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Life Learning To Drive


Emily Jenkinson investigates how parents can help their children learn


Youngdrivers T


to drive more safely, while at the same time, reduce the insurance costs


here can be few things more worrying for parents than when their children start to drive, and they have good


reason to worry. Research suggests that an 18 year-old driver is more than three times more likely to be involved in a crash than a 48 year-old and that one in five new drivers crashes within the first six months of taking to the road. In response, insurance premiums for young drivers continue to rise with young male drivers – who pose the biggest threat to road safety – bearing the brunt of these costs. But why are these drivers so at risk and what can be done to make them safer? According to research carried


out by Aviva, the largest insurance provider in the UK, peer pressure, not wearing seatbelts and poor training are all major factors in the numbers of young drivers killed on the nation’s roads. Meanwhile, one in ten young


drivers questioned claimed that, even though they had gained a license, they wouldn’t have given themselves a pass when they took their driving test. George Miller, 18, from Cokethorpe School in Oxfordshire, who passed his test first time, aged 17, agrees: “There were a few things that I would have failed myself on - definitely.” ‘The driving test has got harder


but it’s still not good enough to protect young drivers,” says Ellen Booth, a campaigns officer for Brake, the road safety charity. In its long-running campaign, “Licence to Kill”, Brake proposes a “graduated licensing” scheme that would allow novice drivers to build up their driving skills over three stages. This would involve: a learner period for a minimum of 12 months; a novice period of two years, during which time there


74 FirstEleven Autumn 2011


would be restrictions placed on the driver; plus compulsory curriculum education on the dangers of driving. Extending the learner period has reduced crashes in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and parts of America. Meanwhile, researchers at Cardiff University said last year that graduated driver licensing for those aged 17-19 could save more than 200 lives and result in 1,700 fewer serious injuries per annum. For the time being, however –


while road safety experts debate the enforceability of such legislation – our young drivers are still at risk. So how can we make them safer? In the US there is research to suggest that parental attitudes influence their child’s behaviour and that, by exerting some conditions and control over their teenager’s driving, risk can be reduced. One mother I spoke to said that she and her husband won’t let their son have his own car until he’s left school and will “definitely impose limits”. These will include restricting him to one friend only when he’s driving, and stopping him taking lifts with inexperienced driver friends. “It is a lack of independent


driving experience, rather than age which is the dominant factor in the number of accidents involving new drivers,” agrees The Driving Standards Agency (DSA), which recommends 45 hours professional lessons - plus another 22 hours of private practice. Its Pass Plus scheme, which focuses on driving in different conditions, is an increasingly popular way for young drivers to build on experience and reduce their insurance premiums. Parents, too, have a responsibility to get involved with teaching their


children to drive, according to Aviva, which offers an online guide for parents: The Road to Success. This is based on research that reveals over a quarter of young drivers who did not practice driving with their parents had an accident that required an insurance claim within the first year of passing their test. John Frank, who runs Prontopass


driving school around the Wigan, Preston Blackburn area, focuses on lessons: “I don’t allow people to take the test in my car until they’re ready. There are a lot of instructors


Graduated driver licensing for those aged 17-19 could save more


than 200 lives every year Cardiff University


out there who’ll say, ‘oh go on, you take your test,’ but if someone did manage to slip through, and they’re not ready, it’s a danger for the rest of us, isn’t it?” The key to safety, he says, is in changing young drivers’


attitude. A 17 year-old that shows they can pass the test is at the required standard. A sense of personal


responsibility and a better attitude to road safety in young drivers can be achieved by better education in schools, says Rob Ffyfe, a driving instructor with RED Driving School. While there is a smattering of education out there – the DSA visits schools to


deliver its Arrive Alive Road Safety Programme, as do county council


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