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Why Are Newly Qualified Drivers More At Risk?

Interesting fact: A study back in 2015 found that while young drivers aged 17-24 made up only 7% of UK full driving licence holders, they were involved in 22% of fatal or serious collisions where they were the driver. The reasons why were:

  • Much less awareness of the road and traffic around them
  • Failure to see or take on board road signs
  • Failure to stay in the appropriate lane and at a steady speed
  • More likely to drive too close to the vehicle in front
  • Slow reaction time when needing to break or stop abruptly
  • More likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic flow
  • Being more stressed and frustrated at the wheel
  • Using technology while driving and other forms of physical / mental distraction.

As such there are several reasons why young drivers are more likely to crash a car. The main ones are discussed below:

  1. Inexperience and / or overconfidence
  2. Poor road awareness
  3. Alcohol and drugs
  4. Driving while distracted
  5. Driving while tired


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Inexperience and overconfidence

Both inexperience and overconfidence make up a large proportion of the 1 in 5 new drivers that are involved in a vehicle collision in their first 6 months of driving.

Whilst it takes a learner driver only around 15 hours to pickup basic driving handling skills and technique, other driving skills such as road awareness and hazard perception do not develop as quickly and without relative experience, which leads young drivers into believing they are better drivers than they actually are. This means they easily misinterpret a warning on the road or believe themselves to be quicker to react than they actually are.

Statistics say that a lack of driving experience can be overcome with approximately 1,000 miles of individual driving. At that point new drivers have experienced most of what they will see on the roads, and the many types of situation they may face, and therefore are better equipped to anticipate what is happening ahead, understand different road conditions and routes better. At this point they are generally better at recognising potential hazards early enough to react safely.

Poor road awareness

Recent stats have also shown that young drivers have poorer perspective of the road and weaker visual awareness than more experienced drivers. For example they do not scan the road sufficiently, have less peripheral awareness, drive too close to vehicles in front and do not check their mirrors as often.

This is all about inexperience and / or overconfidence. Young driver complacency and a lack of general awareness of the road puts thousands of young drivers, other vehicles and people at the roadside, in real danger each year. Poor road awareness is the cause of hundreds of thousands of accidents that could have been prevented with a little more driver concentration.


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Driving under the influence of drink or drugs

Driving having drunk anything alcoholic or taken any sort of recreational drugs obviously has an adverse effect on driving capacity. So this is an obvious no, no! but more startling still, research has shown that a young drivers risk of crashing and receiving serious or fatal injuries increases dramatically with every alcoholic drink they consume. This is a far greater increase for younger inexperienced vs. older more experienced drivers.

Both alcohol and drugs affect a drivers mental functioning and therefore their ability to drive, react and think clearly. As such the penalties for drink and drug driving are the same – a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison and a record on your driving license for 11 years.

Being distracted

Young driver distraction constitutes another significant proportion of the reasons why they are more at risk on the roads. It is seen as when a driver pays attention to something else other than the act of driving. It is very common amongst younger drivers who have less experience and understanding of the roads and can get distracted very easily by things going on outside the vehicle, by those in the vehicle with them or by technology they have to hand (mobile phone, in car media).

Of course people can multi-task, especially if they are talking or listening to music, but if the distraction is too great then it compromises their driving ability. It is why hand-held mobile phones are illegal and why in car entertainment systems are heavily regulated with many safety measures, as they are a major cause for distraction.

Objects, events and activities outside the car can also cause distraction. It is these kinds of external distractions that become easier to handle as a young driver gains more experience and awareness out on the roads.

Being tired

Driving when tired contributes to many direct and indirect traffic accidents. Falling asleep at the wheel may be the extreme in dangerous driving but even being slightly tired causes many thousands of accidents each year on the roads. Being tired dramatically reduces concentration and awareness of what is going on around you. This is more common with younger drivers then with their more experienced counterparts because in general they are: a) more likely to drive late at night, b) more impatient to get somewhere and so will ‘push on through’ any tired spells and c) generally don’t ‘think’ they are tired at all.


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