A few years ago, the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) conducted a study that showed teen drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of serious crashes.
Driver training may be a provincial issue, but there is a national problem with respect to teen drivers and the propensity for them to cause serious injury and death. The main point of the TIRF Study was that the Canadian population as a whole, not just the legal system, has not taken this issue seriously. Road crashes are the leading killer of teenagers, but in a survey of more than 1,200 Canadian drivers, TIRF found less than one quarter believed young drivers are a “serious or extremely serious” problem.
The vast majority, almost 84%, said impairment through alcohol and drugs was the most serious safety issue involving teens.
Parental involvement a key
As a driver educator and parent, I have been heavily involved in everything from course design and delivery, to worrying about those first hours when the new driver was on their own. It is estimated that almost 50% of new drivers will have an incident in the first 12 months at the wheel. It is also known that young female drivers will likely tear up a fender in a parking lot and young males create considerably more damage at higher speeds in these initial crashes. The equal rights movement is closing that gap with young females increasingly likely to be involved in higher speed incidents.
What has changed is the mobility of today’s young drivers, the number of them at the wheel and in possession of their own wheels. They drive more often, in more crowded conditions and at higher speeds. It is the nature of the beast for a young person to feel indestructible, to take chances because they don’t realize the consequences. They also do not yet have the body of experience to know how much time and space to allow during various driving situations. This explains the propensity to be involved in rear-end collisions and those where they crossed the opposing lane of traffic.
Graduated licensing and parental supervision are the answers – allowing a new driver to accumulate experience in ideal circumstances – under controlled conditions. Most graduated licensing programs – and wise parents – do not allow a new young driver to drive while there are a number of others in the vehicle. Distraction is at the top in terms of contributing factors in crashes involving young drivers
Another issue is the time of day. Most graduated driving programs restrict the amount and/or time of driving at night. Again the new driver does not yet have the experience to realize that the time and space issues are even more critical in the dark.
Most parents try to ensure their young drivers get the best training possible. It is a very small investment. They also monitor and participate in their early driving for the first few hundred hours, allowing a gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience.