As a large number of students across the country prepare to sit the last of their Leaving Certificate examination in the coming days, and a night of celebration is likely to follow, the Road Safety Authority (RSA), Alcohol Action Ireland and Youth Work Ireland are urging parents and their young drivers to have a ‘Safer Driving Agreement’ in place if those celebrations include travel by car.
A ‘Safer Driving Agreement’ (see sample below) requires both the parent and the fully licensed young driver to make promises about how they will use the road as a driver or passenger. Only drivers with a full driving licence should drive unaccompanied. Any young person driving on a learner permit must, by law, be accompanied by a qualified driver who has held their full licence for two years. This keeps them away from situations that are most likely to lead to crashes.
Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said “Such agreements can be verbal or written. They are not about being over-protective or unreasonable but are promises between the parent and the young driver for safer driving. Ask yourself is car use essential tonight? Can public transport, taxis or lifts from parents be the right choice to keep everyone safe tonight and early tomorrow morning? If your son or daughter is going out celebrating their achievements check how they are travelling. Are you satisfied that the driver is competent and capable of keeping them safe? If not seek a safer public transport alternative or agree to do the driving yourself”.
To those who have sat their Leaving Cert Mr Brett added. “Congratulations, you have done the hard work and enjoy your celebrations. Our message is simple we want you to enjoy yourselves if out celebrating but be sensible about the choices you make if you decide to drive or travel as a passenger with friends, and don’t put your life or the lives of others at risk. Be aware of the dangers and understand that as young and often inexperienced drivers you are at greater risk on our roads. Remember too that if you decide to drive, don’t speed, never ever drive having consumed alcohol or drugs and wear seatbelts. Take personal responsibility. Don’t throw it all away for a short trip.”
Fiona Ryan, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland said: “We would urge parents to discuss their children’s plan for the evening, ask where they are going, who they are going with, how and when they plan on getting home. Remind them that they don’t have to drink and while you may not be happy about their decision to drink, if they find themselves in trouble as a parent tell them you would much prefer they call home than fear the consequences of their drinking. Alcohol Action Ireland’s website www.alcoholireland.ie has tips on how to talk with your child about alcohol.”
Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland said: “Getting through such a stressful and outmoded exam is a real accomplishment for young people. Just completing the Leaving Cert regardless of the result is a great achievement. Thousands of young people are now on the launching pad of a new life and are in a position to contribute to making Ireland a better place. We want to see young people around the country make that positive contribution to their community and their country. Unfortunately the statistics tell us many never make it beyond that launching pad. A safe driver agreement is a way to connect young people to a broader community and particularly their loved ones, it shows young people can be mature and responsible in their approach to driving and it can utilize the strengths of peer relationships to create positive outcomes for young people”.
Mr. Brett also had a word of advice for parents across the country, “This is a day to be proud of your sons and daughters. Do not let it be a day of grief and sadness. Sit down today and talk with your young adults about responsible road use and consider putting a ‘Safer Driving Agreement’ in place. ”
Examples of promises that could form part of a ‘Safer Driving Agreement’
Driving at night: As young drivers have a high proportion of their crashes at night, agree the times when they can drive the car. For example, you might agree they will not use the car between midnight and 6:00 am the high risk period for crashes.
Carrying Groups of Friends: Consider agreeing a limit on the number of their friends they carry to just one or two if you are not in the car.
Alcohol and drugs: Ask the young driver in your household to stick to a zero limit.
Ask them not to take a lift with drivers who have been drinking or might have taken drugs. Remember, even some over-the-counter medicines cause drowsiness.
Remind them that taking drugs is illegal and can be life threatening. Drugs can affect your mind and body in a variety of ways that mean you aren’t able to drive safely. Not only that, the effects can last for hours or even days. For example, cannabis shows in urine for up to four weeks after it is taken
Speed: Young drivers are more likely to see speed as exciting. They are particularly prone to approaching bends too fast and to dangerous overtaking. Even keeping within the speed limit can be unsafe, for example on wet or on narrow, winding rural roads. Discuss with your young driver why you would like them not to speed or take risks.
Mobile phones: While it is reassuring for young drivers to carry a mobile phone, it is dangerous to use it when driving. Ask your son or daughter to agree only to use their mobile phone when parked. Discuss other distractions, like playing loud music, eating, drinking and smoking to ensure they are aware of the implications of dividing attention between the driving and other things.
Seatbelts: Most drivers wear seat belts, but rear seat passengers are less likely to do so. They present a danger to themselves and to other people in the car. Drivers could agree to always ask their passengers to wear their seatbelts.