RSA Lecture Focuses on Behaviour of Young Drivers

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

- 1 in 5 Male Drivers Under 25 Admit to Having Raced Another Driver -

The results of a survey presented today, Monday, 10October, at the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Annual Road Safety Lecture revealed that 1 in 5 male drivers aged under 25 reported having raced another driver on a public road at some point in the past. The survey, conducted by Dr Kiran Sarma, Chartered Psychologist and Lecturer in Psychology at NUI Galway, also revealed that young male drivers reported more frequent speeding, reckless driving and use of mobile phones while driving.

RSA research presented at the lecture revealed that 5,678 road-users aged between 17 and 24 years old were killed or seriously injured on Irish roads between 1997 and 2009. The lecture, which focused on the driving behaviour of 17 to 24 year old road-users, is the first event in ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ which runs from Monday, 10 October to Sunday, 16 October.

At the lecture, Dr Kiran Sarma presented the results of his survey of 1,500 drivers on the relationship between psychology and risky driving behaviour. Dr Sarma’s research found that the frequency of speeding among young male drivers was associated with positive attitudes towards speeding and a higher prevalence of personality traits such as impulsiveness and excitement seeking.

Mr Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said: “The focus of today’s lecture is young drivers aged 17 to 24 years old who are among the highest risk road-users on our roads. Research tells us that this group of road-users are three times more likely to be killed on the roads than any other road-user. In fact, 5,678 young road-users with their lives ahead of them were killed or seriously injured on Irish roads in the period 1997 to 2009. This is roughly the same as the population ofWestportin Co. Mayo. When you think of it in those terms, we are reminded of how needless this loss of life is.”

“But it’s also important to say that not all young drivers are risky or dangerous drivers. Today’s lecture has shown how important it is to support our younger road-users in forming positive attitudes to road safety as early as possible.”

Dr Sarma’s research also revealed that risky driving behaviour was linked with pro-speeding attitudes among friends and family, a greater tendency to become angry in response to other drivers’ actions and a belief that the driver could control his or her car, even in challenging driving conditions. Some young male drivers also saw their car as being a core part of who they are – this was related to more extreme driving behaviour.

Speaking at the lecture, Dr Sarma said: “This research helps us to understand the psychology of young male drivers and can inform the way we respond to risky and reckless driving. The research would suggest that addressing speeding attitudes is important but that deeper psychological factors are also linked to dangerous driving on our roads.”

Professor Andrew Tolmie from theInstituteofEducation,UniversityofLondonalso spoke at the lecture about his recent paper for the Department for Transport (UK) on ‘The development of children’s and young people’s attitudes to driving. Professor Tolmie’s research highlighted that becoming a driver starts in childhood, although this becomes more focused during adolescence. His research also showed that family and peer influence is critical in forming attitudes and behaviours and suggested that the pre-driver period may present the best opportunity for forming positive attitudes to driving.

Professor Tolmie said: “Becoming a driver is something that starts in childhood, as soon as children become aware that this is something that adults do, and it becomes a real aspirational focus during adolescence, as teenagers begin to imagine themselves having the freedom that driving brings. Watching how parents behave, talking about driving with friends and the images associated with driving all have an influence on how young drivers first act on the road. Poor influences at this stage lead to poor driving behaving later - if we want to increase young drivers' safety, it is during the teenage years, before they begin to drive, that we need to act.”

1,352 17-24 year olds were killed on Irish roads between 1997 and 2009, representing 28% of all road deaths in that period. Over one third (35%) of these fatalities took place between 12:00am (midnight) and 4:59am. The research also found that 17 to 24 year old car drivers are five times more likely to be killed on Irish roads than any other driver. In fatal collisions where excessive speed was cited as a contributory factor, half of all drivers responsible were males aged 17 to 24 years old. Furthermore, 2 in 5 of all passengers aged 17 to 24 who were killed on the road were in a car being driven by a 17 to 24 year old male driver.



Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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