Driver Education & Road Safety

Young Drivers

Given that automobile crashes are the leading cause of injury and death in teens, you can pretty much say that young drivers drive themselves to trauma centers. And, they do this in record numbers.

Since 1980 up until 2001, the total fatalities Australia-wide was 52,841. Of them, 17070 (or just over 32%) were in the 17-26 age grouping. And of those numbers, 78% were young males. (Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Sept 2002)

The Australian College of Road Safety Policy on Young Drivers states:
"Young drivers under the age of 25 are the most vulnerable road users in Australia.  They make up about one sixth of all drivers but close to one third of drivers killed. 
Presently available licensing and training methods have not succeeded in giving new drivers the skills that are believed to be most important for survival:  anticipation and judgement; the ability to observe, understand and make sense of the road and traffic environment, to make judgements and take the right actions to overcome hazards.  Research suggests that this has much to do with the process of learning and the fact that it takes time and experience to develop the mental maps of the road and traffic environment that permit the development of cognitive and perceptual skills.

Problems of learning to drive are exacerbated by the fact that young persons ability to perceive and make correct judgements about risks and hazards is underdeveloped, and further that the teenage years are when young persons are more likely to take risks.
ACRS advocates that learner drivers and their supervisors and instructors make maximum use of statutory learner permit periods to obtain as much driving experience and practice as possible under controlled conditions in which the risks are reduced as much as possible.  The experience should be graduated to more complex and demanding driving and traffic conditions as the learner gains experience, under as wide a range of driving conditions as possible.

The range and depth of the experience to be obtained should be such that when the new driver obtains a provisional licence he or she will have already encountered and driven under all the conditions a driver can normally expect to meet.
The aim should be to actively and constructively prepare the learner for the point at which he or she will go solo on obtaining a provisional licence, while getting across the idea that obtaining a licence is just the beginning of a lifetime learning process.

ACRS encourages the professional driver training industry to develop materials and resources to help parents and non professional supervisors to work in partnership with professional driver trainers in integrated and cooperative programs.

There is need for continued research into the driver learning process and the way in which driving skills, attitudes and motivation are acquired, and how to reduce the vulnerability of provisional licensees.  There is also a continuing need to identify and develop innovative programs and projects that effectively address young driver over-representation in road trauma, and to constantly re-evaluate them for effectiveness and in the light of new research.
Note:  This policy statement does not apply to motorcycle riders, for which different learning and licence acquisition requirements apply."

While a single jet plane crash involving a few hundred lives will make and maintain headline news for months and years, the epidemic of young driver deaths due to driver behaviour is difficult to maintain on any political agenda. Rather, it is an issue that is fought in the trenches mainly by grass roots organizations often founded by surviving family members of crash victims. The crusade to reduce and prevent teen driver crashes goes on several fronts and includes many groups whose intention is to change rules and regulations with respect to obtaining a drivers license, to increasing penalties for driving infractions.

At some point, the young leaves the nest and the novice driver flies solo. From a human developmental point of view, this couldn't happen at a worse time. Most novice drivers flying solo are teenagers. This is a time of spreading wings, risk taking and the belief of invincibility. Independence from parents is paramount, yet without resources for true independence teens are caught in the developmental bind of relying on parental resources to paradoxically flex their own might.

It is at this point in the journey where most young driver injuries and deaths occur.

All traumas are serious. Traumas involving young persons are particularly troublesome.

Your choice; your destiny.

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