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Young Drivers

Some facts and information on younger drivers

Worried about a Young Driver?

Most young drivers are safe.  Only a minority can be considered unsafe drivers.

It’s not always down to inexperience

There are two problems.  Inexperience and deliberate bad driving which is aimed at either "impressing" friends or gaining a thrill through risk taking.

Inexperience is probably the less serious threat to a young driver, especially if they accept they are still learning.  The rate of accidents for young drivers, particularly males increases significantly during the early hours of the morning.  However it is much lower in the earlier evening which suggests behavior rather than experience driving in the dark is the problem.

The show-off and the risk-taker

Young people, men in particular like to show off when driving. This means that they are generally less safe with friends/passengers in the car. Research suggests that both sexes show off more to young male passengers than to young women. Some youngsters find it "cool" not to wear a seat belt – yet it cuts the chance of being killed in a crash by a half.

It's not only about driving ability

Drink, drugs, and high spirits all add up to make young drivers take risks. All are dangerous in their own right.  A combination leads to the higher accident rates late at night.

"Egging on"

Egging on adds to the problem – passengers who've also been drinking and having fun, can pressure drivers into taking risks they wouldn't normally take. Passengers just shouldn't apply this pressure – the risk to passengers is every bit as large – and drivers have to fight hard not to conform.

Avoiding trouble:

Spotting a likely bad driver

This isn't easy, but many youngsters can easily be characterised as "the show-off type". Similarly, some quiet, unassuming people can change behind the wheel – after years of being quiet at school, poor at sport and a failure with the girls, driving gives them a whole new way to become "popular". Obviously drivers who have been drinking, or taking drugs are a particular danger.

Don't get in – or ask to get out

If you don't think a driver is going to be safe – perhaps because he is drunk, there's no need to get into his car. Similarly if his driving is poor or is scaring you, ask to get out. This can often be enough to make a driver change the way he drives.

Country roads aren't safe roads

Much bad driving by young people – particularly showing-off and risk-taking – happens on country roads. This leads to many head on collisions, and collisions with trees, both of which are all too often fatal.

Inexperience – there has to be a first time

Even a driver with hours of professional driving instruction and many more practising with Dad and Mum has to take a passenger of his or her own age for the first time.

Passengers can help by being quiet and understanding rather than encouraging the driver to drive in a way he or she doesn't want to. It's best to be progressive – start with one responsible friend and slowly move on to carrying multiple passengers.

Driving instruction doesn't prepare you for chatting and driving.

Parents can help! Both young drivers and their passengers need to be able to 'opt out' whilst parents have to balance authority with keeping their offspring safe.

The ideal is an agreement to "rescue" the youngster – should he or she either be unable to drive or not want to come home with a driver.

Many youngsters find themselves facing a choice between the wrath of their parents or driving home drunk/getting a lift with a bad or drunk driver. An "i'll collect you, no questions asked" approach may be the safest way.

The basic facts

  • Of the 212 peope who died on Irish roads during 2010, 38% were aged under 25. 
  • One in five drivers has an accident in the first year of driving.
  • Nearly 15,000 teenage passengers were casualties in road accidents in 2006. 167 were killed. Many of these would have been in cars driven by teenage drivers.
  • Teenage females of driving age are 33 per cent more likely to be killed or seriously injured while travelling as passengers than as drivers. Males of the same age are 50 per cent more likely to be killed as drivers than passengers.

A fun night out

But it is not only drink driving that shows this risk – teenage male drivers in the early hours of the morning have 17 times the risk of the average male driver. The urge to show off, and to take risks plays a part, and the addition of drugs or alcohol to this kind of behaviour can only make things worse. For the youngest drivers inexperience counts twice, teenage drivers are generally inexperienced drivers and inexperienced drinkers – yet another dangerous combination. The police are well aware of the propensity of young drivers to drink – young men are more likely both to be breath tested and to be found over the limit following an accident. For the last few years the number of breath tests has been inching up and the number of tests conducted in the latter part of the year (last quarter) is 50% higher than in any other quarter.

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