Many studies have shown that younger people have a greater proportion of road accidents than older drivers. A 17-yr-old new driver is four times as likely to be involved in a crash as a 26-yr-old, according to the New South Wales Roads and Marine Services department. (www.rta.nsw.gov.au)
Insurance companies use these statistics in adjusting their premiums – charging more for younger drivers.
In the northern coastal regions of New South Wales, a worrying number of road accidents have been recorded involving young people; some of them fatal. Several of these road deaths have involved young people whose vehicles have run off the road without a second vehicle being involved.
Recently a woman crashed her motor vehicle after Christmas Day celebrations with family and ran off the road and found herself trapped by the car for three days until someone found her. (www.smh.com.au)
In another recent incident two lads, one 19 and one 16 were hitch-hiking when they were hit by a 4-wheel-drive (SUV) and both were killed. (/www.adelaidenow.com.au)
All cases of car accidents are tragic, but the grieving of parents of passengers, or hitch-hikers (where this is legal) where those youngsters were not even driving the car, is cruel beyond comprehension. It is possibly the reason that hitch-hiking has been made illegal if standing on the edge of the road or the shoulder, in the states of Queensland and Western Australia, and on motorways anywhere in Australia.
Mark Tronson explains that the region where he lives has many secondary roads running between the many small communities. The area is hilly, most of the roads twist and turn and have restricted speed limits, and the region is prone to wet weather in both winter and summer. The minor roads are sometimes narrow, with gravel shoulders on which an inexperienced driver can skid if they mis-judge a curve or corner, or are simply driving too fast.
The convenience of motor cars
There is no public transport between these small towns, and the car is a necessary way for people – particularly young people – to get together with friends and family. A higher proportion of young people have driving licences in this area, than in the cities.
The above examples give worst case scenarios. Many of the Government-sponsored advertisements also give graphic illustrations of cases where young people have found themselves at the worst possible end of the motor vehicle spectrum.
However, Mark Tronson wonders if it would be more effective to emphasise the positive.
Motor vehicles are very convenient transport providers, and as mentioned above, one of the only ways of transporting people and goods between different communities in the area where he lives, in northern NSW away from major cities.
In Australia, with large distances (even the cities are very spread-out) and small population, motor vehicles are important for most families for everything from conducting their work/school/study and other commercial activities (contractors, farmers, commuting office-workers, University lecturers moving between different campuses etc), shopping (it is easy to buy in bulk cheaply if you can transport the groceries in the boot of your car), sports and other hobbies (including taking kids to sports venues on the weekend), entertainment and cultural activities (necessary for mental health), and of course, taking the family on an affordable holiday, or even keeping contact with grandparents and extended family.
As a missionary for 35 years, Tronson is also aware of the marvellous convenience and value of a motor vehicle.
What the young people do not realise, thinks Mark Tronson, is that the car is not only a means of getting from A to B, but it is also a lethal weapon. He wonders what measures could possibly instil a greater awareness of the dangers of being behind a wheel, for young people who think they are in control but lack experience when something goes awry. Deaths of road users aged 17 to 25 were down by the greatest amount; 17 per cent nationally.
Mark Tronson continues to consider these issues tomorrow.
We can take inspiration from Proverbs 13:16, and make sure that our children and young friends have the knowledge they need to be safe, and that they will choose not to be foolish while driving the car. "Every prudent man worketh with knowledge: but a fool spreadeth out folly" (ERV)
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html