Why are newly qualified drivers more at risk?

Written by Zego

Published on

Passing your driving test and getting your licence is a big milestone. You’ve put in the hard work and now you’re ready to get out on the road!

However, before you do, it's important to know that newly qualified drivers, particularly those under the age of 25, are at a higher risk of being involved in serious road accidents. In fact, this is just one of the reasons why insurance for new drivers can often be more expensive.

As a new driver, we understand the challenges you face. In this article, we'll take a close look at the things that can increase the risk for new and young drivers, and offer a few tips to help you stay safe on the road.

Why are newly qualified drivers more at risk?

Lack of experience

One of the main reasons why new drivers face higher insurance costs is a lack of on-the-road driving experience. While you've studied the Highway Code and passed your test, there's still a lot to learn.

Developing the quick instincts and hazard perception skills that experienced drivers have can take years.

As a new driver, it's essential to be patient with yourself and recognise that you're still learning. Don't feel pressure to keep pace with more experienced drivers, or get yourself into challenging situations before you’re comfortable behind the wheel.

Try to build a mindset of continuous improvement, and view every trip as an opportunity to build your skills and confidence.

Overcoming inexperience

Here are a few tips to help you gain experience on the road:

  • Practice, practice, practice! Get as much supervised driving experience as possible in a variety of conditions (day time, night time, in the rain, driving on motorways etc.).
  • Consider additional training and driving courses, like Pass Plus, to build your skills more quickly.
  • When you start driving on your own, give yourself extra time and space. Slow down, maintain a safe following distance, and don't rush.
  • If you're feeling overwhelmed or encounter a challenging situation, don't be afraid to pull over safely and take a break.

Distractions and temptations

When you're still getting comfortable behind the wheel, distractions can be a real risk. Even minor distractions like chatty passengers, phone notifications, or fiddling with volume controls can pull your focus dangerously away from the road.

Younger drivers may also face more temptation to use their phones while driving — surveys have shown that young drivers are more prone to taking this risk. However, it’s important to know that using a phone while driving is both illegal and highly dangerous. Even hands-free phone use is a serious distraction that can reduce your reaction time.

How to stay focused on the road

  • Try to keep your phone out of reach while driving. Consider switching on flight mode, or a "do not disturb" app to block notifications.
  • If you have to use Google Maps or another navigation app on your phone, set your destination before you start driving. And pull over safely if you need to adjust it.
  • Ask passengers to respect your need to concentrate. If you have a provisional licence, follow the rules about carrying passengers.
  • Avoid eating, drinking, or other distracting activities while driving. Take care of those things before you hit the road.

Peer pressure and risky behaviours

As a young driver, peer pressure can be another risk you might face behind the wheel.

You might sometimes feel pressure from friends to engage in risky behaviours like speeding, tailgating, or piling too many people into the car. Young drivers are more likely to feel that they have to show off, or make dangerous driving manoeuvres, when they have passengers of the same age in their car.

But, giving in to this pressure is never worth the risk. Crashes caused by speeding and reckless driving claim far too many young lives. As the driver, you are responsible for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and other road users. Don't let anyone pressure you into driving unsafely.

Tips to help you resist peer pressure

  • Establish your car as a safe space where risky behaviour won't be tolerated. Make your expectations clear to passengers.
  • If you have friends who consistently pressure you to take risks, consider limiting your driving with them or having a serious talk about respecting your boundaries.
  • If passengers are being rowdy, distracting or encouraging unsafe driving, don't be afraid to pull over until they settle down.
  • Remember, true friends will understand and respect you, your vehicle and your commitment to safety. Stand your ground and know that you're doing the right thing.

Impaired driving risks

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous for any driver, but especially so for inexperienced drivers. Young drivers are more prone to impaired driving crashes, and the risk rises sharply with every alcoholic drink consumed.

It's crucial to separate drinking, drug use and driving completely. There is no "safe" amount of alcohol before driving, and illegal or recreational drugs are never OK behind the wheel.

Even some prescription and over-the-counter medications can dangerously impair driving. Always check labels and ask your doctor if you're unsure.

How to avoid impaired driving

  • Make a personal vow never to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol or drugs. It’s just not worth the risk.
  • If you’re likely to have a drink, plan ahead for a sober ride home (whether that’s another designated driver, bus, train or taxi).
  • If you see a friend who’s about to drive impaired, take their keys and help them find a safe alternative. They may be angry in that moment, but you could save their life.
  • If you're hosting a party where alcohol is served, offer non-alcoholic options and help impaired guests get home safely.

Other risk factors to know about

Along with the major risks outlined above, there are a few other factors that can affect new drivers in particular:

Night-time driving

Driving at night can be riskier for new drivers. Reduced visibility, tiredness, and a higher chance of encountering impaired drivers all add to the risk of driving at night.

Rural roads

Speeding is especially tempting on quiet rural roads, but it’s vital to avoid it. Hazards like sharp curves, narrow shoulders and wildlife can take inexperienced drivers by surprise.

Seat belt use

Buckling up is one of the most effective ways to prevent serious injury and death in a crash. Always use your seat belt, and make sure your passengers are strapped in before setting off.

Vehicle choice

New drivers tend to use an older second-hand vehicle when they first start driving. And these models of car can lack the latest safety features. If possible new and young drivers should try and priortise and chose a safe car with technologies like electronic stability control and side curtain airbags.

Starting out as a newly qualified driver can feel overwhelming. But, always remember that you’re in control, especially when it comes to managing risks.

As you gain experience and build your skills, your confidence and competence will grow. Remember, every choice you make behind the wheel matters. By prioritising safety above all else, you're not just protecting yourself — you're making the roads safer for everyone.

Looking for new driver insurance?

Our comprehensive car insurance is designed specifically for new drivers. Instead of paying expensive prices based on average data, the price you pay is based on how you drive.

That means, by driving safely you could pay less for your insurance a lot sooner.

Frequently asked questions

What are the main things that increase the accident risk for newly qualified drivers?

Inexperience, overconfidence, distractions, peer pressure, and risk-taking behaviours like speeding can all make new drivers more prone to crash. The risk is particularly high in the first 12 months of driving on your own.

How common are crashes among new drivers?

Crashes are increasingly common for new drivers. Studies show that 1 in 5 novice drivers are involved in a crash within their first year of driving. Accident rates are highest for drivers aged 17–19 and remain high through to the mid–20s.

What driving situations are riskiest for inexperienced drivers?

Driving at night, on rural roads, with friends in the car (especially for young drivers), and in bad weather conditions tend to be the highest-risk situations for new drivers. That’s because their lack of on-road experience makes these challenging circumstances even more dangerous.

How can new drivers reduce their risk of being in a crash?

Gaining lots of supervised practice on different roads can help reduce the risk of a crash. So can general safe driving habits, like always wearing a seatbelt, never driving impaired or distracted, sticking to the speed limits, and driving especially carefully at night and in bad weather.

Why are young male drivers at such high risk?

Young men under 25 have some of the highest crash rates. This is often caused by a combination of inexperience, overconfidence, giving in to peer pressure, and risk-taking tendencies.