The death of a 15 year old scholar from Grey College was greeted with shock and disbelief in Bloemfontein. The scholar died in a vehicle accident that happened at about 02:20 on Sunday when 5 friends drove through Bloemfontein in a BMW. A 15-year-old driver had taken his father’s car without permission and driven to pick up his four friends – who are all boarders – at Grey College. The driver and passengers are all Grade 10 pupils at the school.
The 15-year-old driver appeared in Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Monday on a charge of culpable homicide and drunken driving. One of the passengers was seriously injured and was admitted to the Bloemfontein Medi-Clinic in a critical condition.
Unfortunately this is not a unique occurrence! In recent years we have noticed several media reports of underage unlicensed drivers on the road. We have also found that several “role models” in the world of sport and entertainment have been found driving without a license and whilst under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicating substances.
To address these dangers we need to understand the dangers of underage driving. The best possible way to address this road safety hazard is to provide road safety education to both children and parents. I would like to quote aspects on the topic of underage driving on the Arrive Alive website:
The facts about underage driving:
- Teen drivers aged 16-19 years are four times more likely than older drivers to crash
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, ride with an intoxicated driver, and drive after using alcohol or drugs
- Inexperience is the reason why these drivers are more likely to underestimate hazardous situations
- The presence of teen passengers increases the risk of accidents by underage drivers – and the more passengers – the higher the risk
- Accidents by underage drivers occur mostly on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours 9pm and 6am.
Why do underage drivers pose such a significant risk?
- The high number of underage drivers transgressing the law by going for a joyride can be attributed to peer pressure and a feeling of youthful invincibility
- Teenagers have a sense that they can get away with transgressions – a feeling of bravado whereby “ I can get away with anything”
- This is further evident in research indicating that teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use
- About 30% of crashes killing young drivers involve alcohol and are often combined with contributing factors such as speeding
- Not only could these accidents lead to loss of life, but also severe physical and emotional scars on the survivors. Many parents are not aware that insurance companies are only obliged to honor claims from sober and licensed drivers – and they will have to compensate for the damage caused by underage drivers…
Advice for parents:
- Know what your children are doing and where they are – and how they are traveling to and from their destinations
- Talk with them about the consequences of their actions and the trouble they can get into
- Stress responsibility and the dangers to road safety
- Discuss with your children the need to avoid peer pressure and to avoid climbing in vehicles with underage and intoxicated drivers
- Put keys where underage children cannot get to them
- The most important advice would be to teach responsibility by way of example. If parents drive with caution and obey the laws of the road – their children will also have more respect for traffic laws and for those who travel our roads!
The tragic death of this scholar over the weekend should be a motivation to provide valuable road safety information to young people exposed to the risks on the road. Perhaps this could stop another unlicensed youngster from driving a vehicle –or prevent another child from climbing in such a vehicle!
Also view the Road Safety Blog!