words Alexa Wang
Did you know 1 in 5 drivers crash in the first year after passing their test? If someone had told me that when I first got my licence, I’m not sure I would have got back in the car. Unfortunately, people are all too quick to criticise young drivers. They don’t seem to grasp there are lots of reasons why young drivers are more at risk. It’s not always the driver’s fault.
1. They Drive Old Cars
Most young drivers are in old cars. Mum and Dad usually drive the shiny, newer model while the new licence holder drives their old, beat-up model. In some ways it makes sense. Parents don’t want to risk getting any knocks or dings in the newer car. In other ways it makes no sense.
Older vehicles have fewer crash-avoidance and crash-protection features so they rely on skill for safe operation. We know older cars are more likely to involved in accidents than newer ones. Research also shows young drivers who share Mum and Dad’s car also tend to take fewer risks on the road.
2. They Copy Their Parents
You might not have thought about this. But your parents teach you to drive, even if they never sit beside you to teach you driving. Children copy the way their parents drive. Every time Mum speeds or Dad doesn’t bother with a seatbelt, children notice it.
While their parents may be able to get away with simple driving errors, young people may not. They don’t have a store of driving incidents in their memories to help them anticipate hazards on the road. Then once young people start driving independently, their parents don’t know what kinds of habits they may have picked up.
As one driving instructor said, “If we had parents who didn’t know much about driving, we won’t know much about driving”.
3. They Drive at Risky Times
Although young people are more prone to drive at risky times, these times are still risky for all drivers. The difference is they have the driving experience to handle them better.
For example, young people are more likely to drive at night because that’s when they socialise. There is more likely to be alcohol involved at night and, if the designated driver drinks too much, someone else has to take over. Young people could have more passengers in the car at night, which can be noisy and distracting. Meanwhile, public transport may not even be an option.
We know driving is always risky, young people can be exuberant or vulnerable behind the wheel, roads can be poor and other drivers behave badly. So it is perhaps surprising that young drivers do not crash more often.
As the UK campaign Road Whisperer said, new drivers have to “learn the ways of the road”.