The death rate of young South African drivers is at least five times higher than that of older people – car crashes being the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 years old.
Each year about 14 000 people die on South African roads, which is more than 1000 per month and 40 every day, statistics have shown.
Surveys and studies have found that young people play a huge part in road carnage with alcohol, speeding, drunk driving and a general flouting of road rules being some of their vices.
Last week, several role players agreed that no one was safe from young drivers on the country’s roads, this after young people themselves admitted to flouting the rules whenever they could.
“They use and abuse their new-found freedom on the road through a lack of discipline and a general don’t-care attitude when they are newly qualified to drive,” said a member of Pretoria East’s Safety First, Sallie du Preez.
The situation in Pretoria was extremely difficult to deal with, she said, adding that young drivers in the city were being exposed not only to fast cars, but also to alcohol.
“These are immediate triggers for speed and recklessness and have led to many accidents,” she said.
THE DANGER ZONE
The findings of several surveys, including a recent one by Goodyear Tyres, showed that novice drivers were particularly dangerous in the first two to three years after getting their licence.
A large percentage of drivers in Pretoria were below the age of 25, Road Safety officer Mluleki Tshisana said.
“On the city’s roads everyone is always in a hurry for no obvious reason, the youth going a bit overboard on the need to get everywhere else faster than the rest of the population,” he added.
Tshisana said this could be seen at traffic lights, where people couldn’t seem to remain stationary.
“They always creep forward until they are halfway across the intersection, barely stopping at stop streets.”
Young drivers, in particular, tended to overtake on blind rises. They cut people off for reasons that were once linked to crime and stress. But, other role players say the young drivers’ need for speed had nothing to do with crime or stress.
City Community Policing Forum member Otto Dlakubi said: “ It is a result of people just thinking that their time is more important than anyone else’s.”
Insurance companies are also packaging specific plans for young people, with Hollard saying there is now a great demand for reasonable insurance premiums for young drivers.
The insurance company says on its packaging:
“Car insurance for young drivers is notorious for its high cost, due to the high risk factor attached to youth on the roads. This is due to the statistical data which holds young drivers under the age of 25 responsible for most accidents on the roads.”
They said it all came down to experience. Younger drivers did not have as much driving experience as their elders and therefore posed a greater risk.
BOOZE AND DRUGS
“It is also a statistical fact that, if a person is to cause a motor vehicle accident they are more likely to do so whilst under the age of 25,” said Hollard, adding that statistical studies had also shown that younger drivers were more likely to drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The facts drawn from the Goodyear survey found that the youth thought rules were there to be broken.
Goodyear SA’s group brand communications manager Lize Hayward said cautionary driving and obedience of the rules of the road were traits sorely lacking in the on-road mindset of South Africa’s young drivers.
Young drivers surveyed admitted that speeding was the number one on-road sin, and they knew it lead to improper estimation of speed of traffic when changing lanes or overtaking. Many young drivers also said they intentionally disobeyed traffic signals and signs.
At least 42 percent of the country’s new drivers admitted to not using their indicators and taking corners too fast, 83 percent saying they sped up at orange traffic lights, 24 percent admitting to jumping the red light.
A wide range of solutions have been put forwarded for the problem of reckless young drivers, among them the need for adequate training at driving schools.
Some feel that South Africa has neglected driver training and novice driver education for far too long.
Simulation driving company SimDrive argues: “We will have to change the way we educate and train our novice drivers.”
They said South Africa needed a paradigm shift in the way it trained and educated its drivers. -Pretoria News