Friday, May 3, 2013

Teaching Young Australians to Drive

Why learning to drive well when we are young is so important:

       Over a quarter of all road deaths are in the under 25 years old group, despite this age group representing less than 13% of all licensed drivers.
       Motor vehicle fatalities are the largest killer of youth in Australia.
       45% of all young Australians killed are as a result of injuries from road traffic crashes
       Of all young Australians hospitalised due to injury, nearly 50% are car drivers and a further 25% are car passengers
       The moment a Learner driver becomes a P Plate driver, their likelihood of being involved in a crash increases 33 times
       A first year P-plater is four times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than a 26 year old
       More than 80 % of young drivers killed in Australia are males
Whilst the number of fatalities each year remains relatively stable, the number of serious injuries is continuing to climb.

Being the mother of three boys aged 15, 13 and 10, I worry (a lot) about these statistics and I wonder how I can best prepare my children for driving on public roads. Like my parents before me, I have taught all three of my sons to drive a vehicle on private property.
Sam (13yrs) concentrating on the road instead of on his mother taking the photo

One of the many perks of growing up on or having access to a farm (read: large tracts of private land) is learning to drive at an early age. During my childhood, we started off on Dad’s knee just getting used to steering from the age of three and up. From there as our legs grew longer, we progressed to using the accelerator, brake and clutch and working the gearstick. By the time I was nine I was driving independently around our property (admittedly my parent’s sheep station was and still is, an ideal landscape for beginner drivers; flat and treeless with smooth dirt roads)... I still remember my first solo drive on the Hay Plains and looking through the gap between the steering wheel and the dashboard.

Did all this pre-licence driving make me a better driver? Who knows but I certainly feel it was nothing short of beneficial to me. By the time I got my L-plates at sixteen, driving wasn’t a novelty. Yes, I had to learn the road rules for driving on public roads. I had to concentrate and be aware of other drivers and road users but the actual mechanics of driving a vehicle were familiar and comfortable; for me, steering a vehicle had already become second nature.

Recently the chief executive officer of the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS), Eugene Arocca (former CEO of AFL’s North Melbourne), recommended children from the age of twelve years be given practical driving experience through the CAMS Ignition Program.

The Ignition Program is designed to promote socially responsible driving and vehicle use on the road by reinforcing the messages around risk taking, decision making and road rules, as well as assisting young people to gain a thorough knowledge of the skills needed to drive and share the road with others. The program also introduces these very young people to cars in a practical, albeit very controlled, setting.

Personally, I am glad I’ve spent time teaching my children to drive early and I would much prefer my children to undertake a CAMS Ignition Program rather than limit their pre-licence driving experience to Sega Scud Race machines or Xbox’s Grand Theft Auto…
Fun to play but not good role modelling


  1. Totally agree! All of us (my cousin Sam and I) learnt to drive on the farm, so we could drive the ute as Dad or Davie threw out the hay (back when people used square bales!). Dunk will soon get his go on my lap at Grandma's in the paddock. It certainly helped, when it came time for L plates and P's.

    1. Thanks for your comments Justy. I think we're very lucky we have access to farms and all the opportunities that go with them.