Young Drivers and Deadly Passengers is the fourth part in Stephen Haley’s thought provoking series titled “How to Make Novice Driver’s Crash”.
“Three teenage passengers killed themselves and their driver in a horrific crash last night.”
It’s a headline you will never see. Drivers are required to be in control, whatever their passengers do.
Yet it is well documented that the crash rate of young drivers is greatly increased when they carry peer passengers. And the passengers are not always aware of the influence they are having.
This article is about how this happens and can be prevented. It sets out specific and simple ‘passenger skills’ for both drivers and passengers. The material is easy to use for the youngsters themselves, or for adults running groups sessions.
Graduated licensing systems often place restrictions on peer passengers, but when it is possible we should see ‘how-to-do-it-safely’ as a better and fairer approach than ‘just-stop-doing-it’.
Banning young people from risky things might seem an easy and obvious solution. But it holds them back, and usually feels unfair to them. It stunts development, and is also likely to surface as resentment somewhere. The vast majority are not deliberately reckless. They are fun loving and excitable, certainly, but not suicidally so.
The increased risk when young drivers have peer passengers is not inevitable, and a lot more could be done to teach specific passenger skills. Not only to youngsters who are learning to drive, but also to all children as part of road safety training at school.
Putting encouragement before restriction is a more positive and helpful adult role – and means thinking harder about how to teach young people to manage risk safely.
This not only gives them the benefits of the activity – in this case driving, it also instils a far more self- reliant, robust and responsible approach to becoming an adult themselves. It’s a better picture of what an adult needs to be.