- Research shows children who observe parents/guardians taking risks on the road from a young age are more likely to engage in similar risk-taking as they begin driving.
- Road crashes are a leading cause of death for young people. From 2016-2020, on average 16% of drivers killed in fatal crashes were aged 16-24 but they represented just 11% of the population.
- October 15-21 marks National Teen Driver Safety Week and October 19 is designated as Do Not Disturb While Driving Day.
Ottawa, ON October 17, 2023 – This month, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation’s (TIRF) Drop It And Drive® (DIAD) and Action2Zero programs are educating youth and promoting safe choices on the road whether they drive, ride, cycle or walk. In partnership with Safer Roads Ottawa, TIRF is bringing its award-winning DIAD program to local schools to share science, personal stories, and interactive exercises to help youth avoid distractions during National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW). TIRF staff are also working with local government in Lanoraie, Quebec to talk to young people of all ages as well as crossing guards about the fundamentals of road safety as part of their Action2Zero program, funded by Desjardins.
In Canada, road crashes are a leading cause of death for young people aged 5 to 24 years. In addition, young drivers aged 16 to 24 have the highest crash risk out of all age cohorts as they learn to drive. Age and inexperience are key factors, and a critical skill gap is the inability to recognize and perceive hazards, as well as anticipate ways to avoid them. These challenges associated with learning to accurately identify hazards can increase collisions, particularly in instances involving distraction, speed and impairment which result in less visual scanning, slower reactions, and less time and distance to avoid a crash.
Between 2016 and 2020, on average 16% of drivers killed in fatal crashes were aged 16-24 years despite them representing just 11% of the population. Equally concerning was the following:
- Less than 2/3s of younger drivers in fatal crashes used safety equipment (e.g., seatbelts, helmets) compared to drivers of all ages.
- More than 40% of younger drivers were speeding compared to 27% of all drivers.
- Approximately 35% of younger drivers tested positive for cannabis compared to 22.5% of all drivers.
- Teen drivers aged 16-19 years were less likely to test positive for alcohol at 27.5% but young adults aged 20-24 were more likely to test positive for alcohol compared to drivers of all ages.
There was also a notable split in terms of distraction among fatally injured drivers during this period. Distraction was most prevalent among the youngest teen drivers (16-19 years) at 22.7% but less prevalent among young adults (20-24 years) at 14.8% compared to drivers of all ages (16.1%). While there is a lot of focus on texting while driving, it’s important to understand there are other distractions both in and outside of the vehicle which can pull a person’s attention from the driving task. A moment’s distraction also magnifies risk when drivers are speeding or impaired because it further reduces reaction time as well as the space and distance for vehicle safety features to work.
“More recent evaluations of modern driver education programs show they hold promise as a safety measure in terms of reducing driving violations as well as collisions,” says Robyn Robertson, TIRF President & CEO. “But one of the challenges facing driver educators is trying to undo some of those bad habits that children learn at a young age in the backseat watching their parents driving. Many people simply aren’t aware learning begins at a very early age and becomes ingrained in young drivers.”
“Since 2010, I’ve been asking young people during our DIAD workshops to raise their hands if their parent or guardian drive distracted, whether it’s by a phone or other distractions and each year more and more are raising their hands,” shares Karen Bowman, Director, Communications & Programs, and lead presenter for the DIAD program. “So, our role isn’t to just educate youth, it’s to help them bring home the science of distraction to their parents, so the entire family is on the same page about safe choices on the road. That’s why this week, we’re calling on all adults to remind them that the choices they make as drivers can influence choices made by their loved ones as they begin driving.”
An easy step teens and parents or guardians can do in advance of Do Not Disturb While Driving Day on October 19th being promoted by the US National Distracted Driving Coalition chaired by TIRF, is to simply turn on the feature on their phones. “When your phone rings or dings, the urge to check it is hard to resist,” Robertson said. “Putting your phone in Do Not Disturb While Driving mode eliminates that temptation. Your phone won’t ring or beep until you get where you’re going, helping ensure you keep your eyes and mind on the road. It could save your life.”
This education has become even more critical in light of the growing complexity of roadways and intersections in the past two decades. Many communities have implemented more lanes of traffic in urban areas, including turning lanes and bike lanes, or alternatively reduced them by expanding boulevards and medians, chicanes, and other traffic calming measures. Intersections today more often have not only advanced turning lanes and no right turns on red for vehicles, but also advanced pedestrian and cyclist crossing signals and even pedestrian scrambles. And some intersections have been replaced entirely by roundabouts, some with multiple lanes, and not always with clearly indicated pedestrian crossings. This creates pressure on driver educators who have a fixed amount of time to cover a lot of ground with teens.
The good news is that adults can be positive role models to help positively influence safe choices. So, National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great reminder for adults and teens that your choices on the road matter. All drivers are encouraged to adopt safe driving habits, this week and every week, to help the next generation of road users learn to use the roads in ways that help everyone get home safely every day.
For more information about TIRF’s Drop It And Drive® education program for schools, communities and workplaces, visit: https://tirf.ca/diad.
For more information about TIRF’s Action2Zero program, visit: https://action2zero.tirf.ca.
For more information about TIRF’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Framework Safety Center, visit: https://gdlframework.tirf.ca/module/components
For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week, visit: https://parachute.ca/NTDSW.
For more information about the City of Ottawa’s Road Safety Action Plan and the Safer Roads Ottawa program visit: https://ottawa.ca/en/parking-roads-and-travel/road-safety/road-safety-action-plan
For more information about Do Not Disturb While Driving Day, visit: https://usnddc.org/dndwd-day-2023
About the Traffic Injury Research Foundation
The vision of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to ensure people using roads make it home safely every day by eliminating road deaths, serious injuries and their social costs. TIRF’s mission is to be the knowledge source for safer road users and a world leader in research, program and policy development, evaluation, and knowledge transfer. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, awards, and donations to provide services for the public.
For more information, please contact:
Director, Communications & Programs
Traffic Injury Research Foundation
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