- Why young drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident
- What circumstances increase the risk of young drivers having an accident
- How drivers can stay safe on the road
- The impact young drivers have on insurance premiums
Passing your driving test is a huge milestone in life, whether it is on the first, second or tenth attempt. Most of us can still remember that feeling of achievement as you take your place behind the wheel for the very first time without an instructor sitting beside you. No matter how old you are, you cannot ignore the inevitable taste of adrenalin when you start to put your foot down, and for many people, driving a car isn’t just a way of getting from A to B, it’s their ticket to freedom.
Driving for function or fun?
Whilst we can all acknowledge that buzz of first passing our test, the novelty of being behind the wheel soon wears off, especially as we have to encounter the inevitable traffic jams and road works on a daily basis.
For many young people however, statistics show that the thrill of driving doesn’t seem to subside, and this is one of the reasons why they are involved in so many road accidents. The scary fact is that, although drivers aged 17-19 only make up 1.5% of UK license holders, they are involved in 12% of serious and fatal crashes.
A lot of research has gone into understanding why young drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents and who is most at risk. With this information, the challenge is to find a way of putting measures in place to reduce these statistics and make the roads a safer place for everyone.
The cold hard facts are:
- Drivers aged 16-19 are more than twice as likely to die in a crash as driver aged 40-49.
- One in four 18-24 year olds (23%) crash within two years of passing their driving test.
Statistics taken from http://www.brake.org.uk
The stereotype of the boy racer
The concept of the boy racer careering through the streets has captured the imagination of the public for a long time, and many responsible young drivers are unhappy to be associated with this stereotype. Sadly, the figures speak for themselves, as statistically, young male drivers are involved in many more crashes than young female drivers.
Arguably, negatively stereotyping young male drivers based solely on gender and age can actually exacerbate bad attitudes to driving; creating the character of the “bad driver” as rebellious.
When out on the roads, drivers of all ages will inevitably come across ‘near miss’ situations at some point or another, whether they are at fault or not. The main difference between these day-to-day, unavoidable incidents and the accidents that young people tend to be involved in, is that the latter could possibly be created unnecessarily.
Common situations where young people are involved in accidents are:
- When driving at night.
- When driving round sharp bends at high speeds.
- Bad driving conditions.
- When driving with passengers.
- If the driver has a particular “attitude”.
Is age just a number?
The unarguable facts show that there is a far greater risk of being in an accident, when the driver passes their test at a young age. According to the Transport Research Laboratory a driver starting to drive at 18 is 8% less likely to have a crash than if they start at 17, and a further 8% fewer if they delayed until 19 years old.
This could well be down to the combination of inexperience and youth, which would tie in with how the figures reduce significantly with older, more experienced drivers. However, brake.org.uk cites physical attributes of the younger brain, as being a contributing factor. As the frontal lobe of the brain, (which helps control instincts and emotions) isn’t fully developed until our mid-twenties, younger drivers can underestimate high-risk situations and be more at risk of crashing. With this in mind, encouraging young people to delay learning to drive can have a significant impact on safety.
What are your drivers more likely to crash?
Risk taking inevitably goes hand in hand with youth, and where better (or worse!) to push boundaries to the limit than behind the wheel? The following scenarios highlight common areas where young drivers are more likely to take risks:
The dangers of driving at night
Studies show that young drivers tend to drive at night more than other drivers, and a high proportion of accidents involving this sector happen between 8pm and 4am on Friday/Saturday and Saturday/Sunday. This could be down to the following factors:
- Night-time driving is considered more dangerous than day time driving, simply because of impaired vision due to darkness.
- As traffic flow is significantly reduced at these times, it opens up the opportunity to exceed the speed limit due to there being no other drivers on the roads.
- There is a higher chance that alcohol and/or drug intoxication is involved in accidents late at night. This could be the driver who is under the influence, or passengers who may be causing a distraction as a result of intoxication.
- It is also a consideration that night drivers are more likely to be tired, and concentration levels may not be as sharp as when fully awake. This is also relevant to other motorists, and it is essential that drivers take additional care to be able to spot the signs of others driving dangerously.
- At night there is the added danger of potential drunk drivers on the road or drunk pedestrians who may veer into the road without looking.
Pride comes before a crash
There is a fine line between being confident and being arrogant, especially when driving. Being over-confident can be a recipe for disaster on the roads, especially for young drivers who haven’t had much driving experience.
