I’m Bob Hannigan, and I’m Head of National Standards and Accreditation at DVSA.
Part of my role is looking into how we can help make sure learners are ready to take their driving test, and to ultimately better prepare them for a lifetime of safe driving.
Trialling the use of text messages
Earlier this month, we started sending out text messages to learner drivers, either encouraging them or asking them to consider whether they feel confident and ready to take their test. These will continue until February 2019.
The texts are designed to inform, rather than replace, the discussions ADIs have with their pupils before their test to check you're both happy with their progress and ability. We think it’s really important those discussions continue throughout the pupil’s learning process.
Why we’re carrying out research
As we explained in the DVSA direct we sent in November, we’re working with The Behavioural Insight Team (BIT) to carry out research into learner drivers and how we can:
- make sure candidates are better prepared to take their test
- encourage learner drivers not to take their test before they’re ready
- help keep new drivers safer once they've passed
Before we trialled the messages, BIT and DVSA undertook a period of fieldwork to consider the target group and touchpoints of users.
ADIs, learners and test centre staff were interviewed and considered as potential trial participants. A final decision was made to use text messages.
We designed the messages to complement learner drivers’ efforts to adopt safe driving behaviours. The learning we gain from this research will help us develop future communications.
How the text messages are sent
Anyone over the age of 17 in Great Britain is automatically opted-in to be part of research to improve road safety when they book their driving test. The messages are sent between 14 and 1 days before their test.
We know some of you are receiving these messages instead of your pupils, as your phone numbers are on the test applications.
Although we do have some mitigating action in place to prevent this happening, if you receive one, we’d encourage you to share the message with your pupil as part of your normal discussions about their progress and readiness for their test.
What the text messages will look like
Learners will receive 1 of 10 of trial text messages, and only one of these messages will ask your pupils for extra information. This message will be sent from a number ending 284.
If your pupil does receive the text message asking how many hours they've driven for, you should encourage them to respond, as their responses will help us inform future communications to learner drivers.
The other messages will ask the learner to consider things like whether they have had enough practice in different weather conditions or tips on how to relax before taking their test. These will come from ‘Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’.
Data protection rules
Some of you have asked how the text messages comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules. As a government organisation, we can carry out research where it supports our public task. Making sure candidates understand and are prepared for their test meets that requirement.
We’ve published the privacy notice on GOV.UK, which explains how we process candidates data. The data collected through this research will be stored for a maximum of 2 years.
We’re committed to reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads. Over the next year, we’ll be carrying out more research into how we can better prepare newly qualified drivers for driving safely on our roads.
We know you work hard every day teaching learner drivers the skills they need and we don't want to undermine the value of your work. However, with one in 5 people killed or seriously injured on the roads, involved in a collision where the car driver is aged between 17 and 24 years old, we need to do more.
Researching learner driver experiences
Our next research phase is planned for January 2019, when we will be working with BMG Research to survey learner drivers. This will help us understand more about learners’ experiences of learning to drive and how prepared they feel when getting ready for and taking their test. We’ll also be asking where, how and why people learned to drive.
We’ll update you next year about the outcome of this research trial and our future plans.