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Advice for New Teenage Drivers

Congratulations. You've passed your driving test. You can take off the L-plates and legally sit alone in the driver's seat. It's a great feeling isn't it! Engage your seatbelt and your solo driving experience can begin.

May we suggest before you start the engine, you give a thought to the many thousands of young men and women, who like you, were once sat in the drivers seat full of excitement and youthful exuberance.

In common with many young drivers they probably thought that they too possessed above average driving skills. They believed they could cope with any driving situation that presented itself. Again, sadly for them and for some of their friends and girlfriends they all paid a heavy price for this overconfidence. Always remember, as a young driver your ability to assess risk can be coloured by your natural enthusiasm for risk-taking.

There is no doubt that young people particularly teenagers, quickly and easily master the basic rudiments of driving. As a teenager your dexterity and quick reactions allow you to become very proficient at using the controls of a car, probably much better than older drivers. For the sake of argument we will call older drivers 30 years plus.

Many people believe that you don't start learning to drive until you have past your test and you begin solo driving. While it may be correct that driving experience is gained through trial and error, unlike learning on-the-job, an error of judgement in a car can cost you or someone else their life.

So, stay calm. Stay cool. Drive with care to go anywhere. And always remember: you're shinny tin box with its glossy paint work and chrome trims can take you to heaven or it can bring you safely back home.

Myths spread by older drivers

Older drivers, especially parents who wish to curtail a teenager's' natural enthusiasm for driving fast or showing off, will tell you that they never drove recklessly or broke the speed limits. For a tiny minority this may be true, but the truth is, most adults when they were young, particularly men, have at some time driven far too fast for the road conditions.

Because of speeding some may have taken the bend too wide and got away with it. Others, who were sure they could overtake the car in front and get back in lane in time, were not so lucky. The point being, we were all young once and older drivers were not born risk averse.

Fifty years ago there were roughly 4 million cars on Britain's roads which in percentage terms resulted in a huge number of deaths and casualties, usually among middle-aged people because in those days, it was rare for someone under the age of 21 to own or drive a car. There are now close to 28 million cars on the UK road network whose drivers benefit from road safety improvements such as motorways, dual carriageways and better road layout and design. Cars are also built much better, their safer and are more crash resistant.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if you have more cars and more drivers' on the road, the chances of having an accident will have increased. Despite this huge increase in vehicles on the road, the death and injury rate among middle-aged drivers has greatly decreased, while deaths and injuries among todays young drivers have soared.

Why do statistics show that young people have not been the beneficiaries' of reduced accident rates?

Is it because you're all speed merchants and risk-takers? Of course not; But the statistics do show that if you were to drive like your Mum and Dad, you will have less accidents, fewer injuries and will live longer.

Sounds simple, doesn't it! At the stroke of a pen (in this case a keyboard) RoadDriver has solved the problem of teenage drivers killing and injuring themselves. Because from now on, you're all going to drive sensibly and cautiously just like Mum and Dad and we're all going to live happy ever after. Yeah right!

Speed and Risk-taking

The fact is, since time began man has taken risks and has been especially fascinated by speed. Civilization would not have progressed to where we are today without the adventurous and risk-taking young. To illustrate the point, Lewis Hamilton was only 13 yrs of age when he was signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their Young Driver Support Programme.

Having shown that it is natural for young people to take risks and to seek the thrill of driving fast, does this then explain the high death and injury rates among young drivers? No not really! While statistics show that speed and risk-taking is a lethal combination, these two actions alone do not explain the high death and casualty rates among todays young drivers.

If we take Lewis Hamilton as an example; he drives extremely fast and he takes risks, but he has lived to drive again and again. So how does he manage it? The difference of course is he is a professional driver and is extremely well trained. Although he takes risks, they are measured and calculated risks assessed both by him and his back up team. He also drives a car that has been built especially for racing. His car has been designed to drive only on flat even surfaces with no spoiled tarmac or potholes. Also Lewis does not have to watch out for pedestrians, cyclists, or road junctions and he normally does not have to cope with drivers coming at him in the opposite direction.

