Driving instructors know better than anybody that young drivers are the most likely to be involved in a road accident. But did you know an 18-year-old is six times more likely to crash than their parents?
Ability comes with experience, so it’s logical to assume that somebody driving for 1 year is more at risk than those with 10+ years of experience behind the wheel. However, when you zoom out and look at the wider stats, only 20% of new drivers aged between 35-44 and 16% over 55 are involved in an accident during their first year of driving.
In comparison, a whopping 26% of new drivers aged between 18 and 24 are involved in a crash in their year as a driving ‘fresher’, so it’s clear to see that age isn’t just a number when it comes to road safety.
In this article, we’ll look at why young drivers are more likely to find themselves in an accident, and what you can do as an instructor to help them stay safe.
Road safety charity Brake found that people aged 17-19 are involved in nearly a tenth of all serious and fatal crashes in the UK, despite only making up 1.5% of driving licence holders. This amounts to an average of 1,500 young drivers being killed or seriously injured in the UK each year. These figures are seriously worrying but help to shed some light on why car insurance is so high for teenaged drivers.
So why are younger drivers most likely to be in a crash? It can be boiled down to 3 main reasons:
After passing their test, a lot of young drivers are pumped full of adrenaline and excitement to get out on the open road. In other words, they’re on top of the world and feel like they can take on any challenge.
This isn't a wise attitude to have when driving. Over-confidence is one of the biggest factors that lead to young people being involved in a disproportionate number of accidents.
You can hardly blame somebody who’s recently passed for lacking experience. After all, they’ve probably only spent around 50 hours behind the wheel before taking the test. And, according to the ROSPA, it takes around 1000 hours to experience most challenges that the road offers and be considered ‘experienced’ — so most young drivers have a way to go before hitting those numbers.
The first thing many in their late teens-slash-twenties do with their new pink licence is take their mates out for a spin. This is all harmless fun — if the driver concentrates on the road and doesn’t let things going on inside the car distract them.
This, of course, is a big if.
And then there are mobile phones. Young people, as we all know, are glued to their smartphones, and this habit can easily creep in while driving. They might think “it’ll only take a second” to skip a song or check their notifications, but that second can be the difference between life and death.
Distraction combined with inexperience and a dash of over-confidence = a recipe for disaster.
So now we know why young drivers are more likely to be involved in a bump than other age groups, let’s look at how we as ADIs can help to impart sensible driving habits on them.
Be a good role model
We’ll start with the most obvious, but something still worth saying — being a positive example to our learners is crucial. As their instructor, you’re probably the most authoritative driver in their life. Most teens will let what their parents say go in one ear and straight out the other (I’m sure you’ve experienced this, one way or another!) — but you’ve got the advantage of being a fresh voice of influence.
Speak to your students about the dangers of speeding. Tell them stories of drink or drug drivers who ended up in jail, or worse, dead. Never let your emotions get the better of you during lessons, so they learn to stay cool in every situation.
One factoid that can really hit home with young men is that more young women die as passengers than drivers. Nobody wants to put their girlfriend’s life in danger by showing off and driving carelessly.
Arrange lessons in as many conditions as possible
This is easier said than done, especially when students are eager to pass or are taking an intensive course. However, it’s usually possible to arrange at least a few hours of driving in the dark and/or rainy conditions (this is the UK, after all!).
Extra care needs to be taken when driving in adverse conditions, and you’re the best-placed person to teach learners exactly what they need to do.
Encourage telematics insurance
They might not like to hear it. They might even see it as stunting their newfound freedom. But black box (a.k.a telematics) insurance can be a real lifesaver while also helping to save a bit of cash.
Most young drivers dread taking out their first policy, and many will ask you for your advice on how to limit the costs. Try to encourage a black box insurance policy — your learner will drive with more care in their first year of driving, helping to build vital experience in the meantime.
Encourage advanced training
Most recent passers will be glad that they don’t have to pay for driving lessons anymore (no offence to us ADIs, I’m sure!), so many young drivers could turn their noses up at advanced or PassPlus training. However, it’s worth the discussion, especially as PassPlus can also help to drive insurance costs down.
If the learner isn’t thrilled with the idea of post-pass driving tuition, see if their parent/guardian is more open to the idea. If that still gets you nowhere, you could try to incorporate motorway tuition into their regular driving lessons. This way, the learner gets important motorway and high-speed driving practice without feeling as though they’re paying extra or being treated like a baby.
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