Your teen can finally drive. They are thrilled but you feel both anxious and excited. Finally more freedom for you as your young driver can get around without depending on you. However, this increase in responsibility means your teen must now make important decisions regarding their own safety on the road.
Before you hand over the keys there are some things about young drivers that every parent should know.
Let's start with the hard facts
Young people make up a small percentage of drivers on the road, yet their age group report the most collisions. A variety of issues put young drivers at an increased risk for a collision. Test your knowledge to see if you know what they are:
True or false?
Young male drivers account for the majority of young drivers killed or seriously injured in road crashes.
True: Young male drivers are involved in three quarters of young driver fatalities and two thirds of serious injuries that occur. In Ottawa in 2007, 2,831 young male drivers aged 15 to 24 years old were involved in collisions compared to 1,650 young female drivers of the same age.
True or false?
Young drivers and young passengers are more likely to wear their seatbelts compared to older drivers.
False: Young drivers and their passengers have the lowest rate of seatbelt use. Only 40 percent of fatally injured 16 year olds were belted compared to 60 percent of those over the age of 55.
True or false?
A crash involving a young driver is more likely to occur in the winter.
False: Most crashes involving young drivers take place in the summer (June, July and August), on a weekend at nighttime. Twenty-two percent of fatalities and 19 percent of injuries occur on Saturdays. Almost half of all deaths and two thirds of injuries occur at night even though this is a time when young drivers are driving less.
True or false?
The number of young passengers riding in a car driven by a young driver increases the probability of a crash.
True: As the number of young passengers in the car increases, so does the potential for a crash. Young drivers can easily be distracted by the actions of their young passengers including blaring music, talking and yelling, physical contact, horsing around and throwing things. Currently, the Ontario Government has passed legislation to limit the number of young passengers, aged 19 and under, that can accompany a young driver of the same age group.
True or false?
Young drivers are involved in more motor vehicle crashes ONLY because of their inexperience.
False: Young drivers are involved in collisions because of their inexperience AND because of many others factors, including:
- Psychomotor, perceptual and cognitive skills less developed
- More likely to take risks
- Feelings of being invincible
- Distractions inside and outside of the car
True or false?
Young drivers are more likely to drink and drive.
False: Young drivers are the least likely of any age group to drink and drive or to have blood alcohol levels higher than the legal limit (0.08%).. The young drivers who do choose to drink and drive however, are at a very high crash risk. About 40 percent of young drivers who are killed have been drinking. Young males are more likely than young females to drink and drive. Nineteen year-olds make up the largest proportion of young drinking drivers.
Now for the good news!
You are a major influence on your young driver. There are several ways you can help your teen be a safe, skilled driver and reduce the chances of being involved in a crash.
- Support your young driver throughout their driver education courses by reinforcing what they have learned and by providing them with extra driving practice time to develop their new skills. Even after receiving their license, young drivers need additional guided practice to continue building their skills. Learning to drive is a gradual process.
- Be knowledgeable of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation Graduated Licensing Program and review the restrictions with your young driver.
- Make a personal commitment to teaching your young driver important driving skills and communicate openly with them about their limitations and risks and all the complex skills driving requires..
- Be a positive role model. Young drivers are influenced by what they see.
- Set rules for using the family car early on and establish consequences for breaking the rules. Be clear about your expectations and consistent with the consequences. Driving the family vehicle is a privilege that can be withdrawn when necessary.
- Discuss what problems they encounter when they have the freedom to use the car on their own or with friends.
- Passengers can get out of hand. Make it easy for your teen driver to let you know if they had any problems with a passenger by asking directly.
- Make this a teaching moment. Rather than forbid them from driving with a specific person, reflect with them on how to better handle any future situations to ensure that everyone gets home safe.
Consider developing a driving contract
A driving contract is a mutually agreed upon promise by both the parent and teen to ensure all efforts are made to remain collision-free. When developing your driving contract, create it with your teen and have them help develop the rules and consequences. This helps ensure that your young driver understands the agreement, and is aware of the consequences that their choices will result in. Think about the following topics when creating a contract:
- Number of passengers: start small. Gradually allow your young driver to carry more passengers (and learn the restrictions for passengers of G1/G2 licensed drivers).
- When, for what and for how long the family vehicle will be used.
- Speeding/Seatbelt use: if caught speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, decide on an appropriate consequence (for example, your teen will have to be supervised while driving for a period of time).
- If caught with more serious infractions, withdraw the right to drive the vehicle for a limited period of time. Driving is a privilege, not a right.
- Impaired driving: Agree to pick up your young driver or young passenger at any time and anywhere if they have been drinking alcohol (or using drugs, such as marijuana) in order to get them home safely. If picking them up is not feasible, agree to ensure that money is left in a designated spot in the house to pay for a cab.
