Trinity psychologist on boy racer 'myth': 'Men are much more problematic psychologically at that age than women drivers'
THE term 'boy racer' is an over-simplification of compound factors that influence why so many young male drivers are killed on our roads, an expert claims.
Trinity College Dublin psychologist Prof Michael Gormley extensively researched the behaviour and attitudes of young male drivers.
He says they over-estimate their own abilities and underestimate the difficulty involved in driving, and that's partly because young men are "much more problematic" psychologically at that age than women drivers.
Prof Gormley told Motors: "A considerable amount of experience needs to be accumulated before the risk of a collision (involving a younger driver) equates to that of an older driver."
And he highlighted how sleep deprivation added to the risk of a young-male accident. Young people, he says, need more sleep for a number of reasons. Their physiological development is one, but other major factors include socialising and social media activity - all of which disrupt sleep.
His research also found that the risk of a collision increases according to the number of young peers in a car.
Yet the opposite is the case for older drivers.
Prof Gormley says young drivers take more risks: "My own research would indicate that those who have engaged in problematic driving are more impulsive and that this can be contributed to by an immature brain."
He scotches the "myth" that young drivers believe they are invincible. In contrast they are "well aware of the consequences of their actions and the risks that they are putting themselves under".
The fact that younger drivers drive smaller, less safe cars also increases the likelihood of an accident.
He suggests a number of measures: higher levels of accompanied practice; graduated licensing to include restrictions on driving with peers; education around inexperience and impact of peers; and devising a "more nuanced approach which recognises the multifaceted nature of the problem".
He insists the term 'accident' is often a misnomer. "Accident implies a chance occurrence with no one to blame. When someone speeds or drives after drinking, any subsequent collision involves a clear chain of events. The driver's choice to engage in a dangerous behaviour can clearly be identified as a cause and the outcome is clearly no accident."
Prof Gormley (pictured) also says older drivers are quite safe. They "tend to adapt their behaviour very well to overcome the difficulties they may experience due to age-related decline in cognitive and physiological capacities".
"They tend to drive in the middle of the day when traffic is light. As a result, they are under-represented in collision statistics."