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A recent survey conducted by the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, RAC, has revealed shocking information about young drivers. Completed by over 500 WA drivers aged 17-21, the survey targeted mobile phone use and speeding as well as general attitudes towards driving.

Roughly 15% of responses said they didn’t believe using a phone behind the wheel was risky. This is concerning when the number of inattention-related fatal crashes doubled from 2020 to 2021 – that is 28 fatalities or roughly 17% of WA road deaths.

78% responded that they didn’t think speeding over the speed limit by 5km/h was dangerous and one in three believed speeding over the posted limit by 10km/h was not risky. The number of speed-related fatalities also increased and was a contributing factor in at least one in three crash fatalities in 2021.

Is this just an issue amongst young drivers though?

97% of young drivers said that they had seen a driver use their phone behind the wheel and over half had been in a car with a driver using their phone. An older survey by CARRS-Q, found that young drivers saw parents “as hypocrites” when it came to mobile phone use. As a result, they were less likely to take road safety messages regarding mobile phone use seriously.

Furthermore, three in four responses said they had been in a car where the driver was speeding. As important as good driver education and training is, being surrounded by an environment supporting road safety is crucial.

Oddly enough, 73% of young drivers rated their driving skills better or much better than their peers, despite 40% having been involved in a crash while driving.

This is optimism bias – the tendency to overestimate the likelihood that we will experience positive events in life compared to others. Optimism bias is the ‘it will never happen to me’ mentality and often causes us to believe we are more skilled than our peers and underestimate the chances of negative events occurring to us (read about Optimism Bias).

RAC’s Rhys Heron said, “Inexperience and overconfidence are a deadly combination, and speed and distraction continue to be leading factors in the deaths and serious injuries that happen every day on WA roads.”

For years, young drivers have been consistently overrepresented in road fatality and serious injury statistics. They are naturally less experienced than other drivers and are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours (read more about Young Drivers). However, the burden of ‘fixing’ this issue should not lie only with young drivers – the whole community is responsible too. Children learn and mimic as they grow. While it’s important to teach young drivers safe driving practices, it’s equally important that we embody road safety and set good examples for our young drivers to follow.

“Of such profound concern… the overrepresentation of 16-25 year olds in road trauma is actually increasing. It’s heading in the wrong direction,” Peter McGuinness of You Choose Youth Road Safety shares.

Find out more about young drivers in our new podcast episode with You Choose Youth Road Safety founders Melissa and Peter McGuinness. Search for ‘Behind the Road Toll’ on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

To find out more about our programs click HERE.

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