October 22, 2004

Road crashes the leading killer of teens but poll finds Canadians not concerned

Ottawa, Ontario – The majority of Canadian drivers are not concerned about young
driver safety, despite the fact that road crashes are the leading cause of death
among young people, according to the findings from the Road Safety Monitor (RSM)
released today by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF).

In a survey of more than 1,200 Canadian drivers, TIRF found that less
than one quarter (24%) of respondents believe that young drivers are a serious
or extremely serious problem. This is despite the fact that road crashes
remain the leading cause of death among young adults.

Primary sponsors of the RSM include Toyota Canada, Transport Canada, the Brewers of
Canada and The Railway Association of Canada. Additional support comes from the
Canada Safety Council.

“Toyota is proud to partner with TIRF on research aimed at understanding
the real safety issues facing young drivers,” said Stephen Beatty, Managing
Director, Toyota Canada Inc. “Our support reflects our belief that we have a
responsibility to proactively improve upon driver safety issues, through both
technical innovation and public education. We’re hopeful that increased
awareness generated by this research will lead to a renewed commitment to
young driver safety.”

While Canadians seem relatively unconcerned about collisions involving
young drivers, they are disproportionately worried about young drivers’ use of
alcohol and drugs — the vast majority (84%) expressed serious concern about
this problem. This is certainly a legitimate concern but research has clearly
shown that there are many other reasons why young people crash — they are at
risk because of their inexperience and, in some cases, their risk-taking.
There is a misconception that alcohol and drug use is about the only threat to
young drivers’ safety.

“The public’s belief that impairment is the most serious safety issue for
young drivers contrasts with its complacency towards other serious threats
posed by inexperience and risky driving,” says Dr. Doug Beirness, Vice
President of Research, TIRF. “Parents should be as concerned about these
dangers as they are about alcohol or drug use. We must learn how to diminish
risk-taking and equip young drivers with the skills that will mitigate their
lack of experience.”

Young drivers are over-represented in road crashes, says Beirness, making
up 13% of licensed drivers, but accounting for 25% of all driver deaths and
injuries. Among Canadian drivers polled, those ages 16 to 19 do the least
amount of driving, yet more than one third (38%) admit to engaging in risky
driving behaviours, and nearly all (93%) drive in excess of the speed limit.
This compares to 18% and 30% of adults polled.

When it comes to policies to reduce young driver crashes, the survey
found that the majority (84%) of Canadian drivers support mandatory driver
education. More than half (62%) support the concept of requiring new drivers
to hold a learner’s permit for a minimum of twelve months, and just over half
(53%) agree with improving licensing tests to ensure young drivers have the
safety skills they need.

Support for measures to reduce young driver crashes varies by region,
with favourable support most likely in provinces where similar legislation
currently exists. For example, requiring young drivers to hold a learner’s
permit for a year finds the greatest support (67%) in Quebec, which introduced
the policy several years ago. This measure has least support (55%) in British
Columbia, where it was only recently adopted.

Other interesting survey findings include:

  • Young drivers express the least amount of concern about road safety;
    those 25 years and over express the most;
  • Despite different driving challenges, there are no differences
    between urban and rural drivers’ concerns about road safety issues;
  • Respondents from Atlantic Canada and Quebec are more concerned with
    alcohol and drug use among young drivers and their ability to stay
    alert while driving;
  • Respondents from Ontario and B.C. are more concerned with street
    racing and driving around for fun; and
  • Support for implementing measures to reduce young driver crashes
    increases with age, with older drivers more likely to support the
    move than younger drivers

For a complete copy of the RSM, as well as a backgrounder on young
drivers, entitled Deaths and Injuries to Young Canadians from Road Crashes,
visit www.trafficinjuryresearch.com.

Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths
and injuries. TIRF designs, promotes and implements effective programs and
policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on
grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. TIRF is
headquartered in Ottawa.

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