Young Drivers: Buckle UP and Buckle DOWN

National Road Safety Week
May 16 - 22, 2008

Three teens were severely injured after being ejected from a car during a collision. None of them were wearing seatbelts…
Sadly, this is a familiar and tragic scenario reported in news across Canada, far too often. Young drivers represent only 13 per cent of licensed drivers in Canada but account for 25 per cent of all driver deaths and injuries, according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

Buckle Up to drive or ride, is one of the most important traffic rules and safety habits that young drivers need to comply with. Too many young adults die needlessly because they are not wearing seatbelts. The latest statistics from Transport Canada indicate that 45.5 per cent of drivers and 52.2 per cent of passengers aged 15 to 24 who were fatally injured, were not wearing their seatbelts. There is no doubt that properly wearing a seatbelt save lives. It should be second nature for all occupants in a vehicle to buckle up, no matter what age or how far the destination is.

So why is it that young adults choose to not buckle up? Is it due to peer pressure, denial of the real danger, “won’t happen to me” mentality or believing that riding in the back seat or for a short distance, does not warrant the use of seatbelts? Possibly it is a combination of these excuses. Canada Safety Council recognizes that more awareness and education focused on teens is needed, in order to drive the message home. Seatbelts save lives…Buckle Up.

The term Buckle Down addresses the need for young drivers to focus and concentrate on the task at hand: driving safely. All drivers have to deal with distractions which exist outside the car and inside the car, as well as distractions due to psychological factors (e.g. pressures due to time constraints). Since the two primary causes of collisions are inattention and distraction, young drivers must learn to deal quickly and efficiently with distractions through education, practice and discipline.

Cell phones are a prime example of one type of distraction. Legislation to ban hand-held cell phones while driving, has been passed in three provinces (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec). The assumption is that hand-held phones are a significant cause of distraction. While Canada Safety Council recognizes that hand-held devices are distractions and undoubtedly impair the driver’s ability to safely control their vehicle, hand-held cell phones represent only a fraction of distractions that are plaguing drivers. Other passengers in the car, CD players, radios, eating, drinking or Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to name a few, are all distractions that can impede the capacity to effectively monitor and respond to events occurring in road traffic environment.

Although there have been substantial improvements over the past two decades, road crashes remain the leading cause of death for young people in Canada. More education and awareness is needed to promote seatbelt use and to help young drivers manage and cope with distractions. Young drivers have the responsibility of focusing on the task of driving and of ensuring that all occupants are properly protected by seatbelts. Driving a motor vehicle is one of the most dangerous activities that we engage in. Buckle Up and Buckle Down for Safety.