Back to driving school for SA’s young motorists?
Goodyear road safety survey suggests it could give under-25s skills and confidence to reduce deaths on the road
The numbers are down but still, despite road blocks and safety campaigns, scores of South Africans are grieving the loss of loved ones killed in road accidents across the country over this Easter weekend. A recent survey conducted by Goodyear into the behaviour of young drivers particularly suggests that they are not adequately prepared for such high stress motoring and should consider going back to driving school to hone their skills and feel good on the road again.
Senior traffic and transport officials are reporting that motorists on long-distance trips have driven more carefully this year, resulting in a reduced number of accidents and deaths, but as motorists flocked home on Monday night the statistics continued to climb grimly. National Transport Minister Ben Martins called for cautionary driving and an obedience of the rules of the road – traits that Goodyear’s recent Road Safety Survey has revealed are lacking in the on-road mindset of South Africa’s young driver.
“Our study was specifically designed to explore a wide range of factors from driver training through to general concerns amongst young drivers,” said Lize Hayward, Goodyear South Africa Group Brand Communications Manager. “As part of Goodyear’s commitment to understand and address driver safety, it probed the behaviour of 6 400 drivers under the age of 25. The survey covered 16 markets (15 European countries and, for the first time, South Africa) and was designed to get inside the brain of young drivers and shed light on their behaviour.
“South Africans scored highest in several misbehaviours, including speeding up to make it through an orange traffic light (83% vs 73% global average) and weaving from lane to lane in order to get ahead (48% vs 28% global average.”..
POTHOLES IN DRIVER TRAINING
Goodyear’s study showed that 90% of young South Africans are fully comfortable to drive on their own after completing their training – the highest score among the surveyed countries (global average: 78%). Yet more than a third admitted that if they were to take their driving test again, they wouldn’t pass it (37% vs global average: 27%).
In South Africa, 82% of young drivers passed their theoretical test on the first try (global average: 84%) while 59% succeeded in passing their practical test on the first attempt (global average: 68%). At the same time, 79% of them believe that many people in South Africa give bribes to obtain a licence more easily. Nationally speaking, 76% say it is very expensive to get a licence.
When driving training has been insufficient, the mindset seems to be that experience helps to compensate. Only 44% of young South Africans learnt to drive in heavy rain when there is a risk of aquaplaning, yet 85% say they are comfortable driving under heavy rain today. Similarly, only 39% learnt to drive at night time – not surprising as most lessons take place during the day – but 90% declare they are comfortable doing so. Emergency manoeuvre training has been given to 58% of young drivers and 89% said they were comfortable with it at the time of survey.
In addition to a low level of knowledge of some of the trickier elements of driving, it seems that young drivers are not well trained in some of the wider motoring skills either. Of those surveyed, South Africans are most anxious about security issues, such as breaking down in an unsafe part of town (78% vs 45% global average) or being hi-jacked (71% vs 38% global average). Yet only 23% of South African youngsters were taught to change a tyre during their driving training (even lower globally at 20%), 34% learnt the frequency of car check-ups, and anti-hijacking or security awareness seems only to be taught on specialist courses.
“Young people are disproportionately involved in road accidents and fatalities, making it crucial to ensure that they are trained adequately in driving school. With safety at the core of our tradition, Goodyear works with the European Driving Schools Association (EFA) in Europe, the Volkswagen Driving Academy (VWDA) in South Africa and Goodyear 4×4 Academy in the Western Cape, to provide young people with more training on driving safely and responsibly, as well as ensuring optimal knowledge and maintenance of their cars and tyres.
“Recollection of skills learned in driver training is governed by the hippocampus in the temporal lobe of the brain, which is associated with learning and memory. Young drivers who have never learned or who have forgotten core driving skills arguably need a refresher course to prompt their memories and make them more confident drivers.”
Antoinette Hurter, VWDA managing member, said bad habits had been allowed to develop amongst South African drivers.
“You need to start with the basics. In my opinion, driver training is nowhere close to international standards and the K53 testing system is inconsistent across the country. Just because you haven’t had an accident does not mean you’re a good driver! I am often shocked when licensed drivers have their skills evaluated with our instructors.
“Our standards are very strict and we force corporate clients to come back to renew their certificates every two years. Sadly, many big companies do not insist on screening their employees’ driving or medical levels before they get into company vehicles.
“VWDA addresses specific South African road situations too. Our hi-jack prevention programme boosts security awareness on the road and equips people to handle such situations. We are soon to launch our first night driving course too, which teaches emergency manoeuvres and other safe driving techniques in the dark. We won’t take our clients out on the road at night though – it’s too dangerous – so training will take place on our track and skidpans at Kyalami.
“Goodyear is the sole supplier of tyre products to the VWDA’s fleet of Volkswagen Golfs, Touregs and Amaroks. We conducted a series of competitor tyre brand tests and I can tell you the Goodyears are tops, whether you are assessing braking distance, high speed travelling or mileage. South Africa’s road conditions are not good so it’s important that our tyres consistently deliver on performance and capabilities.
“If we all work together we can have better quality drivers on our roads.”