Young drivers get a raw deal. Expensive insurance, pricey cars and a scary driving test that doesn’t include driving on motorways, country roads or in bad weather. No wonder hundreds of thousands aren’t learning to drive at all. But the new Z generation needs personal mobility more than ever. Jobs, university, interviews and a social life are a pain on crowded and expensive public transport. There’s a definite social shift going on with too many young people seeing the process of learning to drive, buying a car and getting it insured as much fun as a flat tyre. We need to change all that.
But, there’s more we need to do. I’d like to see driving and hazard awareness taught at school when younger kids are more receptive to road safety messages. Why don’t we see driving as a life skill like citizenship and social awareness and teach it as early as possible? We also need to change our tone of voice. All the research says that if we hector and lecture young drivers about road safety they just switch off. We need to make learning to drive and the importance of driving well, interesting, fun and engaging. Make good driving a craft that’s cool, clever and sassy. Because here’s the thing: every year around 400 people die as a result of young driver crashes. And apart from the intolerable burden of all that sadness and needlessly wasted potential this is a huge financial drain on society that works out at close to a billion quid every year.
We can’t afford not to make our new generation of drivers safer, educated and better informed. For too long they’ve been ignored, marginalised and forgotten. Successive governments have kicked young driver safety into the long grass as not politically valuable. Well, as we’ve seen recently, young people have an important electoral voice and the time has come for ministers to listen. My son Max summed up the young driver dilemma up perfectly; ‘Why should I learn to drive? It sounds as easy as learning three oriental languages.’ But he did, and now has his own car, his own business and will be driving himself to university in September. Driving has enriched Max’s life enormously. Every 17-year-old deserves that same opportunity.