Young drivers cause a fifth of serious car accidents across the UK, even though they make up a much smaller fraction of road users. This is a shocking fact and one of the actual statistics that car insurance companies use when they’re calculating premiums for young people. So, let’s talk about some of the traits that make young drivers more prone to accidents, and see what we can all do to bring those accident figures – and insurance premiums - down.
Playing the odds
It’s a simple fact: insurance is a risk-based business. The more likely something bad could happen, the more likely you’ll have to pay a higher price to get cover. In order to bring down insurance costs for young drivers, we need to bring down the accident statistics. Graduated Driving Licences have worked in other countries, and are working in Northern Ireland to help young drivers improve their skills in a controlled way over time.
Taking the time to improve
Bad driving isn’t just a young driver thing, but as each new generation learns to drive with better habits, the roads become safer. One of the major causes of road accidents among young drivers is not being able to expect the unexpected.
It’s been said that is takes between 6 – 10 years to get truly great at something. That’s averaged out at 10,000 hours to perfect a skill. Young drivers simply haven’t had the time behind the wheel to deal with the unknown. Being able to anticipate what might be happening up the road or around the corner is something that only time can teach you.
Rewarding safe drivers
If you’re a young driver and looking to improve your skills, you might consider a car insurance policy like Drivesave. It’s a free smartphone app that rewards you for good driving. It records details of your car’s position, travelling speed, acceleration and braking. DriveSave gives you a 30% up-front discount on your car insurance, and an additional ‘cash-back’ discount of 5% during the year for good driving. You can find out more about Drivesave here.
You’ve done the hard work
Congratulations on passing your test! In Northern Ireland, just over 50% of people who sit it, pass it. You’ve done the hard work and now you have two years as a Restricted Driver in which to perfect your skills.
As a new driver, you have to drive a car fitted with R-Plates for one year after passing your test. These plates let other road users know you are a new driver, and to make allowances for your speed and experience. The maximum permitted speed for a car with R-Plates is 45 mph. This speed limit applies to any car with R-Plates regardless who is driving it, so be sure to remove or cover the R-Plates if a seasoned driver is behind the wheel.
Having spent all that money and effort passing your test, it would be a shame to do something to put it at risk. New drivers need only reach 6 points in their first two years to lose their licence. This includes any penalty points they may have picked up on their provisional licence.
Essentially, new drivers are on probation for two years. If you lose your licence during this period, you revert to being a learner again. It applies to all drivers and motorcyclists who have passed their driving test in:
- Northern Ireland
- Great Britain
- European Economic Area countries
- Isle of Man
- Channel Islands
- Countries in the European Union
It also applies if you exchanged a foreign driving licence for a Northern Ireland licence and then passed a further test in Northern Ireland.
To get a full licence again, you must reapply for a provisional driving licence, use L-Plates again and pass the theory and practical tests again. To top it all, should you pass your test again, you will receive a new licence with your six penalty points already on it.
So, how can you drive safely, drive well and avoid points on your licence?
- One thing you learn over time is not to take risks while driving. Most young drivers understand this, but some can’t resist speeding, ignoring bad weather conditions, weaving in and out of traffic, or driving without wearing a seatbelt.
- Driving at night can also be a high-risk activity for new drivers. Statistically, young drivers are more likely to crash at night than more experienced ones.
- There are other activities that reduce your ability to drive safely such as over-tiredness, drinking and drug driving and using a mobile phone to call, text or play music while driving. Eating, drinking or using gadgets in the car also lower your ability to react to sudden changes in the road ahead.
- Showboating for friends is also a cause of road accidents. And rowdy passengers can be a major distraction for a new driver.
- Finally, you need to ensure your car is always in a roadworthy condition. That includes, regularly checking lights, brakes, tyres, windscreen wipers, water and oil levels.
- Driving in the winter brings with it particular hazards, and even some seasoned road users may not have enough practice to deal with them.
- As we said, you should always make sure your car is in good working order, but this is even more important in winter. Be sure to check your coolant regularly, and that there is enough anti-freeze.
- If road conditions are hazardous, ask yourself: ‘is this trip necessary?’ Driving on icy or flooded roads should be avoided, if possible. Never drive through water if you don’t know how deep it is. It only takes a couple of feet of fast running water to float a car. Also, weather in winter can be very mixed. Rain on dry roads can cause a car to aquaplane. That happens when water builds up between the wheels and the road surface, reducing traction, and stopping the car from responding to brakes or steering wheel.
- If you are driving in poor weather conditions, drive slowly and remember to leave ten times the amount of room between you and the car in front. Braking distances increase dramatically, and you need that extra time to avoid, or deal with, skidding.
- You might consider taking an advanced driving course to will help you understand and better able to deal with poor road conditions. This could impact on the cost of your car insurance. Find out more here.
We all share the roads, and most of us understand that young drivers need time and space to become confident, safe drivers. You can check out some more ways to improve your driving in the Safety Code for New Drivers here.
Some sobering statistics
We’ll leave you with some food for thought about cars and speed:
- Hit a child at 20 mph and they’ve a 90% chance of survival.
- Hit a child at 30 mph and they’ve a 50% chance of survival.
- Hit a child at 40 mph and they’ve a 10% chance of survival.