Young Driver Danger Zones

22% of injuries caused by road accidents involved a young driver aged between 17 and 24, according to Department for Transport figures. The same report tells us that in 2011, 24% of all road fatalities were young drivers and 25% were killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties.

If percentages don’t feel real to you, how about this? 148 sons and daughters died in road accidents.

If your son or daughter is an inexperienced driver, you’ll want to know how to keep them safe behind the wheel because unfortunately, most road accidents are still caused by driver error, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA).

In a related article, we looked the steps parents can take to help their kids reduce the risks. But what are the risks? And how do young drivers avoid the danger zones?

Inexperience

One in five young drivers will have an accident in the first six months of driving. You can't get away from the fact that every new driver has to start somewhere, and until they’ve built up experience of a wide range of situations on the road, their judgment, perception of danger and reactions make them more vulnerable.

ROSPA estimates that one in five crashes are caused by drivers not correctly judging the speed or path of another person or driver.  Young, inexperienced drivers are understandably prone to this kind of error of judgement.

Avoid the danger

Spend as much time as you can driving with your child. Newly qualified drivers are often less sure of themselves than they’d like you to believe. Faced with new situations they haven’t experienced with a driving instructor, such as night-time driving or motorways, they might welcome extra supervised sessions with you.

Poor weather conditions could be a new experience for them too; take the opportunity to give them the benefit of your experience in a wide variety of different situations.

Teenage passengers

Peer pressure can encourage bad driving. Young drivers may show off to teenage passengers, who may themselves cause distractions.

Research in the U.S. provides insight into the increased risks, showing that the already high crash risk for 16 to 19 year olds is even higher where young passengers are present. The more passengers in the car, the higher the risk. Where there are two or more passengers, the risk of driver fatality in an accident is five times higher than when driving alone.

Avoid the danger

Explain the danger to your child. Make them understand the risk and ask them to agree a limit to the number of friends they carry as passengers, at least until they have more experience driving.

Driving at night

Across all age groups, the crash risk of night-time driving is higher than during daylight hours, but even more so with teenagers. Several factors could be at play:

  • Visibility is restricted at night
  • As there is less traffic on the roads, a driver may feel that they do not have to pay as much attention. Drivers may also feel they can drive faster on quieter roads
  • Young people are more likely to be driving for recreational purposes during these hours, so the probability of drink and drugs being involved is higher.

Avoid the danger

Until your teenager has more experience on the roads, set a curfew for driving.  

Distractions

Passengers are not the only distraction to young drivers. Activities such as using a phone to text or call, changing the stereo settings, fiddling with a sat nav and eating and drinking all contribute to loss of attention behind the wheel.

Avoid the danger

The chances of you being in the car with your child on every trip are remote, but when you are, make them ignore these distractions. Set a good example by not falling foul of these bad habits yourself – and don’t underestimate the influence your own driving has on your children as they are growing up.

Over-confidence

Alongside those anxious, newly qualified drivers who welcome advice, are the over-confident ones who think they know it all. They drive too fast, they tail-gate other cars, overtake when it’s not safe, become aggressive when other drivers make mistakes and pay more attention to gadgets in the car or their phone than the road. Their judgement is impaired but their lack of experience means they often don’t know it until it’s too late.

Losing control of a vehicles accounts for one-third of all fatal car crashes and around 400 people a year a killed in accidents where speed was a contributory factor for the prevailing road conditions.

Avoid the danger

This type of young driver is less likely to be swayed by well-meaning parental lectures on safe driving. Talk to them about the risks, but back it up with a written agreement of the consequences if they get a speeding ticket or get pulled over by the police for speeding or reckless driving. Our Parent Teen Driver Agreement template might help.

Other danger zones

Not using seatbelts is a less common occurrence these days – in the U.K. we’re mostly programmed to automatically belt up when we get into the car, but in the rare instance that a young driver forgets, their risk of significant injury in an accident is much greater. ROSPA estimate that 300 lives a year could be saved if we all wore seatbelts all the time.

Tiredness kills. Remember that old road safety campaign? It’s still a valid message – you shouldn’t drive when you’re tired – but young drivers often don’t realise that their responses are impaired, or have the judgment not to drive even if they do realise.

Drink and drugs. Even after many years of road safety campaigning, young drivers still get caught drinking and driving, or driving under the influence of drugs. Around 280 people a year die in crashes where someone was over the drink-drive limit. If lack of experience, judgement and perception of danger is a risk under normal circumstances, add to this the dulled responses of a drunk driver and the danger is very real.

Avoid the danger

As with other dangers, parents should not only talk to their children about the risks, they should set a good example by adopting good driving habits themselves. All these habits can also be covered by a written agreement between you and your child. Use our template as a starting point or write your own, with explicit consequences if they let you down.

Get an online quote for young driver insurance.

Other articles in this series:

Teen Driver Safety

Young Driver Safety – How Parents can Help

Parent Teen Driver Agreement

Proposals for Graduated Driving Licences

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