Keys2drive: ten years on. Is it best practice in 2018?

Executive summary


This report was commissioned to find out whether the 10-year-old Keys2drive program is best practice, and whether the program contributes to the safety of novice drivers. It is a non-academic, desktop analysis of a number of road-safety interventions and education programs in use today. It compares Keys2drive with these examples to see if, and how, it aligns with best-practice principles, and whether any relevant research has emerged in the last decade that could make the program more effective.

The problem

The overrepresentation of novice drivers in road trauma has been described as one of road safety’s most stubborn problems, and it remains a persistent and costly issue for society. It has a tragic cost in human life – more than 350,000 young people around the world each year – and costs global economies many billions of dollars. The rate of road fatalities among novice drivers has been declining in recent years, but road trauma is still the highest or second-highest cause of death for young people in most countries. In Australia, road injury is the single biggest killer of youth, more than all other causes combined. There are complex reasons for this, but the high novice-driver crash rate is heavily influenced by: inexperience; a greater propensity for young drivers to take risks; age-related and lifestyle factors; peer pressure; and overconfidence in driving abilities.


Keys2drive is Australia’s largest-ever learner-driver, road-safety education program. Funded by the Australian Government and sponsored by Australia’s motoring clubs, Keys2drive provides a free, one-hour lesson to learner drivers and their parent or supervisor, and aims to reduce the risk of harm for newly licensed drivers. Keys2drive participants learn the benefits of many hours of supervised driving practice in a range of conditions. The program also teaches supervisors ways to be a competent teacher, and novice-drivers learn how to become more self-aware and how to self-assess their driving skills and progress.

Road-safety strategy

As part of their broader road-safety strategies, a number of jurisdictions around the world, including Australia, many European countries, and certain cities in the United States – such as New York City and San Francisco – have adopted the safe-system approach. Under a safe-system approach, it is understood that humans make errors on the road, so the road system is designed to take human error and vulnerability into account to prevent crashes and injuries resulting from it.

In road safety, the safe system comprises four pillars:

• Safe People – road users follow rules and make safe choices to protect themselves and others
• Safe Roads – the system is built to be forgiving and to account for road users’ mistakes
• Safe Vehicles – vehicles are designed to reduce risk of injury in a crash, or avoid crashes altogether
• Safe Speeds – speed limits are set to help road users respond to risks in the road environment.
“Let’s not talk about the ‘problem young driver’ but rather the ‘young driver problem’.” Dr Teresa Senserrick, University of NSW
Education and other interventions

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says that good drivers are made, not born. As such, there is a range of interventions and education programs global authorities use to improve novice-driver safety. The best of these align with principles considered best practice in road-safety education, which include the following:

• Graduated licensing schemes – staged approaches to licensing, where certain restrictions are placed on learner drivers and gradually lifted as they become more experienced
• Resilience-based education – programs aimed at increasing the resilience of younger people across all areas of their lives, which has positive implications for novice drivers
• Parental involvement – programs that leverage the important role parents play in influencing the behaviour and attitudes of their children
• Coaching approach – programs which teach instructors how to coach, rather than tell, and which encourage learner-drivers to take a more active, questioning role in their own learning.

“Good drivers are made, not born.” OECD
Evaluation of road-safety education

Road-safety education program evaluations are inherently difficult, given they often rely on data collected for other purposes or they are unable to use a control group for comparison. But the best examples of road-safety education address the combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes rather than the separate components, and they form part of a multi-faceted approach rather than sitting in isolation (20, 76). Since Keys2drive began, there has been an ambition to link the program with a reduction in novice-driver road trauma. This has been difficult to demonstrate, but, as a program, Keys2drive is not alone in this regard.


This report finds that, while unable to demonstrate a conclusive, quantitative relationship with lower crash rates, Keys2drive has a valuable role to play in helping make novice drivers safer. Through its links with contemporary approaches to novice-driver road safety – particularly graduated licensing schemes, resilience-based education, parental involvement and coaching methodology – Keys2drive remains relevant and appropriate. What is more, it has not been overshadowed by any recent research that would invalidate its approach to improving the safety of its participants. To stay relevant, Keys2drive administrators need to monitor broad developments in road safety education and strategy. They must stay aware of potential improvements in novice-driver safety education and be prepared to amend Keys2drive, where necessary, to keep it as effective as it can be. Any further robust evaluation of Keys2drive is welcome and perhaps best approached by examining the program’s effectiveness in the context of the safe-system: for example, how it does, or how it can better, align with its two relevant pillars – Safe People and Safe Vehicles.

To download the full report, click here.

Keys2drive is an Australian Government-funded program providing learner drivers and their parents/supervisors a free driving lesson with a Keys2drive accredited professional driving instructor