By Lyndel Bates

This brief is based on the following paper:

Bates, L., Rodwell, D. & Matthews, S. (2019) Young driver enforcement within graduated driver licensing systems: A scoping review, Crime Prevention and Community Safety, 21(2), 116-135.

What problem does your research address? Why is this significant?

Young drivers engage in a range of risky behaviours which makes them the group of drivers with the highest crash rates when compared with all other drivers (Elvik, 2010). Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems reduce crash risk for this group as they gradually expose new drivers to more risky driving situations. GDL systems, while varying from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, generally comprise a learner, intermediate (provisional) and open licensing phases (Bates et al., 2014; Bates, Filtness, & Watson, 2018).

However, young drivers also appear not to comply with both general driving laws and those that are more specific to their licence type (Bates, Rodwell, & Matthews, 2019; Masten, Chapman, Atkinson, & Browning, 2014; Scott-Parker, Watson, King, & Hyde, 2012). Therefore, we need to explore how we can improve compliance with these laws. Using enforcement may be one method of doing this.

How did you conduct your research?

We conducted a systematic scoping review in order to identify relevant studies in order to address the question: How can enforcement practices be used to influence the compliance of young novice drivers within GDL programs? There were 6,599 records identified initially through database searching. After duplicates were removed and non-relevant papers excluded, there were 21 papers in the scoping review. These papers were examined in order to identify where the studies occurred, the design of the study, whether the study used a theoretical framework and the key findings.

What are your major findings?

Most studies examining the enforcement of young driver behaviour occurred either in the United States of America or Australia. The use of theory within these studies was limited with only three theoretical perspectives considered (deterrence theory, procedural justice and third party policing). It appears that young drivers and parents perceive that police enforcement of young drivers is not as effective as it could be. Research also suggests that parents have an important role in ensuring novice drivers adhere to the road laws. There may be some difficulties associated with parental enforcement given that parents are not always aware of GDL provisions. The use of P plates or decals on new drivers’ cars to indicate their licence status was generally supported by the research as it was associated with an increase in traffic citations and a decrease in crashes. There is also a perception that P plates or decals facilitate enforcement.

What are the implications of your research for policy and practice?

Police officers face difficulties when enforcing GDL provision and the road rules for novice drivers. One possible method to overcome this issue is to encourage parents to take on more responsibility for enforcing the road rules. Another option is to use tools such as P plates or decals to facilitate police enforcement. Specific interventions to improve compliance and enforcement for young drivers need to be developed, trialled and evaluated.


Bates, L., Allen, S., Armstrong, K., Watson, B., King, M., & Davey, J. (2014). Graduated driver licensing: An international review. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 14(4), 403-412.

Bates, L., Filtness, A., & Watson, B. (2018). Driver Education and Licensing Programs. In D. Lord & S. Washington (Eds.), Safe Mobility: Background, Challenges and Solutions. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

Bates, L., Rodwell, D., & Matthews, S. (2019). Young driver enforcement within graduated driver licensing systems: A scoping review. Crime Prevention and Community Safety, 21(2), 116-135. doi:10.1057/s41300-019-00061-x

Elvik, R. (2010). Why some road safety problems are more difficult to solve than others. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42, 1089-1096.

Masten, S. V., Chapman, E., Atkinson, D., & Browning, K. (2014). Non-compliance with graduated driver licensing (GDL) requirements: Changes in GDL-related conviction rates over time among 16–17-year-old California drivers. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 72, 230-243. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2014.07.008

Scott-Parker, B., Watson, B., King, M., & Hyde, M. (2012). Young, inexperienced and on the road: do novice drivers comply with road rules? Transportation Research Record.