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Why Young Drivers Are At Higher Risk Of Road Accidents

A driving instructor buckling his seatbelt to go for a drive giving lessons to a young car driver

Although modern driving tests are incredibly comprehensive, there’s still a lot of learning to be done once new drivers get onto the roads. Learning the rules of the road and basic driving skills are definitely an important part of the journey, but most of the learning comes from having to decide how to react to specific situations.

Young drivers have yet to develop these reactions and lack any significant hands-on experience, which alone puts them at an increased risk. That combined with adjusting to complicated junctions and other drivers’ behavior means getting on the roads can be dangerous.

Experienced drivers will be familiar with the signs and body language of other drivers, something no book can really teach you. Their knowledge teaches them the safest ways to handle particular things, leading to instinctual reactions which can reduce the danger of any potential incidents.

In this article, we will cover exactly what puts young drivers at a higher risk of road accidents, including hazards on the road, speed perception, overconfidence, and mobile phone usage. We’ll also take a look at how they can tackle these issues and make themselves safer.

Hazards on the road

Although young drivers are usually quite focused when they drive, as they still need to actively concentrate, it’s easy for them to miss things that could pose a risk.

For example, an experienced driver will usually be reading road signs and watching the cars around them and any other surroundings, but initially, a young driver may struggle to focus on multiple things at once.

This could lead to them missing a person stepping off of the pavement, or a cyclist appearing alongside the car which could lead to very dangerous situations.

Speed perception

Sometimes it can be hard to judge just how fast you’re going, even for experienced drivers. Young drivers have so many new things to adjust to that they often will just drive at the speed limit or slightly above, not thinking about whether their speed is appropriate.

If a road has a limit of 60mph, it doesn’t mean that’s the required speed and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s there to be beaten. Drivers will need to pay attention to the road itself in order to find a speed that feels safe. It’s better to start slower, particularly if it’s an unfamiliar road.

Young drivers who are traveling too quickly often underestimate the bends, amount of space, and any hazards on the roads, making it difficult to slow down in time if necessary. If a person steps out in front of someone who is speeding, they have a very low chance of stopping in time.

Scenic road drive with sunset on a curvy road

Overconfidence

Not all young drivers will be overconfident, but unfortunately, it is very common. Confidence can definitely be helpful in some situations when driving, but it should be earned with experience.

For example, young drivers may feel confident enough to overtake other drivers but may underestimate the risks of doing so. It’s easy to misjudge the speed of oncoming traffic and the power of your car, particularly when most young drivers will have low-powered cars.

Mobile phone usage

Using a mobile phone while driving tends to be more prevalent among young drivers – perhaps due to the pressure of needing to stay connected, or because they feel confident at multitasking with their devices.

Even just a few seconds of looking away from the road can be deadly, which is why it’s illegal in many countries to hold a phone in your hand while driving. It’s recommended that mobile phones are left out of reach, or if they’re needed for directions, in a secure phone stand.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How can young drivers resist peer pressure?

A: It can be difficult to resist peer pressure for many reasons, particularly if the driver is one of the first of their friends to pass their driving test. They may be pushed into uncomfortable situations or encouraged to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Young drivers should try to make their peers aware of the dangers, and if that doesn’t work, they may need to be firm and tell them to find someone else to drive them. It’s easier said than done sometimes, but setting boundaries is important.

Q: How many drinks can you have before driving?

A: The legal blood-alcohol limit varies across states and countries. In the US, it is 0.08% but there is a “zero-tolerance” limit in place for certain drivers, including teenagers. The “zero-tolerance” limit ranges from 0% to 0.02% depending on your state, so it’s best to avoid drinking before driving altogether if you’re a young driver.

Conclusion

Young drivers are statistically at an increased risk of being involved in or causing a road accident, particularly those that result in fatalities. The fatal crash rate for 16-19 year-olds is nearly three times the amount of drivers aged 20 and over, with it spiking between ages 16-17.

As a young driver, the best you can do is try to be aware and do your research if you’re unsure of anything. You can always ask an experienced driver for advice too, just make sure you’re as prepared as you can be before you hit the road.

References:

Compare The Market

Distracted driving: a safety guide for responsible young drivers

Forbes

Blood Alcohol Level Chart 2023

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

Fatality Facts 2020 – Teenagers

Steve Sharp

I am a digital consultant with a passion for global and local environmental issues. Since graduating from university, I have worked in various industries, but am now focusing on helping businesses harness the power of digital marketing to improve their bottom line, whilst sharing my knowledge about sustainable living.

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