Research has shown that they don’t concentrate behind the wheel, as they’re too busy on the internet and when they do, they’re too stressed to drive properly anyway.
We now know this much, thanks to Goodyear, who - as part of its commitment to understand road safety - has probed the behaviour of 6 400 drivers under the age of 25.
I know I’ve written on this topic twice in succession now, but the research is so good, I simply can’t get enough of it.
This week’s topic has to do with the relationship between young drivers and their cars. For 73% of South Africa’s young people, independence and owning a car go hand-in-hand. I’m sure all of us can relate to this feeling. Getting your first car is a special experience that you never forget. There’s no more waiting for your mother outside the mall after you’ve taken the hottest girl in school to a movie, because, as we all know, nothing messes with your sex appeal as much as being ferried around by your parental units.
A further 61% say their car reflects their personality, while 67% say they use their car as a means to escape stress and responsibility. Around 52% of people claimed they use their car to escape from their parents, but I’ve got a feeling the other 48% were just lying. Young people take their privacy and independence very seriously. Up to a point, that is…
The survey has shown that youngsters worldwide are not as independent as they’d like to think they are. When faced with a flat tyre, only 44% said they’d fix it themselves, while 23% would call their parents. A further 12% said they’d call their boyfriend or girlfriend.
In terms of independence, the Russians are on top. Around 64% would get their fingernails dirty, followed by South Africa at 55%. We should be extremely proud of this achievement, especially as only a third of the young drivers from Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland were brave enough to face a flat tyre without any help.
The research also suggests that our youngsters are most comfortable driving on their own after completing driver training and they’re also the most likely to check their tyre pressure regularly. Score one for safety for South Africa.
It’s shocking to note that most of the young drivers aren’t taught to do this on a regular basis and only 23% are taught how to change a flat tyre. This is a clear indication that there’s a huge gap in the current K53 curriculum.
Goodyear works with the European driving schools in Europe and the Volkswagen Driving Academy in South Africa and is doing its part in training young drivers. It’s a fantastic solution, but I do feel that the basic upkeep of a car needs to form part of the initial driver-training process. In fact, I think they need to start safe driver training in grade 10.
My dad taught me how to change a tyre quite early on in life and I get the feeling that if I phoned him with something as trivial as a flat tyre, he’d laugh at me. Not because he’s a bad parent; quite the opposite, in fact. By teaching me the basics of engineering, he gave me the tools to look after myself if I get stuck by the side of the road.
I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. If you haven’t done so yet, take your child outside right now and show him how to change a tyre - even if he/she is just two years old. I decided long ago (much to the dismay of my lovely wife) that I’m going to teach my children to drive as soon as their feet can reach the pedals. By the time they can legally take to the road, they’ll have few years of driving and basic upkeep experience that can only come in handy.
But enough of the preaching for now.
Goodyear’s research has shown that youngsters know how to have some naughty fun behind the wheel. Around 14% of youngsters say their car is the place where they have sex with their partner. A statistic to be proud of, as the French and British could only muster a paltry 8%.
I write the above with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but - as a side note to all the frisky youngsters out there - if you’re determined to fool around in your car, make sure the handbrake is fully on and that you protect yourself from becoming a victim to all the nasty diseases out there.
I also like the fact that 61% of our young people cruise around just for the fun of it. It shows that they understand the basic reason why a car is such a special thing to own. Yes, to many people a car is nothing more than four wheels that go round and round until you arrive somewhere. To the rest of us, a car is a symbol of freedom and an expression of your own unique personality.
I thank the young people of South Africa for reminding a tired motoring hack of that fact.