Once young people have acquired the physical skills of driving it is natural for them to feel that they have mastered it and, as a result, are over-confident about their driving ability.
This can be dangerous, because although they may be familiar with the basics of functioning and maneuvering a car, the less obvious skills such as hazard perception will undoubtedly require more experience. This results in young drivers feeling like they are in control when they are actually driving unsafely. Research shows that young drivers who exhibit overconfidence in their driving skills are more likely to crash in their first two years of driving than those who are insecure, and therefore more cautious.
On the fast track to disaster
The lure of speed and the perceived benefit of the associated adrenaline rush is understandably extremely tempting for young drivers. Speeding can also offer a feeling of power, which is especially applicable to some young male drivers.
However, exceeding the speed limit is one of the main reasons that young drivers get into bother, as they simply cannot anticipate dangers ahead if they are approaching them too quickly. Also, it is surprisingly easy to lose control of a speeding vehicle, especially without the benefit of experience. Often young drivers underestimate the importance of sticking to the speed limit, considering it to be more of a problem to get ‘caught’, than the potential safety consequences.
Another risk that young drivers commonly take is to overtake on blind corners. Overtaking often goes hand in hand with speeding, as the thrill of having a clear stretch of road ahead is just too tempting to resist. This thrill seeking ‘need’ for speed takes over the individual, and as a result, lessens the importance of safety. Sometimes, overtaking on corners can just be bad judgment, where an inexperienced driver simply doesn’t anticipate the danger of possible oncoming traffic.
The dangers of peer pressure
It goes without saying that young people are subject to peer pressure, and as a result, may show off and engage in risky behavior to receive status amongst a peer group. The statistics associated with peer pressure are:
- 16-17 year-old drivers are up to four times more likely to die in a crash when carrying young passengers than when driving alone.
- However, these figures are reduced by 62% when carrying older adult passengers. This indicates that it is peer pressure rather than simply the presence of passengers that raises the risk.
- Teenage drivers are six times more likely to have a serious incident when there is loud conversation in the vehicle.
- Young drivers and passengers do not always wear seat belts, especially when group of friends are together in the car.
Statistics taken from http://www.brake.org.uk
Hazard? What Hazard?
Experienced drivers are used to anticipating potential hazards on the road, even in situations where they are not immediately obvious. As a result, they are able to react in good time and adjust their speed appropriately. These are skills that come with experience on the road, meaning that, to begin with, young drivers are less equip to deal with hazardous situations.
Research has also highlighted that young drivers have less attention and visual awareness, and therefore don’t always adjust their speed in time to suit to their circumstance.
For all drivers, it is essential to be able to constantly balance the attention needed for practical tasks such as steering and changing gears, with more cognitively demanding tasks such as hazard identification. Inexperienced young drivers will naturally need to concentrate more on practical tasks, and are therefore slower to switch between tasks.
The non-designated driver
Although there is much more awareness about the dangers of driving whilst under the influence of drink and/or drugs, the following statistics show that it still goes on, and many accidents happen as a result:
- Drivers in their 20s have the highest rates of crashes that happen as a result of both drink and drug driving.
- Young drivers who crash are twice as likely to be impaired by alcohol as older drivers who crash, and this is far more common among young men than young women.
- It is harder to measure the exact amount of accidents caused through drug driving, however, one study found that almost one in 10 (9%) of 17-24 year olds in the UK have admitted to having driven on drugs.
Statistics taken from http://www.brake.org.uk
Hang up the phone
It is clear that young drivers need to concentrate more on driving than more experienced drivers, therefore any form of distraction isn’t a good idea. Mobile phones are inevitably a huge distraction, as research shows that young drivers are more likely than older drivers to use their mobile phones at the wheel. So much so, that a Brake survey found that 19% of young drivers admitted texting at the wheel at least once a month, compared with 11% of older drivers taking this risk.
Older is not always wiser
One area where age isn’t a benefit in driving, is where it refers to the vehicle. Many young people tend to drive older vehicles, simply because they are cheaper to purchase. As a result, these vehicles may not always be safe, and certainly have less advanced crash protection.
What can be done to make young drivers safer on the road?
