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Learning to Drive

Learning to drive is an exciting time for many teenagers, and probably a very worrying time for most parents. Young drivers are quite often quite oblivious to the dangers which can face them on the roads; it is therefore extremely important to help them to start their driving career as safely as possible.

It is unlikely that anyone except an approved driving instructor (ADI) would have the experience, knowledge and training to teach young drivers properly. Learning safe driving habits from the start is crucial for improved safety on the roads.

It is vital to set a good example to young drivers, when they are learning to drive, as bad driving habits are very hard to break and tend to stay with you for the rest of your driving life.

Learner drivers have few accidents because they are always under supervision. But, once they have passed their test, and can drive unsupervised, their chances of crashing increase dramatically.

Young drivers are much more likely to crash than experienced drivers.

  • 1 in 5 drivers crash within their first year of driving
  • 1 in 3 male drivers aged between 17 and 20 years crash in the first two years after passing their test.
  • An 18 year old driver is more than three times as likely to be involved in a crash as a 48 year old driver.
  • Young drivers are more likely to be involved in high speed crashes, single vehicle crashes involving losing control, crashes in the dark and crashes when overtaking and negotiating bends.

There are many factors which can help explain why young drivers are more likely to crash:

Lack of experience
This is one of the main reasons new drivers are more likely to have accidents. As new drivers gain more driving experience their accident rate begins to fall.

Young drivers, especially men, tend to be over confident and are more likely to drive in risky ways: too fast, too close to the vehicle in front and dangerous overtaking.

Young drivers consistently rate their own performance as above average and are more likely to regard ‘good’ driving as the ability to master the controls of the car at higher speeds.

Hazard Perception
Young drivers often have excellent vehicle control skills and fast reactions. But, they are poor at identifying potential hazards and assessing risk, and tend to overestimate their ability to avoid the hazard and accident. It takes new drivers up to two seconds longer to react to hazardous situations than more experienced drivers.

Peer pressure
Young drivers, especially men, who carry friends are more likely to have a crash.

Novice male drivers have higher accident rates than novice female drivers, and are more likely to commit driving offences.

Penalty points
Not only are new drivers more likely to crash, but they are allowed fewer penalty points before losing their licence. If a driver acquires six or more penalty points within two years of passing their first test, their licence is revoked. They must then obtain a new provisional licence, drive as a learner (display an ‘L’Plate and be supervised) and pass the theory and practical driving tests again.

The main penalty point offences are:

  • Speeding: 3-6 points
  • Going through a red light: 3 points
  • Careless driving: 3-9 points
  • Driving without insurance: 6-8 points
  • Failing to stop after an accident: 5-10 points

New Drivers & Pass Plus
Passing the Driving Test is the first step to safe driving, not the end result. Encourage the young driver in your household to take further training. The Pass Plus scheme helps new drivers improve their skills and widen their driving experience. Pass Plus is a training course designed by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) with the help of insurers and the driving instruction industry. Many driving experts feel that the elements of Pass Plus should be involved in the standard driving test. The course is operated by most standard driving schools but it must be taken within 12 months of passing the standard test. The cost of the course starts at £100,though prices may vary. It is made up of six practical modules which include:

  • Driving in town
  • Driving in all weathers
  • Driving on rural roads
  • Driving at night
  • Driving on dual carriageways
  • Driving on motorways

There is no test, however you will be continually assessed and must complete all the modules successfully. once completed, drivers can obtain reduced insurance premiums from some insurance companies. It is advisable to check available discounts offered by the many insurance companies taking part in the scheme. The saving made may be more than the cost of the course.

Safe Driving Agreement
Over 3000 car drivers aged under 25 are killed or seriously injured on Britain ’s roads each year. It is therefore very important to encourage safer driving right from the start.

In America, parent/young driver agreements are very popular. The new driver is allowed to drive the family car (or their own car if you help to fund it) unsupervised, if they agree to certain conditions for the first year or so of driving. This keeps them away from situations that are most likely to lead to crashes. The agreements are flexible and tailored to meet individual needs. They can be verbal or written (for a sample Safer Driving Agreement go to They are not about being over-protective or unreasonable but are promises between the parent and the young driver for safer driving. Agree with your son or daughter some or all of the following:

Driving at night: As young drivers have a high proportion of their crashes at night, agree the times when they can drive the car. For example, you might agree they will not use the car between midnight and 6:00 am.The exact times can be agreed between you, and can be relaxed as their driving experience increases.

Carrying Groups of Friends: For the first few months after your son or daughter has 0passed their test consider agreeing a limit on the number of friends they carry to just one or two if you are not also in the car. Passenger numbers can be increased gradually as experience is gained.

Alcohol and drugs: Ask the young driver in your household to stick to a zero limit when driving for a year or so after passing their test. Ask them not to take a lift with drivers who have been drinking or might have taken drugs. Remember, even some over-the-counter medicines cause drowsiness. A young person with a drink-drive record is almost uninsurable — but if you do manage to get insured, it will cost a small fortune.

Speed: Young drivers are more likely to see speed as exciting. They are particularly prone to approaching bends too fast and to dangerous overtaking. Even keeping within the speed limit can be unsafe, for example on wet or icy roads or on narrow, winding rural roads. Discuss with your young driver why you would like them not to speed or take risks.

Mobile phones: Whilst it is reassuring for young drivers to carry a mobile phone, it is dangerous and also illegal to use it whilst driving. Ask your son or daughter to agree only to use their mobile phone whilst parked. Discuss other distractions, like playing loud music, eating, drinking and smoking, to ensure they are aware of the implications of dividing attention between the driving and other things.

A Safer Driving Agreement requires both the parent and the young driver to make promises. In a survey (conducted by RoSPA) most young drivers said they would not object to negotiating some conditions with their parents.

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