Young drivers are particularly at risk in the early hours of the morning
If your children are learning to drive or newly qualified here's what you need to know to help make sure that their early years on the road are safe and accident-free.
Actually, most young drivers are safe. Only a significant minority (about 35%) could be considered unsafe drivers, but the problem isn't always one of experience. Deliberate bad driving aimed at 'impressing' friends or gaining a thrill through risk taking is also a problem.
Young drivers are particularly at risk in the early hours of the morning - per mile driven, a young male driver is five times more likely to have an accident than his father. The accident risk for young male drivers in the early evening is much lower, suggesting that the problem is how they drive at night rather than inexperience at driving in the dark.
Young people, men particularly, like to show off when driving which means that they are generally less safe when they have friends/passengers in the car. Both sexes show off more to young male passengers than to young women and some find it 'cool' not to wear a seat belt even though this cuts the chance of being killed in a crash by a half.
Drink, drugs, and high spirits all add up to make young drivers take risks. Any is dangerous alone whilst the combination is the main explanation for the high risk of accidents late at night.
'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. The risk to passengers is every bit as large, and drivers have to fight hard not to conform.
It isn't easy to spot a potentially bad young driver. Many youngsters can be characterised as 'the show-off type' but some quiet, unassuming people can change behind the wheel. After years of being quiet at school or poor at sport, driving provides a whole new way to find popularity. Drivers who have been drinking, or taking drugs are a particular danger of course.
If you don't think a driver is going to be safe, perhaps because he has been drinking, then don't get into the car. And, if his driving is poor or is scaring you, ask to get out. This can be enough to make a driver change the way he drives.
A lot of showing off and risk taking happens on country roads leading to many head-on collisions, and collisions with trees. Both are often fatal.
A new driver with hours of professional driving instruction and practice with a parent has to take a passenger of his or her own age for the first time at some time. Driving instruction doesn't prepare you for chatting and driving so passengers can help by being quiet and not encouraging the driver to drive in a way he or she doesn't want to. Build up, starting with one responsible friend before carrying multiple passengers.
Many youngsters find themselves facing a choice between the wrath of their parents or driving home drunk or getting a lift with a bad or drunk driver. An "I'll collect you, no questions asked" approach may be the safest way.
An agreement to 'rescue' a young driver, 'no questions asked' removes temptation to drive home or be driven home drunk. This will help a young driver should he or she either be unable to drive or not want to come home with another driver.
The Young Drivers at Risk report highlights the dangers new and young drivers face on the roads, both at home and abroad, and shows ways their safety can be improved.
Key findings of the report centre on an AA/Populus panel survey of drivers involved in car crashes.*
(20 March 2013)
*AA/Populus survey of 19,284 drivers, 22-30 May 2012