Getting a driver's licence is an exciting time for a teenager. They often count down the days and hours to this symbol of social independence.
However research by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre shows that the riskiest time for new drivers is during the first 6-12 months of driving alone and that young drivers still need plenty of support after they’ve passed the driving test.
The research also shows that:
- P-plate drivers are estimated to be 33 times more likely to have a crash than L-plate drivers
- The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of new teen drivers and this risk increases with the number of teen passengers
- If a driver has not slept in 17 hours, his/her driving ability is the same as a driver with a 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
- Compared with crashes of older drivers, those of teens more often involve driver error.
The good news is that parents and carers can do a lot to help promote the safety of their recently licensed son or daughter. Here are six essential steps to keep your teen safe on the road.
1. Teach them how to manage high risk situations
Both Learners and Provisional drivers are inexperienced but P-plate drivers are more likely to encounter high-risk situations, which might include driving on high speed roads, in poor weather conditions, at night, when tired, in remote areas, or being distracted by loud music, others in the car or the temptation to text or talk on the phone. Helping your P-plater’s learn about safe and responsible driving in high risk scenarios will reduce the danger of them being involved in a crash.
2. Be an influencer
Believe it or not, you’re a very important role model and your driving behaviour is a major influence on the driving style of your young driver, so try and practice what you preach! Even if you aren’t always with them in the car, have regular conversations with them about their experiences and different situations they may have to face. Being a passenger with your new P-plater is a good way for them to gain confidence and get feedback in high-risk situations plus it helps them develop good driving habits.
3. Have visibility around who they are driving with
Fatal crashes among teenagers are more likely to occur when other teens are in the car and the risk increases with every additional passenger. Helping your teen driver to be aware of the high risks associated with having friends as passengers can increase their safety on the road.
4. Have zero tolerance
Obviously driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a fast track to disaster for any driver, but especially an inexperienced one who may be vulnerable to peer pressure. Constantly reinforce the message that being behind the wheel means no alcohol or drugs.
5. Choose a safe car for your teen
If you're helping to choose a car for your teen, go for the safest one you or they can afford and make sure that it’s mechanically sound and they’re fully insured.
6. Maintenance and checks
Teaching your teenager basic car maintenance checks such as correct tyre pressure and wear, windscreen wiper and coolant fluid levels can reduce the likelihood of accidents and on-road mechanical problems. Ensuring they have roadside assist will also help if they break down or run out of fuel.
- Download Going Solo - A resource for parents of P-plate drivers, research by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre.