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Young Drivers

Every hour of every day a person under 25 is killed or seriously injured in a car crash. Young drivers (17-24) hold approx 12% of full UK driving licences but are involved in  more than 33% of all fatal or serious injury collisions. Attitude and behaviours are contributory factors in over 95% of all vehicle crashes.

The risk of crashing when a young person is learning to drive is very low,but once they have passed their test it soars.

It's very easy to blame this carnage on teenage tearaways and whilst there have always been (and always will be) this element in society, thankfully they are in a small minority but those who want to be safe are still crashing.

There are many factors that contribute to these terrible statistics so there is no easy fix.


The Basic  Equipment is still not complete

The teenage brain is still a work in progress and as amazing as it is, research has shown that the pre frontal cortex is not usually fully matured until someone reaches their mid to late twenties. When you are aware of the areas of behaviour that this part of the brain controls or influences then you start to understand some of what is considered "typical" teenage behaviour. The pre frontal cortex controls or influences among other things :-

  • Working memory
  • Inhibition
  • Planning ahead
  • Impulse (self) control
  • Risk management
  • Reasoning
  • Self monitoring
  • Emotion regulation
  • Hazard perception
  • Eye movement


All of which are essential to safe and skillful driving.


Next we have factors that whilst not limited to young drivers have a disproportionate affect on them such as:- 

Lack of experience

Young drivers tend to have good vehicle control skills because they have recently had driving lessons. Young drivers also tend to have faster reactions but they do not "read" the road and do not identify potential hazards far enough in advance to enable those skills to help them. Using observation and interpreting what is seen is a skill that has to be practiced.

Peer pressure

The urge  to “impress” your mates, is much stronger in the young driver than with the more experienced motorist .This urge coupled with the lack of experience can mean driving too fast for the road conditions, taking unnecessary risks and generally showing off, all too often with tragic consequences.

Mobile phones

Not exclusive to younger drivers by any means but by the very nature of the technology young drivers are early adopters of the latest models and most teenagers would suffer withdrawal symptoms if you took away or even switched their mobile off. Mobiles and driving do not mix. See Mobile Phones and Driving ( opens in a new window).

Electronic equipment

Again not an exclusive preserve of younger drivers but very few older drivers play music so loudly that it can be heard from three cars away with the windows shut. Music at excessive volume is a distraction and affects concentration badly. New technology means that ever more powerful car music systems are available, some coupled with DVD players and sophisticated satellite navigation systems. These can also badly affect concentration .

Types of road and road conditions

No-one is allowed on a motorway when they are learning to drive. Many do not drive on fast dual carriageways, or narrow rural roads and experience the hazards particular to them. Often ice, snow and fog are only experienced once the driving test is passed. Add any one of these factors to an unfamiliar location and the risk factor increases dramatically.

Time of day

Young people are not exclusive users of the road late at night or very early in the morning, but as a result of their social lives but they are more likely to do so on a regular basis. Driving at night is a very different proposition to driving during daylight hours and more collisions occur during the hours of darkness than in daylight..


Alcohol and Drugs

These are by no means exclusive to them but young drivers do tend to be more vulnerable because of the social life they lead. Read more on our Drink Driving and Drug Driving pages ( both open in a new window).


Those are some of the challenges we face but help is at hand.


We firmly believe that Road Safety Education starts way before someone is old enough to drive and that by educating children to be safe and responsible  as pedestrians (opens in a new window) and cyclists (opens in a new window) it forms a base to build from. The Road Safety Team also run Xccelerate (opens in a new window) courses in conjunction with the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue service that are aimed at 16 year old's to provide a first driving experience in a safe off road environment along with workshops to look at and challenge preconceptions and stereotypes and thus shape attitudes before they get behind the wheel. In addition to Xccelerate the Road Safety Team work with the 6th forms in the borough's upper schools to promote Drive iQ

For those that have passed their driving  test the Borough Council working with the Institute of Advanced Motorists are offering an IAM Momentum assessment for any driver between 17 and 24 who lives works or attends education in Bedford Borough. For more details see the IAM Momentum page (opens in a new window).


Parents can also help to keep young drivers safe in several ways.

Consider carefully who teaches your child to drive.

There are a huge number of driving instructors competing for the chance to teach your child to drive. Like all businesses offering a service, cost and quality can vary enormously. The cost of learning to drive is high but remember you are entrusting the driving instructor to teach your offspring a skill that should be carried out with the right attitude for a lifetime. Its not just about passing the test. 

Before you choose an instructor do some research.

The basic things to check are:-

Make sure the instructor is a qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) or a Potential Driving instructor (PDI). Although the latter are not yet fully qualified they are allowed to charge for instruction. It's illegal for anyone else to charge for or receive payment in kind for driving instruction.

The DSA regularly checks the standard of instruction of all ADI's. The instructor is then given a grade:

4 is satisfactory

5 is a good overall standard

6 is the highest

To find out which grade an instructor has been given, you can ask them to show you their last grade report.

Ask if the instructor is certified to deliver the Drive iQ programme. Drive iQ in our opinion is potentially the single biggest development in driver education since the introduction of the driving test and if all learner drivers were to take part in the programme the death and serious injury toll among new drivers would be greatly reduced. 


Drive iQ is a free education learning package from a2om CIC which is is a not-for-profit company . Over 2,500 schools/colleges and 700,000 students currently have access to this facility with over 7000 active users, Drive iQ is an e-learning package and consists of modules covering both the practical elements and psychology of driving. Drive iQ is available to anyone and can be accessed via the Drive iQ website (opens in a new window)

The Road Safety Team work with 6th forms and colleges in the Bedford Borough Area to promote the use of Drive iQ for all new or perspective drivers. On completion of the online learning students will receive a certificate in Driving Awareness.

When learning to drive, Drive iQ PRO takes the e-learning and combines it with practical lessons (with an accredited ADI this is free of charge) and also gives students access to Theory Test preparation and Mock Tests. On completion, an optional a2om Driving Science BTEC qualification (vocational level 2) is available (subject to a £60 EdExcel certification fee). A list of Drive iQ PRO accredited ADI's in the Bedford area is available on request.

To access a copy of the useful and informative Parent Guide to Drive iQ  visit  http://www.driveiq.co.uk/parents.html (opens in a new window).


"The Good Egg Guide for Parents of New Drivers is available free of charge from the Road Safety Team. If you would like a copy please send a stamped addressed envelope (c5 size or bigger) to  :- Road Safety Team, Bedford Borough Council, 119 Barkers Lane,BEDFORD MK41 9RR.  Alternatively you can view the parents of new drivers web site by clicking here (opens in a new window).


Encourage your children to do Pass Plus training (opens in a new window)

Pass Plus is a training scheme for new drivers. It's much more than just a few extra lessons. This specially designed course by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), with the help of insurers and the driving instruction industry, allows drivers to:-

  • Gain valuable driving experience safely
  • Learn how to deal with a wide range of road and traffic situations many of which probably have not  been faced before
  • Build on existing skills and knowledge
  • Reduce the risk of being in a road crash
  • Help boost awareness of all kinds of hazards and help teach how to anticipate, plan for and deal with them safely
  • Potentially save money on car insurance premiums
  • Boost confidence
  • Give peace of mind to loved ones


You should also consider a Safer Driving Agreement  (opens in a new window) this can help engender a mutual understanding and respect of both parent and child as road users and give both some peace of mind.


Bedford Borough Council Road Safety Team      

 telephone (01234) 228336

Email road.safety@bedford.gov.uk


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