Goodyear road safety survey reveals South African under-25s top the list of disobedient driver
Rules, it seems, are there to be broken – at least by many young drivers, as a recent in-depth survey by Goodyear has revealed – and this attitude could well be a contributing factor to South Africa’s distressing number of road deaths.
“While National Transport Minister Ben Martins calls repeatedly for cautionary driving and an obedience of the rules of the road, Goodyear’s 2012 Young Drivers Road Safety Survey revealed that these are traits sorely lacking in the on-road mindset of South Africa’s young driver,” said Lize Hayward, Goodyear South Africa Group Brand Communications Manager.
“We are in absolutely no way laying the blame for our tragic death toll particularly on our youngsters – we do not have those statistics, and in any case their driving habits are instilled through training and in mimicking the behaviour of their parents and other drivers, amongst other factors. However, Goodyear is committed to understanding and addressing driver safety. We want people to feel good on our roads again, starting with better support and education for our young drivers.”
NEED FOR SPEED
Speeding is the number one on-road sin amongst young drivers, as they admitted in Goodyear’s Road Safety Survey. South African respondents ranked second highest (79% vs global 66%) to Polish speedsters (81%). The survey probed the behaviour of 6 400 drivers under the age of 25. It 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 a wide range of factors from training through to their on-road concerns.
“Speeding is a real cause for concern as the split-second decisions we take when driving are governed by the parietal lobe area of the brain, which deals with perception and spatial processing. Driving too fast does not give the parietal lobe time to catch up, so makes it more difficult for us to judge distance and read the road,” Hayward explained.
In the survey, South Africans ranked highest in admitting to an improper estimation of speed of traffic when changing lanes or overtaking (59% vs global 43%) and, even more frighteningly, topped the charts at disobeying traffic signals or signs (62% vs global 39%). Interestingly, the survey explored a number of national driving stereotypes: in previous studies of peer perceptions, Italians have been viewed as the least careful and Germans the most careful drivers in Europe, however Goodyear’s 2012 survey in fact found Italians to be among the least likely to speed or misjudge the speed of traffic when overtaking. Similarly, the perception of German drivers is not fully supported as their young drivers were among the most likely to disobey traffic signals!
German and Russian drivers are the most likely to try out the top speed of their cars, with 53% and 46% respectively saying they have pushed their motors to the max. This is perhaps not surprising for Germany as it is one of the only countries in the world to have no speed limit on its motorways. South Africans ranked fifth here out of the 16 nations, with 38% admitting to testing the top limits of their cars, which is still higher than the global average of 31%.
It appears the most responsible young drivers are to be found in the United Kingdom (UK) and Spain, where far fewer (54% and 40% respectively) admit to speeding. They are also the least likely to try out the top speed of their cars (18% and 19% respectively) and this is probably explained by strict levels of law enforcement and speed cameras.
NOT JUST THROTTLE, BUT ALSO BOTTLE
Despite extensive publicity and increasingly stringent penalties for offenders, an alarming 20% of young men (24%) and women (15%) globally admit to driving after having consumed alcohol. The knife twist for South Africans is that our youngsters come in streets ahead of that at 45% – a full 14% more than the next worst offenders, the Spanish (31%) and 16% more than the French (29%). These figures are exacerbated when one considers the number of 17-24 year olds whose favourite leisure time activity is going out to socialise at bars and clubs. Those in the UK are the least likely to drink and drive at just 4%, reflecting the high enforcement and low tolerance policy in this area.
RULES ARE THERE TO BE BROKEN
Speeding and drunk driving aren’t the only area where young drivers are exhibiting dangerous behavior. It appears that, despite only having had their licence for a few years, young drivers are also ignoring many important rules of the road. Goodyear’s survey revealed that 43% of men and 35% of women (average 39%) globally admitted to disobeying traffic signals or signs, with South Africans topping the list by far at an average 62%, a full 11% higher than the Polish who are the next worst offenders.
As many as 37% admitted to not using their indicators (South Africans 42%) and the same number admitted to taking corners too fast (South Africans 47%). Germans headed the table for speeding up at orange traffic lights rather than slowing down (85%), with South Africans a close second (83%; global average 73%). A staggering 28% of young Turks admit to jumping the red light, with South Africans and Spanish hot on their heels at 24% (global average 14%).
Overall results confirmed that men take more risks than women and are more inclined towards aggressive or dangerous behavior. Parents continue to exert a positive influence on newly qualified drivers as differences that emerged in Goodyear’s survey showed that those still living at home appeared to be less aggressive on the road than those with a place of their own.
Young drivers who finished studying at an earlier age (18 or younger) are generally more inclined to make mistakes than those who continue their education longer. One example is that much as 47% of those respondents who had finished studying at 18 were inclined to disobey traffic signals compared to 36% of those who continued until they were 22 or older.
SA TOLL KEEPS RISING
While transport officials initially boasted better driving, the number of reported fatalities in fact rose tragically in the days following South Africa’s 2013 Easter weekend. The final death toll from the Automobile Association (AA) has been set at 241 people killed on the roads between 28 March and 1 April.
This is up 11% from the 217 lives lost in 2012 and a shocking 59% on the 151 who died in 2011. More than 1 400 people died on South African roads during the festive season between 1 December 2012 and 8 January 2013. A high percentage of the deaths over both periods has been attributed to pedestrians, many of whom had walked onto roads while drunk and been knocked down by speeding cars.
Reporting these figures, AA spokesperson Gary Ronald said that “little has been done in South Africa to create change or prevent road deaths during the busiest times of the year”.
“Young people are disproportionately involved in road accidents and fatalities, making it crucial to ensure that they are trained adequately in driving school,” said Hayward.
“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.”