Marijuana affects many of the skills required for driving including: Alertness, concentration, co-ordination, reaction time, braking time, perception and the ability to react to sounds and signals. Combining alcohol and marijuana makes your driving impairment even more severe! In 2007, of Ontario student drivers 1 in 6 reported driving within 1 hour after smoking marijuana and 18% reported being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who had been using drugs.
Take the time to have a discussion with your young driver about the dangers and the consequences of driving high.
Graduated Licensing Program
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has made it easier for parents to monitor their young drivers through the implementation of the Graduated Licensing Program. This two-step process allows young drivers to gradually gain driving experience. Over a period of at least 20 months, young drivers can drive with specific restrictions including:
- Blood Alcohol Concentration must be zero.
- A licensed driver (G class or higher for at least 4 years) must occupy the front seat and have a blood alcohol concentration less than 0.05. This is the only passenger allowed in the front seat.
- Number of passengers is limited.
- Prohibited from driving on any highways with posted speed limits over 80 km/h.
- Prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Must hold a G1 licence for a minimum of 12 months before attempting the G1 road test (can be reduced to eight months if the young driver successfully completes an approved driver education course).
- Blood Alcohol Concentration must be zero.
- Must hold a G2 licence for a minimum of 12 months before attempting the G2 road test.
- Provincial legislation limits the number of passengers in a vehicle driven by a G2 driver, aged 19 and under. The restrictions include:
- Limiting G2 drivers, in their first six months, to carrying one passenger, aged 19 and under
- Limiting the number of passengers, 19 and under, for the balance of the G2 licence (or until the driver turns 20 years of age) to three
Please note: These restrictions do not apply if the G2 driver is accompanied by a fully licensed driver with at least four years driving experience, or if the passengers are family members, regardless of age. The passenger restrictions do not apply if the G2 driver is operating a motor vehicle after 5 am and before midnight.
In Ottawa in 2007:
- The number of licensed young drivers aged 15 to 24 was 83,081
- Of these15-24 year old drivers, 983 were involved in non-fatal motor vehicle collisions
- Of the 24 driver fatalities, three were 15 to 24 year olds.
- Of the 25,526 drivers involved in collisions, individuals between 15 to 24 years of age were involved in 4,481 - 17.6 percent of total collisions.
The Ottawa Police Service Report (in 2003):
- Approximately 80 percent of the driving infractions committed by young drivers were male.
- Young drivers received almost one quarter of the total traffic infractions, but account for only 13 percent of licensed drivers in Ottawa.
The Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.) Report:
- Of all 2005 collisions, 9 involved G1 drivers and 207 involved G2 drivers
- Of all 2006 collisions, 9 involved G1 drivers and 240 involved G2 drivers
Consequences of breaking the law:
If you need more proof to convey to your young driver that driving is serious business, read on. In the graduated licensing phase, new drivers are subject to the same rules of the road as fully licensed drivers. When a driving infraction is committed, young drivers may receive demerit points. The accumulation of demerit points can put their license or driving privileges at risk. As a new driver (G1 and G2):
- 2 or more demerit points = warning letter
- 6 points = an interview to discuss their record
- 9 points = licence suspension for 60 days. (After the suspension the demerit points are reduced to four. Two additional points would again require an interview with the young driver. If nine points are accumulated again, the new driver’s licence may be suspended for six months).
For more information on demerit points or to learn of any new legislation related to driving, check out the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s website (www.mto.gov.on.ca).
The cost of car insurance
Collisions, license suspensions, and demerit points can result in significant increases in insurance costs. Insurance rates can be very expensive for young drivers, costing thousands of dollars. Even a young driver on an insurance plan as a secondary driver can be expensive. If you insure your young driver under your insurance plan (as a secondary driver), it is important to know that infractions committed by your young driver can affect your insurance premiums (and even the insurance company’s willingness to insure you). Insurance companies have refused to provide insurance for the primary driver due to infractions caused by the secondary driver.
How do you choose a driving school for your young driver?
Talk to co-workers and friends to see where their teens went and what experiences they had. Choose a driving school that offers an Ontario Ministry of Transportation approved course. You can check the MTO website for a listing of schools. Young drivers can receive a four-month reduction in the 12-month minimum G-1 licensing period and there may be a potential reduction in insurance premiums by choosing a Ministry approved school. At a minimum, schools must offer 25 hours of in-class instruction and 10 hours of in-car instruction. Make an appointment to meet with instructors at various driving schools. You may want to discuss how often their drivers are recertified and whether or not they are licensed by the City of Ottawa.
Some great resources for parents of young drivers:
To learn more about driver education or to view a driving school checklist for parents, visit TIRF’s new Young and New Driver Resource Centre (http://yndrc.tirf.ca/)
For more information, please call Ottawa Public Health at 580-6744.
Geared to go: Workbook for Teaching New Drivers found on: http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/531.htm
Ontario Ministry of Transportation general road safety information at: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/safe-driving-practices.shtml