Driving and road safety

Did you know 1 in 5 car accidents are caused by young drivers? Scary statistics like this show it's essential that young people learn how to keep themselves and others safe on the road.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is the feeling of needing to do certain things to impress the people around you. It's wanting to follow the crowd. 

It can cause you to make dangerous choices that you would normally avoid . Peer pressure can particularly affect young people. 

Peer pressure is proven to have an effect on the driving of young people. New drivers with a car full of passengers of similar age are 4 times more likely to be in a fatal crash, compared with when driving alone. This is caused by young drivers trying to “show off” in front of friends or being distracted and taking more risks.

It's tricky to avoid peer pressure so it's important to be aware of when you could be acting out of character and under the influence of those around you. 

Make sure to always follow the speed limits and rules of the road whether you're alone or in a car full of friends. If you are a passenger  and feel like the driver's actions are being impacted by the other people in the car, remind them of the risks of dangerous driving and encourage responsible behavior.

If you are worried about the choices you make when you are around your friends check out Childline's page on peer pressure to give you more information on how to cope. 

Mobile phones

Using a mobile phone whilst driving can be very distracting. Using any device during driving makes a crash 4 times more likely. As a driver, you should never use your phone when driving. Always wait until you are parked safely in order to reduce the chance of road accidents otherwise you are likely to harm yourself or others.

The law says that it is illegal to hold and use a device whilst driving, even when queueing in traffic as it is still important to keep your eyes on the road. If you do use a handheld device, you can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine and you could get taken to court. If you have passed your test in the last 2 years, you will lose your driving license. 

Although it isn’t illegal to use hands free devices (for example sat navs), they can still be very risky because they can take your attention off the road. Only use them if you have to, and make sure to be careful that you stay aware of what’s going on around you.

Alcohol and driving 

Scarily, over 25% of young drivers have admitted to drink driving. 

Drink driving is one of the biggest killers on the road so it's critical for young people to understand what makes it so dangerous. 

Alcohol affects the brain by slowing down reaction time, worsening judgement and reducing coordination.

Even a small amount of alcohol can start to change the way you think, in fact, you might not even notice it happening. It's important to keep in mind that feeling sober does not necessarily make you safe to drive. The  only way to be completely safe when driving is to not drink at all.

It's important to remember that alcohol can stay in your body and impact your driving much later on, or even the next day. After drinking you'll need to wait until you are fully sober to drive and in the meantime find other ways to travel. It's better to be safe than sorry!

The amount of alcohol you can drink to be able to legally drive depends on many different things including height, weight and the type of alcohol. For more info on this use Drinkaware's Unit and Calorie Calculator. 

Drink driving is taken very seriously and being caught would mean up to 6 months in prison, an unlimited fine and a driving ban for at least a year. If your driving led to someone being hurt the consequences, of course, would be much more severe. 

Drugs and driving

Driving needs full concentration. The use of drugs reduces focus and makes a crash much more likely. Even the smallest amount of drugs can have an impact. 

  • You should never take recreational drugs and drive. You will be a risk to yourself and others. 1 in 20 road accidents are caused by drug driving. 
  • Being caught drug driving could lead to a 12 month driving ban, a criminal record, an unlimited fine and a prison sentence. Drug driving is not worth it!
  • Never get in a car with someone who you think may have taken drugs even if you trust them. The effects of drugs are unpredictable and can quickly change the way they behave.
  • Prescribed medication. If you are taking drugs for a health condition it's important to ask your doctor about how this may affect your driving.

If you have any worries about keeping safe around drugs or alcohol visit these websites for more information:

How do I stay safe when driving at night?

There are many ways to ensure the safety of yourself and others at night this includes:

  • Using lights appropriately (dimming them in the presence of other drivers)
  • Taking particular care to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. They may be less noticeable in the dark.
  • Avoid driving if you are tired.

Am I allowed to smoke or vape whilst driving?

You can smoke or vape whilst driving however it is illegal to smoke with someone under the age of 18 in the car. The penalty for this is typically a fine.

Do I have to wear a seatbelt?

Yes of course. If you are over 14 you are in charge of doing your own seatbelt and will be fined if you are caught not wearing one. For anyone under 14 the driver is responsible.

I’m tired, should I still drive?

If you have not had enough sleep, you will struggle to concentrate, your reaction time will slow and your decision making will be affected. If you feel tired, check if your journey is necessary and whether there is another way to travel. If you need to drive, take regular breaks. Remember tiredness kills.

Why is my insurance so high as a new driver?

New drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents and are seen as more high risk. The longer you drive and the safer you are the quicker your insurance will decrease.

What do I need to be able to drive?

You will need a driver's licence, valid insurance and a current MOT certificate. For more information about legal requirements visit the gov.uk website.

I don't feel safe getting in my friends car, what should I do?

Remember, you are always allowed to say no. If you don't feel completely comfortable getting in someone else's car put your safety first and find another way to travel.

If you are concerned about the safety of yourself or others, contact a trusted adult and don't take risks. For more information on how to deal with visit Childline's page on peer pressure.

What will happen if I am caught speeding?

If you are caught speeding, you will get a fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence. It is so important to stay within the speed limit as speeding makes it harder for the driver to stop in time to avoid a crash and increases the force of the crash. 1 in 3 fatal crashes involved at least one vehicle going above the speed limit.

Further Information

THINK! provides road safety information for road users of all ages, aiming to encourage safer behaviour and reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads every year. Learn facts about the laws affecting pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and drivers, and investigate incident scenes to understand the factors that can lead to collisions.
Webpage written by Matilda and Seren in Leeds, age 17.
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