Those who know me, those who read my blog, and those whom have come within earshot of me will know well, my feelings on the media farce that is young drivers and young anything else that causes a problem. This last week has seen more carnage on our roads and I was not surprised to see the headlines. The Irish Times (October 23rd) lead with “Four men aged between 19 and 21 were killed” (this was a two car collision, the cause of which was unknown and the fault of which could only possibly be attributed to at most 2 people). Also in the same edition of the Times “Young drivers to be target of tough new proposals” a bid by the transport department to comfort the established driving community against these horrible young drivers.
On October 22nd the RTE 9 o’clock news lead with the headlining story of “Deaths of 6 more people, all of them young men”. After the headline however, the details emerged that this headline included passengers of cars and a 32 year old man (I thought that young was under 25?) who was a pedestrian, not even in a car! At the end of the report having gone through all the usual inference of young men this, young men that, the reporter Eileen Whelan stated that Garadí did not yet know the cause of the crash but yet we are left with the impression that it was just wreckless young males – all of them in a combined effort, passengers and all, who caused the crash.
Today I hear Noel Brett (CEO – Road Safety Authority) on the radio talking about the problems of being tired at the wheel and again he will be launching a campaign for this and again with a focus on young men! So, let me get this straight AXA sponsored ads tell us that young men drive too fast (seemingly the only ones who do), young men take too many chances (again seemingly the only group that do), young men drink and drive (again seemingly the only ones who do), young people never wear seatbelts (seemingly they are again alone here) and young people never look before crossing roads (again unqiue to the under-25 population). And now Noel Brett is telling us that young men are more likely to grow tired at the wheel than anyone else. Sweet mother of Jesus! How is that possible? How are young men/people the cause of everything? Even those things for which the Gardaí do not yet have an explanation? Even those things that statistics will indicate otherwise (e.g. drink driving)? Am I the only person who sees a problem here?
The young have always been such an easy scapegoat for those in more senior age brackets. “Ah sure ignore him, he’s young and headstrong” – a common phrase that we’ve all heard. The sad reality is that this is a reflection of the way people were brought up – to dismiss the opinion of youth and as a result to opress the young as if it was a rite of passage before they can be accepted. The young have also become a convenient source of income for big companies such as insurance companies. Young people need to drive, catch-22, they have to pay whatever the insurance company wants irrespective of their attitude to driving. Hardly seems fair but it keeps the older age brackets happy because it apparently doesn’t effect their premiums then (although I doubt this very much). Even still many young people cannot afford the outrageous premiums quoted and are then bankrolled by parents (anyone see any logic here?). If you really think that your young son or daughter is that much of a risk that they should be quoted far more than you for insurance then why are you paying their premium? Shouldn’t you be encouraging them to take the bus or something? Do you not care about them?
For years, I have been on the campaign trail of equal rights for young people, I have taken cases against insurance companies, sent God knows how many registered letters, spoken on record to newspapers and written to other media and politicians. The fact that this media farce continues and worsens is sickening to me. Since these people love their statistics, let’s look at some statistics shall we? According to the CSO figures for 2002 16.7% of the overall young male population in this country is aged between 15 and 24. The actual figure for all under 25 males is 38.5% of the entire male population. Now let’s throw young females into the equation: 36.5% of the entire female population is aged between 0 and 24. Now let’s take senior citizens, 65 and over: over-65’s account for 9.7% of the male population and 12.5% of the female population. Now let’s put it all together under-24’s male and female account for 37.5% of the entire Irish population and over-65’s account for 11.1% of the overall Irish population. That means that 48.6% of the country is under 25 or over 65 (incidentally, 16.4% of the population is aged between 15 and 24). Meaning that 51.4% of the population is between 25 and 65. A pretty even split you will agree.
Now let’s look at the 2001 end of year, annual report from the National Safety council. Of all drivers killed on the roads in 2001, 35 out of 139 were aged between 15 and 24. That’s 25% of all driver fatalities were aged between 15 and 24. 14 out of 139 were over 65 – that’s 10% of all driver fatalities. This leaves 65% of fatalities within the 25-65 year-old bracket and obviously 75% above 25 years old. So simple math ensues: 51.4% of the population suffers a driver fatality rate of 65% and 16.4% of the population (ages 15-24) suffers a fatality rate of 25%. Out of this 25%, 3 out of 139 drivers were under 17 and therefore not possibly insurable, legitimate drivers and must be removed from the statistic as honest road users (equalling 2.2% of all driver fatalities). This means that in effect only 22.8% of all accidents in 2001 were caused by 16.4% of the legitimate population. 22.8% of all drivers killed on our roads in 2001 were between 17 and 24 and yet that same age group makes up for nearly all of the media publicity and certainly all of the TV adverts. Even though 77.2% of accidents are not caused by drivers between 17 and 24 we see fit to blame them for everything.
The facts don’t lie and honest statistical interpretation does not lie either. What I have aimed to show here is that the proportionality is roughly the same across all age brackets. I, unlike others, do not see fit to blame an age group. We should not show negative bias towards young or old when the figures show that the trend is linear across the board. If anything we should be focussing on where the largest proporation of accidents occurs. Oddly enough, this is not the 17-24 year-old bracket, although you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise based on media campaigns.
Let’s stop this lunacy of blaming the young now. Highlight it in any way that you can: Talk to your politicians, appeal to the advertising standards commission for equal representation of old and young in road safety adverts. Talk about it with your friends, family, the general public, politicians. Blog it! Bring people’s attention to these real figures that can be verified so easilly. Don’t wind up in a situation were it just becomes accepted and not questioned. Some day you’ll have children of your own, do you want them to suffer without just cause? Let’s see the truth really come out! Stop protecting the insurance companies – they certainly will not repay the favour!!