I suspect Lewis Hamilton will be the first to agree that driving on a racetrack is much safer than driving on Britain's poorly kept and overcrowded roads.

So!  If it is not solely speed or recklessness that is killing and maiming your peer group, what else could it be?

A combination of inside and outside car distractions, lapses of concentration, overconfidence and inexperience are likely to be contributing factors alongside the inability or reluctance of your age group to identify or assess danger. It is a fact that young people do not and maybe cannot assess danger in the same way as an older person does. It cannot be that a young person has less to lose than an older person. Young people must value their life and look forward to their future the same as an older person.

Does the fact that an older person having dependants and therefore more responsibilities than a young person lead them to be a safer or more cautious driver? Possibly, although I doubt if an older driver when assessing whether it is safe to overtake, is thinking, if I do not make this manoeuvre my children will be fatherless, therefore I better not try. Although, it is true that as one gets older, you acquire life experiences that can make you more risk averse.

The fact is there is no one reason for the huge number of casualties involving young drivers and their passengers. Accidents involving young people are usually a combination of Fearlessness, Risk-taking, Inexperience, and Speeding. Studies have shown that for some teenagers it has taken the experience of being involved in a collision before they recognise the dangers of driving inappropriately.

Living with a disfigurement or disability

RoadDriver like many road safety organizations talk about the futile waste of life through dying in a road accident or collision. Imagine the pain of having to live with the fact that your actions caused the death of your best friend or your girlfriend. Of course, if you die in a car accident the chances are that you will have known very little about it and if you're dead you're dead. Unlike your parents or your brother or sister; you don't have to mourn your loss. You also don't have to cope with feelings of guilt for not being there to protect you.

If dying is not bad enough, worse still can be a lifetime of coping with disablement or disfigurement. Think of the damage your face could sustain as you fly through the windscreen because you couldn't be bothered putting on your seat belt. Also losing a limb in a car accident is sadly a very common occurrence. Showing off, and doing handbrake turns suddenly lose their appeal when it could cost you an eye or a leg.

We make no apology for the graphic content of this text; this is the true cost of being inexperienced and overconfident. Bravado kills and maims, teenagers are not invincible, you will not bounce off the tree and walk away, and there is nothing heroic about surviving a car crash.

What is RoadDriver doing to help reduce road accidents, deaths and injuries among young people?

We have designed a New Driver Safety Scheme to help parents and driving schools monitor a newly qualified driver. The scheme is in place not to spoil your driving experience but to dampen your natural enthusiasm and hopefully keep you safe.

What can YOU do to help reduce road accidents, deaths and injuries to you and your friends?

The first thing to recognise is that your destiny is in your hands, so take control of your own life. Make a conscious effort to stay alive by driving safely and defensively, it doesn't have to be boring nor do you have to turn into your parents.

Always wear your seatbelt and ensure all your passengers have theirs on before you move off. Do not take NO for an answer, if they won't wear their belt, don't give them a lift.

tyd4_pass_plus.jpgBecome a better driver by considering taking the Pass Plus course.  http://www.passplus.org.uk

Be the leader in your group of driving friends by refusing to follow the pack. Set a good example and take a pride in driving safely. If a friend asks you to race him, say YES but only on a supervised race circuit or cart track where you can show off your driving skills in a safe supervised environment. If you have a friend who drives fast or takes risks, talk to them before they hurt someone or injure themselves. Enjoy being young and the freedom your car gives you, enjoy learning new skills as your driving experience broadens and above all enjoy being alive!

Don't forget! If you wish to test your driving skill and experience the thrill of a cars performance, book a day at a racetrack. This is the only legal and safe way to race.

Make sure you do not become a statistic and remember:

Driving safely is a state of mind

Fearlessness: leads to stupidity - Risk-taking: is foolhardy - Inexperience: is room for improvement and Speeding: leads to death or injury.

Advice for New Teenage Drivers

Tips and Advice-Article No 68 RoadDriver 2010

For more information and a printable version to pass on to friends and family, click the link below.

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