THREE years ago, I had a bit of a wake-up call when, at the end of my son’s first driving lesson, his instructor asked: “Does your dad sometimes drive with one hand on the gearstick?”
A plethora of research from different parts of the world has clearly demonstrated that parents significantly influence young people’s driving behaviour: from early in a child’s life, parents act as driving role models.
A study published in 2001 also found that parents’ driving style and their violations and crash involvement predicted their children’s driving record, crashes and violations.
Children are easily influenced and certainly not passive when in the car. The studies suggest that one way of changing young people’s driving attitudes and behaviours (now and when they become drivers themselves) is to change parents’ attitudes and behaviour and ensure they provide positive role models throughout their children’s lives. We do it every day, so why should the driving task be any different? Drivers are made, not born, and the research clearly shows that they start to pick up on behaviours from an earlier age than most parents think.
Young people continue to be over-represented in road casualty statistics, and drivers aged 17-25 are one of the priority areas in Scotland’s Road Safety Framework. There is something very strong which makes us protect our young, but research suggests that parents did not always see this in relation to driving.
It was against this backdrop that the “Kids in the Car” campaign was developed. The behaviours in the advert are typical of those highlighted by children to their parents during the pre-campaign research. Hopefully, the campaign will result in improved driver behaviour among parents now, making our roads safer, and better driver behaviour among our young people in the future.
Every week in Scotland, a driver aged under 20 is killed or seriously injured. That primal urge to keep our young from harm may be something tackled every time we get behind the wheel and prevent them from being statistics in future police accident reports. What type of driver are you teaching your child to be?
• Michael McDonnell is director of Road Safety Scotland. To get advice and learn more, visit www.dontriskit.info