How to raise a safe driver
Learning to drive can be tense for teenagers and parents alike. While young people are at risk on the roads due to inexperience, they are also more prone to risky behaviours. In one Australian study young drivers had a 50%greater chance of crashing because of their risky driving behaviours. Risky behaviours include (but aren’t exclusive to) speeding, not following road rules, using phones and texting, driving during high-risk times such as at night-time and during bad weather, consuming alcohol and having passengers in the car. But parents can help young drivers become safer drivers.
Be a positive role model before kids begin driving
Parents’ driving habits influence their kids long before they get behind the wheel. “If parents have lots of driving offences, it’s likely their kids will as well,” explains Rebecca Ivers, Conjoint Professor of Public Health at Sydney Medical School and Director of Injury Division at The George Institute for Global Health. The take away? Practise safe driving at all times, even before kids are at driving age, because it’s sure to rub off on them one day.
Supervised low-risk driving beats skill-based driving courses
Booking your kids into advanced driver training can lead young drivers and parents to overestimate their skills. “Studies have shown advanced skill-based training can actually increase the risk of crashes,” says Ivers. Instead, she recommends exposing teenagers to as much low-risk driving as possible to develop their skills over time: “Low risk means restricting driving to during the daytime in good weather or at night with supervision and not carrying passengers.”
Make sure teenagers are having regular lessons which reinforce safe behaviours
Young drivers develop better skills with regular driving lessons, says Ben Elmassian from Sydney’s North Shore Driving School. “Sometimes there are long time gaps between driving lessons, but in my view young drivers become more capable, well-rounded drivers when they have regular lessons,” he says.
Enlist the help of an experienced driving instructor
A reputable driving instructor with years of experience can be invaluable in helping young people develop safe driving practices, explains Elmassian. These skills include how to scan the road, check the car’s tyre pressure and watch mirrors. “These are skills quite often overlooked by parents,” Elmassian says.
Reduce driver distractions as much as possible
“Eating, drinking, using mobile phones and carrying passengers can distract inexperienced drivers,” says Elmassian. Driver training should reinforce not using these things as one of the most important ways to stay safe. “Young inexperienced drivers should be constantly scanning the road for obstacles, rather than being distracted,” he says.
Draw up your own parent/driver agreement
Having a provisional driver’s licence is no guarantee of safe driving, says Ivers. One way to tighten up P-plater safety is to draw up a parent/driver agreement. The agreement can be even more stringent about safety than the driving road rules to further reduce any risky behaviours. “Your teen’s car usage should be dependant on them abiding by these rules,” suggests Ivers. What should you include? Try these safe-driving rules:
- A rule forbidding alcohol consumption
- Rules that forbid texting, phone use and eating or drinking while driving
- Rules that restrict or forbid driving at night or in inclement weather
- Rules that restrict or forbid passengers
- A rule requesting the young driver reveal where they are going, with whom, how many people will be in the car, who will be driving and what car they will be driving.
Young driver statistics
(Figures: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development 2012)
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