Road crashes the leading killer of teens but poll finds Canadians not concerned: Toyota and TIRF

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OTTAWA, Oct. 21, 2004 – The majority of Canadian drivers are not concerned about young driver safety, despite the fact that road crashes are the leading cause of death among young people, according to the findings from the Road Safety Monitor (RSM) released today by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF).

In a survey of more than 1,200 Canadian drivers, TIRF found that less than one quarter (24%) of respondents believe that young drivers are a serious or extremely serious problem. This is despite the fact that road crashes remain the leading cause of death among young adults.

In addition to being one of the primary sponsors of this research, Toyota Canada Inc. is a platinum supporter of TIRF. Other primary sponsors of the RSM include Transport Canada, the Brewers of Canada and The Railway Association of Canada. Additional support comes from the Canada Safety Council.

“Toyota is proud to partner with TIRF on research aimed at understanding the real safety issues facing young drivers,” said Stephen Beatty, Managing Director, Toyota Canada Inc. “Our support reflects our belief that we have a responsibility to proactively improve upon driver safety issues, through both technical innovation and public education. We’re hopeful that increased awareness generated by this research will lead to a renewed commitment to young driver safety.”

While Canadians seem relatively unconcerned about collisions involving young drivers, they are disproportionately worried about young drivers’ use of alcohol and drugs — the vast majority (84%) expressed serious concern about this problem. This is certainly a legitimate concern but research has clearly shown that there are many other reasons why young people crash — they are at risk because of their inexperience and, in some cases, their risk-taking. There is a misconception that alcohol and drug use is about the only threat to young drivers’ safety.

“The public’s belief that impairment is the most serious safety issue for young drivers contrasts with its complacency towards other serious threats posed by inexperience and risky driving,” says Dr. Doug Beirness, Vice President of Research, TIRF. “Parents should be as concerned about these dangers as they are about alcohol or drug use. We must learn how to diminish risk-taking and equip young drivers with the skills that will mitigate their lack of experience.”

Young drivers are overrepresented in road crashes, says Beirness, making up 13% of licensed drivers, but accounting for 25% of all driver deaths and injuries. Among Canadian drivers polled, those ages 16 to 19 do the least amount of driving, yet more than one third (38%) admit to engaging in risky driving behaviours, and nearly all (93%) drive in excess of the speed limit. This compares to 18% and 30% of adults polled.

When it comes to policies to reduce young driver crashes, the survey found that the majority (84%) of Canadian drivers support mandatory driver education. More than half (62%) support the concept of requiring new drivers to hold a learner’s permit for a minimum of twelve months, and just over half (53%) agree with improving licensing tests to ensure young drivers have the safety skills they need.

Support for measures to reduce young driver crashes varies by region, with favourable support most likely in provinces where similar legislation currently exists. For example, requiring young drivers to hold a learner’s permit for a year finds the greatest support (67%) in Quebec, which introduced
the policy several years ago. This measure has least support (55%) in British Columbia, where it was only recently adopted.

Other interesting survey findings include:

  • Young drivers express the least amount of concern about road safety; those 25 years and over express the most;

  • Despite different driving challenges, there are no differences between urban and rural drivers’ concerns about road safety issues;

  • Respondents from Atlantic Canada and Quebec are more concerned with alcohol and drug use among young drivers and their ability to stay alert while driving;

  • Respondents from Ontario and B.C. are more concerned with street racing and driving around for fun; and

  • Support for implementing measures to reduce young driver crashes increases with age, with older drivers more likely to support the move than younger drivers

For a complete copy of the RSM, as well as a backgrounder on young drivers, entitled Deaths and Injuries to Young Canadians from Road Crashes, visit www.trafficinjuryresearch.com.

Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. TIRF designs, promotes and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. TIRF is headquartered in Ottawa.

Toyota Canada Inc. (TCI) is the exclusive Canadian importer and distributor of Toyota cars, trucks, and sports utility vehicles, as well as Lexus luxury vehicles, through a sales and service network of over 260 dealers across Canada. A consistent award winner for product quality and ownership satisfaction, Toyota has sold over two million vehicles in Canada. More information about Toyota is available at www.toyota.ca or through the Toyota Call Centre at 1-888-TOYOTA8.