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One in five young male drivers 'road race'

One fifth of young male drivers have admitted to racing on the roads, with those aged between 17 and 24 being five times more likely to be killed, the Road Safety Authority has reported.

Image: Sean MacEntee via Creative Commons

ONE IN FIVE young male drivers has raced another motorist on the roads, according to a new survey from the Road Safety Authority.

The report also outlined that drivers aged between 17 and 24 are five times more likely to be killed on Irish roads than other motorists.

The figures have been disclosed by the RSA at the launch of Irish Road Safety Week, which will see events taking place in Dublin Castle until Friday.

At the lecture today, Dr Kiran Sarma, Chartered Psychologist and Lecturer in Psychology at NUI Galway, revealed that 5,678 road-users aged between 17 and 24 years old have been killed or seriously injured on Irish roads between 1997 and 2009. The deaths represented 28 per cent of all road deaths for that period, with more than one third (35 per cent) of these fatalities taking place place between midnight and 5am.

The research presented also showed that in fatal collisions where excessive speed was cited as a contributory factor, half of all drivers responsible were males aged 17 to 24 years old. Furthermore, 2 in 5 of all passengers aged 17 to 24 who were killed on the road were in a car being driven by a 17 to 24 year old male driver.

Attitudes to driving

Sarma, who conducted the survey, said that the risky driving behavior of many young males was linked to positive attitudes towards speeding as well as a higher prevalence of particular personality traits – such as impulsiveness and excitement-seeking.

He said the research, which aimed to understand the psychology of young male drivers, could help to inform the way authorities respond to reckless driving behaviours. “The research would suggest that addressing speeding attitudes is important but that deeper psychological factors are also linked to dangerous driving on our roads,” he said.

Sarma’s research linked risky driving with condoning attitudes of friends and family, a greater tendency to become angry with other motorists and the belief that a driver should always be ‘in control’ of the car – even in challenging conditions. Young male drivers who reported feeling that their car was an extension of their identity were also more likely to engage in risking driving habits.

Family and peer influence ‘critical’

Professor Andrew Tolmie from the Institute of Education, University of London, said that attitudes towards driving were formed very early on in a child’s life and that family and peer influence was critical in forming attitudes and behaviours.

“Becoming a driver is something that starts in childhood – as soon as children become aware that this is something that adults do,” he said. “It becomes a real aspirational focus during adolescence, as teenagers begin to imagine themselves having the freedom that driving brings”.

Tolmie suggested the introduction of a “pre-driver period”, which would aim to give young people an opportunity to form positive attitudes to driving.

Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority pointed out that the 5,678 young road-users “with their lives ahead of them” who had been killed in a 12-year period on Irish roads was roughly the same as the population of Westport in Co Mayo. “When you think of it in those terms,” he said, “We are reminded of how needless this loss of life is.”

“But it’s also important to say that not all young drivers are risky or dangerous drivers,” he added. “Today’s lecture has shown how important it is to support our younger road-users in forming positive attitudes to road safety as early as possible”.

So far this year, 145 people have lost their lives on Irish roads, which a reduction of 15 on the same period last year.

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