17 October 2013:
The AA advice for matric drivers
Good driving advice is vital for matric students before they set out on their end-of-year holidays. This is the word of caution from the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), who said that young drivers have the highest fatality risk of all age groups. The AA added that matrics are some of the most vulnerable young drivers because they have only had their licences for a short time.
“It only takes a few drinks or fatigue from a late night to turn the traditional matric road trip into a tragedy,” said the AA. “We feel that parents in particular should take the lead in encouraging matrics towards more responsible road behaviour.”Fatality rates for the various age groups were last made available in 1998. Back then, a typical driver between 18 and 24 years old was four times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than the equivalent driver of 60 or older.
The AA says this was a well-established trend prior to 1998 and believes it has continued to the present day. Two events often make the news when fatal crashes involving young drivers are concerned: the traditional matric dance, and the post-matric road trip holiday. It will only be a couple of months before the holiday season arrives, meaning some of the country's most inexperienced drivers will have to contend with peak traffic while their minds are distracted by the achievement of having finished school.
The AA reminded parents and youngsters alike there are no safe levels of alcohol or drugs when it comes to driving - even a single drink doubles a driver's crash risk. The AA commented that parents wanting their children to avoid driving drunk might have to take radical steps to provide an example to follow, such as committing to not driving after even one drink in future. “A zero alcohol level for drivers is an unpopular subject with many, but just look at the facts: more than half the people who die on our roads are under the influence,” the AA explained.
“According to the Medical Research Council, these fatalities have an average Blood Alcohol Concentration nearly four times the legal driving limit.” The AA reminded parents that alcohol is not the only cause of impairment – if their child is ill, or fatigued, or on medication that causes drowsiness or distraction, someone else should be driving. The AA also said that parents should ensure their children understand the importance of sharing the driving.
Whoever is at the wheel should be fresh and alert, and night-time driving should be discouraged - the fencing along South Africa's roads is not what it used to be, meaning a higher risk of crashes involving game or livestock after dark. “It's important for parents to not become preachy about road safety, but to present it as reality,” the AA commented. “Their advice before a matric road-trip holiday will be some of the most important parental tips they could give their children as they spread their wings for the big wide world,” the AA concluded.