Although statistics indicate that young people are still more likely to be involved in and be victims of a car crash, reassuringly, the amount of young people involved in accidents has significantly declined since the 1990s. These figures give hope that the statistics can be reduced even further, so what can be done to help put positive changes into place?
Better awareness, better statistics
As there have been many advertising campaigns over the past decade, highlighting the dangers of drink driving and speeding, it is apparent that this heightened awareness has contributed to the decreasing figures. With this in mind, it is a fair assumption to say that further, more consistent education will help reduce these figures even more.
Changing attitudes to drink driving is a perfect illustration of how education can save lives; whereas in previous decades drink driving was par for the course, nowadays it is an activity a lot of young people would never consider. If we continue to spread awareness of the risks of driving then, the statistics on young drivers could potentially change for the better.
Changing the driving test
Factoring more safety education into the driving test experience may make a positive difference to young drivers, as this is a perfect time to instill safety precautions before they are actually let loose on the road. Training could involve more risk assessment education, helping young drivers identify potential hazards, and more importantly, teaching them how to handle them.
Graduated driver licensing (GDL) has been put into place in several other countries, and has proved to effectively reducing casualties. This incentive allows new drivers to gradually build up their driving skills and experience, by using a more staged and structured approach to learning to drive. GDL has a minimum learning period followed by a post-test novice driver period with license restrictions, which helps to limit the exposure of new drivers to potentially dangerous situations driving at night and carrying passengers.
Restrictions on new drivers
There has been much debate in recent years over whether additional restrictions should be applied to young drivers, such as the above mentioned GDI. Both the Government and the ABI have been heavily involved in making suggestions to slash the amount of accidents involving young drivers on the roads. Possible routes of action include:
- Restricting passengers to family members only.
- Limiting the numbers of passengers in the car.
- Drivers cannot carry any passengers for the first 6-9 months after passing their test.
- Making P plates a legal mandatory.
- Putting a curfew on nighttime driving, stopping young drivers from using the roads between certain hours of the night/early morning.
- Speed restriction that must be kept in place until a driver has had their license for a year. This already applies in Northern Ireland, with a limit of 45mph.
- A minimum 12 month learning period before the test can be taken so that drivers have better practice and don’t rush to pass without getting proper experience on the road.
- A ban on intensive driving courses.
- Lowering the age at which young people can learn to drive to 16 ½ years old.
- Lowering of blood alcohol concentration for drivers aged between 17-24.
These restrictions are still under debate, as arguably, many of them would be difficult, or impractical to be realistically put into place. What is unanimously agreed on, however, is that significant changes need to be implemented to reduce young deaths on the road, including a better training and testing system for young drivers and investment in monitoring technology for young drivers.
How do these statistics affect Motor Insurance?
An area that has been affected by these high statistics has been motor insurance, and consequently, premiums have risen, which can often put off young drivers before they even get behind the wheel. Clearly, there are a percentage of sensible young drivers on the roads, which leads to the question: are we persecuting our young drivers unfairly?
According to the ABI, young drivers are grossly overrepresented in official accident figures, as young drivers are most likely to make a catastrophic claim, as opposed to a minor collision claim and the claim is more likely to include a greater number of people in the crash. But, although young people are evidently more susceptible to accidents, the ABI fully believe that the focus should be on working with young drivers to try and prevent fatal or life-changing accidents rather than perpetuating stereotypes which make young people feel alienated or hard done by.
An initiative that has proved to be popular amongst some insurers is ‘Black Box’ technology, which is offered to young drivers. Black Boxes monitor speed and the times that drivers are on the road, and can effectively be used in line with curfews, to ensure that young drivers are not able to drive during high-risk hours, for example, late at night. This is a great way of stopping safe young drivers from being associated with the ‘boy racer’ stereotype, and as a result being penalized with extortionate premiums. Drivers abiding by the ‘Black Box’ rules can be offered discounts on their insurance, which is undoubtedly an incentive to reduce dangerous driving.
Parents also favour Black boxes as they allow them to monitor their child’s driving behavior, and in addition providing peace of mind. As many young drivers use their parent’s vehicle when they have just started driving, parental monitoring has been found to reduce speeding and dangerous driving.
What to do if you’ve had an accident
Just because young drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident this doesn’t mean that they are always to blame. If you are a young driver who has been injured in an accident then speak to the Solicitors at ASD to find out if you can make a compensation claim.
Call us today on 0800 163 622.
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