New driver’s perspective – Ella Townsend

I’ve been driving for just over three years now. Since I first started getting lessons I believed I was a good driver, and once I passed my test I believed that even more. And I don’t think this feeling is uncommon amongst young drivers. We pass our tests, we have this independence, we’re the ones in control of this car and we believe that we know everything there is to know about driving it safely. I remember seeing videos in school and college, showing crashes and the outcomes of dangerous driving, and at the time thinking how awful it would be if I was ever involved in one of these collisions. We’re told countless times about the dangers of drunk driving, and not wearing a seatbelt, or the distractions having friends in the car can cause. But dangerous driving goes way beyond these serious issues, to smaller ones we may not think make us worse drivers, but actually do. Things like checking our phones, skipping songs, having music too loud, etc. I realised how much I do little things like this and how much it’s just not worth it. I think to myself, if I was to change a song on my phone whilst driving, and that taking my eyes off the road for two seconds to do that was to cause a crash, how much I would regret it, and how I’d think if only I had just left it, it doesn’t seem worth it at all.

I spoke with Annette Lloyd, CEO of The Honest Truth, and she told me how likely it is for new young drivers to be involved in road collisions within the first year of them driving. Hearing different facts, figures and statistics from her really made me think about my driving, and how thinking I’m a good driver isn’t going to stop me from being in an accident.

The problem with a lot of young drivers is that they’re too proud to admit that maybe they’re not the best, and that they actually need to accept that just because they’ve passed their test, they still have a lot of learning to do. It’s taken me over three years to realise that myself.

Talking with Annette for just 5 minutes about the dangers of the road for young drivers had way more impact on me than all of those talks I’ve been in showing videos of crashes and people’s stories. Not that those talks in school and college didn’t affect me or make me understand the importance of driving safely but being able to actually have a conversation with someone allowed me to think about things I would have never considered otherwise.

However, I realise that not everyone can have that one-on-one chat with an expert, in fact the majority of people never will. And that’s where there’s a problem, because it seems there’s not really anything out there that will change the way young people drive, unless it’s too late.

For many people, they don’t start talking about dangerous driving unless they know someone who’s been in an accident. I went to college with a guy named Jordan Clarke. He sadly died recently after being involved in a traffic collision. I first heard about it after seeing someone had posted a message on his Facebook. Shortly after that they were constant. Jordan was so well known, so many people knew who he was, if not personally then through someone else. If not from school or college, then from his work as a local tattoo artist. The day it happened everyone I spoke to mentioned it, he was so known and loved by people and it’s so tragic how many people have been affected by his death.

I’m so glad now that I think about how I’m driving and I’m so glad that I don’t think I’m the best driver out there. I wasn’t kidding anyone with the amount of scratches and dents there are on my car anyway. I have a black box for my insurance, so my driving gets monitored, and then my insurance goes either up if I haven’t been driving well, or down if I have. A couple of months ago I had my first increase, and immediately thought to myself, ‘I need to start driving at the limit and being more aware of how I’m driving so I can save some money again.’ But now I realise that my focus shouldn’t be on driving better to save money, it should be on driving better to decrease my chance of being in an accident.

Knowing that now whenever I get into my car and drive anywhere, that I’m doing the best I can to stay safe is reassuring enough for me. I know now I’m certainly not the best driver, but I do know I’m aware of the dangers I could cause and face, and I believe that makes me a good one.