Behaviour, Social Learning Theory and the Theory of Intent. On the methodology side, the technology, its application as well as challenges and successes of the ND methodology are reviewed. The research process is described in terms of the participants and their risk attitudes to road traffic safety prior and after the study. The research process also details the specifications of the technology used, the data collected and the associated processes to make the data manageable. The research process took a number of unexpected turns which included the development of a coding scheme for the image material. Initially it was thought that this coding scheme should be predefined. However once the coding process commenced it was clear that in-vivo coding was necessary for inclusion of all elements of the environment and the behaviour. These elements differed from video to video and participant to participant. Grounded theory was introduced in an attempt to explain the novice behaviour. Although the data analysed was not extensive enough to substantiate the use of grounded theory it is considered useful in operationalizing this coding scheme in future. In addition to learning how to work with the data collection systems and how to integrate different types of quantitative and qualitative data in different formats, it also became clear that a strategy for managing large databases should be considered. This was an unexpected spin-off and is currently being investigated. The findings of the study showed that certain behaviours (such as the left scanning of a driving environment) were neglected not only by novice drivers but also by experienced drivers. Further investigations could include research into understanding this phenomenon. The preselected site types included stop streets, traffic lights, traffic circles and intersections. Traffic lights and intersections in particular have in recent years been highlighted as hazardous locations in Pretoria, where the study took place. Differences in behaviours were highlighted for intersections but not for traffic lights, stop streets or traffic circles. However the difference in the proportion of time that novice and experienced drivers took to scan their environments around these preselected hazardous locations differed significantly. Experienced drivers were much more thorough than their novice counterparts. This study was aimed at investigating the differences between novice and experienced drivers and aimed to develop recommendations that could potentially have implications for changing the driver training and education milieu in SA. However, the sample size (both participants and material selected for analysis) was too small to make meaningful recommendations towards change in this industry. It did however show clear differences between novice and experienced drivers, even in South Africa, and that this research needs to be expanded. The potential of this research for South Africa is enormous and could quite possibly, in future, change the way in which South Africans drive.

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