Driving school is not enough. Young drivers need to drive

Driving school is not enough. Young drivers need to drive

Novice drivers often feel like they’re kings of the road. That makes the collision with reality all the more painful. What’s the safest way to take the plunge into the dangerous waters of road traffic?

9. 9. 2021 Škoda World

The statistics are clear. Young drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 cause far more accidents than other age groups. And unfortunately, their crashes often have tragic consequences. In addition to the increasing aggression that is everywhere around us, and all the more evident on the roads, a lack of practice and a lack of experience are to blame. Driving school is just the start.

The best recipe is: drive, drive, drive

“Be humble, be cautious, but don’t be afraid. In accidents involving young people we often see that they don’t even realise the danger, it doesn’t occur to them that this kind of accident could happen. That makes it a good idea to learn to anticipate, and to imagine various possible hazards, from the very beginning. There might always be a family with a pram around a bend; there tend to be slippery leaves on roads running alongside a wood; a deer can jump out of a thicket; the sun can dazzle us when we exit a tunnel; a pedestrian can step out into the road at any time... and so on,” advises Robert Šťastný, a member of ŠKODA’s Traffic Safety Research team, who tells novice drivers that the best way to develop the necessary habits is simply to drive as much as you can as soon as you start.

Robert Šťastný
ŠKODA Traffic Safety Research team

Not buckled up? Get out. Or we’re not going anywhere

Not putting your seat belt on when a friend is driving you home from a night out might feel rebellious, but it causes lives to be snuffed out all too often, and unnecessarily. There is only one correct response from the driver: “I’m the driver, I’m responsible for everyone, and we’re not going anywhere until you put your seat belt on. Period.” Learn it and be uncompromising. Even in a minor collision that needn’t be particularly serious, an unrestrained person in the back seat can seriously injure or kill the person in front. The same applies to luggage. Larger and heavier items, such as skis, bicycles or a keg of beer, say, must be properly secured. And speaking of alcohol, young drivers should be just as principled about all addictive substances – if a driver has consumed alcohol or any drug, they shouldn’t get behind the wheel under any circumstances. And their passengers should also make it clear that they won’t go anywhere with the driver in that state.

A good tip in the later stages of gaining experience is a trip abroad. Naturally, it is ingrained in us that we should be on our best behaviour whenever we are “on a visit”. And this is also true on the roads, where we automatically seem to obey the rules, don’t drive too fast and are considerate and calm. These are good lessons.

A partner in the passenger seat

Some countries apply what’s known as two-phase training – in addition to regular theory lessons and driving lessons, parents are also involved in the training of young people. Either as part of the driving school or in the follow-up period after the learner has got his licence, an experienced adult acts as a guide when the driver practises in real traffic. 

“Driving licences and driving itself tend to be a family affair, which is why we are trying to get responsible parents of new drivers more involved. But it’s not a good idea to play the strict driving instructor and give your kids a hard time, creating tension in the car. Quite the reverse: it’s essential to let young people know that we trust them and we want to give them their freedom. We’re just showing them what dangers and treacherous situations may be lying in wait. Parents should ask themselves if their children are capable of driving themselves. Is there anything I can do to help them gain confidence in situations they haven’t encountered in their driving lessons?” adds Aleš Horčička, chairman of the Driving Schools Association of the Czech Republic.

Aleš HorčičkaAleš Horčička
Driving Schools Association of the Czech Republic

The ideal car for youngsters?

Young drivers are usually in the market for inexpensive cars. But the experts will remind us that inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap. Contemporary cars have such a high standard of passive safety that today’s young used cars, which can be bought for reasonable prices at ŠKODA PLUS, for example, do very well in this respect: they’re robust, they have effective crumple zones and so on. A good guideline is that they already have head airbags. In addition to the new ŠKODA FABIA, for example, there are also second and higher generation ŠKODA OCTAVIAs.

When it comes to new cars, young drivers or their parents often go for smaller cars like the new ŠKODA FABIA. They are affordable and these days they often offer all the usual safety features, such as the full set of airbags and functioning crumple zones that ensure the safety of novice drivers and their passengers. With up to 9 airbags, for example, the new ŠKODA FABIA is one of the safest cars in its class, with safety enhanced by Drive Assist 2.0. And less experienced drivers will appreciate its Automatic Parking. For the first time in its model range, the new FABIA offers Traffic Sign Recognition and Front Assist with Predictive Pedestrian and Cyclist Protection.

Night, motorway or tram

Did your daughter or son take their driving test in the summer? Do they know how to drive in the snow, then? No? It’s up to parents to give them a chance to practise once the first snow falls. Or pay for a course at a driving skills facility. Then you can say, “Right here are the car keys, we trust you and we know you can drive and brake safely on slippery surfaces.”

This also applies to other situations as well. Has the kid driven more than a few kilometres on a motorway? Did he have his lessons in a big city? Has he navigated multi-lane intersections? Does he know what to do when he meets a tram? Has he ever driven at night, with his headlights on full beam? Will rain or fog catch him unawares? There’s a lot that needs to be learnt.


“Of course, if relationships in the family are tense, it’s naïve to think that the tensions will ease in the car and the youngsters will suddenly take their parents’ advice, no questions asked. After all, this is often the reason why young people drive badly and crash, dying or killing others. They get in the car with no ingrained habits and no automated reactions, just with a fresh licence with their name on it. No one pays attention to them afterwards,” Horčička says sadly.

Mum and dad aren’t the only solution, of course – an older sibling or a more experienced friend can help. A very good option is to pay for extra driving lessons at a driving school where the lessons focus on these specific situations and offer the chance to practise them thoroughly.

Start Driving with ŠKODA

ŠKODA has signed up to the Start Driving project for young drivers organised by the Driving Schools Association of the Czech Republic in cooperation with the Safe Driving Centres Association. The project is funded by the Czech Insurers’ Bureau’s Damages Prevention Fund. The aim is to improve the training of learner drivers, following the example of the Austrian training system. Practical demonstrations at the safe driving centres and subsequent driving in traffic help the course participants to improve their driving skills, and driver psychology seminars focus on responsible behaviour in traffic.

ŠKODA AUTO partnerem projektu vzdělávání mladých řidičů Start Driving