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Media talking

Hitting the headlines

Joyriding, speeding, drink-driving, high teenage road fatalities – read the papers and it's easy to let alarming headlines put you off driving. It's true that new drivers are over-represented in road accident statistics, and young male drivers in particular account for a high percentage of drink-drive incidents – but while headlines may give the impression that all inexperienced drivers are a road menace, there's another school of thought out there: that today's new drivers hold the solution to problem driving.

The stats

While one in five drivers has an accident in their first year of driving, four out of five drivers get through their first year on the road safely. The statistical evidence also shows that people are responding to road safety education campaigns – for example, while drink-driving rates are still too high in the 17 to 29-year age group, fatalities have dropped from 990 in 1988 to 590 in 2004.1 Likewise joyriding, while a major headline maker, has also declined; from 650,000 cases in the late 1990s to 250,000 cases in 2004.2

The reality

It's important not to exaggerate the issues, but don't imagine road safety campaigns and adverts aren't speaking directly to you. Thinking you're a skilled driver just because you haven't had an accident or that you have an 'above average' driving ability because you've avoided road-rage and drink-driving incidents is dangerous. The majority of drivers (and not just new drivers) overestimate their driving ability, and that's a major factor in accidents. The answer, therefore, is to strike a balance between the dangers you hear about, and how you choose to drive. Key factors to remember are:

  1. Risk-taking is never a good idea. Just because you've got away with drink-driving once or twice or have chatted away on your mobile as you've driven and not been caught, doesn't mean you can get away with it again.
  2. Speed kills! Don't fool yourself that you're skilled enough to control a speeding car. Speeding contributes to 40,000 serious injuries and 1,000 deaths a year.3
  3. The dangers of driving may be sensationalised but they are real. Accidents happen – which means hazard perception is always vital – it's not just your own mistakes you have to watch out for, but also those of other drivers.

1 Campaign Against Drink Driving
2 Joyriding statistics - on the AA content document
3 Think! Department of Transport

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