Driving is one of the most complex things we will do in our daily lives. It’s also one of the most dangerous. The ability to stay safe on our roads is something that isn’t always thought about, however it should be our number one concern.
So how do you become a safer driver? By JEROME SEARS.
Having that freedom to go where you want to go, not having to depend on your parents anymore… Earning your drivers license is a rite of passage; it’s the ultimate freedom. But with our eagerness to get behind the wheel, the risks associated with driving are often forgotten.
Driving is an amazingly complex task that takes years of practice to master. Getting your license is just the first step. Having the skills to drive a motor vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean you have the skills to be competent while behind the wheel. It’s the way you develop skills and experience that makes all the difference. Once you successfully pass your license, it’s really only just the beginning of the learning process.
As young drivers between the ages of 15 and 24, we make up approximately 16% of the licensed population. However, we are involved in over a third of all fatal car crashes each year. The death and injury rates for young drivers have dropped over the years, yet driving is still the number one killer of young people in this country.
Motor racing driver and road safety advocate Greg “Murph” Murphy explains that most young people have a lack of awareness when it comes to safety behind the wheel. “Most of the time, young people are unaware of the realities of dangerous driving, oblivious to how significant a problem it really is,” he says. “It’s only when they experience a road crash situation in reality [that] they start to develop an understanding of the real risks.”
A Lethal Combo
Crash rates on the learner’s license are actually quite low. But when it comes to driving solo on a restricted license, rates start to skyrocket. The most at-risk group is young drivers aged 15 to 19, in the first 12 months of driving solo.
Once we get our restricted license, we have a tendency to start feeling invincible. As young drivers, we tend to take risks and overestimate our driving ability, which can get us into serious trouble. The combination of driver inexperience and immaturity is a lethal one, leading to a much higher crash risk for new, young drivers.
The most common rule that young people break on a restricted license is driving with passengers. On your restricted, you’re not even allowed passengers in the car, unless you’re driving with a supervisor.
Having fun with your mates while driving can go bad very quickly. The risk of being in an accident can be 10 times greater if there are passengers in the car.
“Accepting and understanding the need to focus on the job is a real problem for young drivers,” explains Murph. “More young people than not actually break that rule, and a lot have accidents with passengers that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
Whether you’re on your restricted or your full license, passengers can be distracting and this can ultimately affect your driving.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Some of the factors that have played a part in the drop of death and injury rates include road improvements, the development of safer cars, a zero tolerance to alcohol policy and raising the driving age to 16.
However, there are still a lot of accidents involving young drivers. Murph believes that it comes down to the importance of really focusing on the task at hand. “When you are in control, it’s your responsibility. You need to put 110% concentration into being safe behind the wheel, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case.”
The road safety campaigner wants to see some form of professional driver training introduced to the graduation licensing system. “There’s a lack of training and education for drivers in New Zealand, and that plays a big part in our road toll – the fact that there’s no compulsory education.”
The solution is to become better, smarter drivers. Part of that comes down to experience; the more experience we have behind the wheel practicing our skills in varying conditions, the better we will be at driving.
There’s plenty we can do to become safer young drivers. How we drive can change our lives – and the lives of those around us. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and the wider community to drive carefully and stay safe on the road.
Is Your Driving Due For a Check-Up?
5 Pointers for Safer Driving
1. Check your ride
Making sure your ride is safe and roadworthy is crucial to the safety of you and everyone else on the road. Having a current Warrant of Fitness is essential, but when it comes to making sure your ride is safe, it’s up to you to check it out. Checking your vehicle needs to become part of your regular routine, from the tyres to the headlights. The condition of your ride is critical to your safety out on the road.
2. It’s all about respect
You’re not the only one on the road, so be considerate to other road users. Keep an eye out for surprises. Treating everyone with respect, care and consideration will help keep everyone safer.
3. Stay one step ahead
Keep looking beyond the car in front. Think about the bigger picture and be constantly aware of what’s going on around you. Assume that the traffic around you doesn’t know what it’s doing. It’s all about the constant process of looking, thinking and practicing – building up your experience behind the wheel.
4. Drive to the conditions
Speed mixed with inexperience will kill. Conditions on our roads can change in an instant. Whether it’s rain, frost, fog, or simply driving at night, always drive to the conditions. If they change, you need to change your driving accordingly.
5. Distraction can kill
No cell phones, fiddling with the stereo, messing around with food. You need to be fully focused when you get behind the wheel and not have any distractions. It only takes a split second of distraction to cause a serious accident. And definitely no alcohol. That’s just plain stupid.
A Dangerously Close Call
It was a very narrow escape four years ago for TEARAWAY Maverick Stephen Gallagher. Here’s his story.
I was on the way home from a mate’s place one night. As I approached a roundabout, I was texting and driving, yeah – dumb as, I know.
I slowed at the roundabout, looked up to see it was clear, then continued to text as I drove on. The thing was though, the roundabout wasn’t clear; my glance had deceived me. I crashed into a car that had two young kids in it. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but I could have easily injured someone severely – or worse – and caused all sorts of serious problems.
I was stupid. Texting while driving is probably the dumbest thing you can do. Ever since then I have never used my phone while driving. That feeling of being scared, upset and disappointed with myself was enough to change me and to ensure that I don’tmake the same mistake twice.
A program designed to guide you through the process of gaining your restricted license.
(or check out Murph in Schools on Facebook):
Murph’s young driver safety roadshow, touring high schools across the country.
The good peeps at MTA have given us a bunch of $50 MTA gift cards to give away.
You can use these to get a safety check or Warrant of Fitness, help buy a new set of tyres, fill your ride up with petrol, or buy anything else service stations sell. Thanks MTA!
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