Fifth of young drivers believe driverless cars will enable them to drink and drive

22 April 2016

  • New report from The Co-op Insurance ‘Young people in the driving seat’ provides striking snapshot into how young drivers perceive driverless technology
  • 22% of young drivers believe they would be able to drink and drive if they have a driverless car
  • 24% of young drivers think they can sleep behind the wheel
  • 28% of young drivers think they can travel whilst getting other things done
  • More likely to appeal to young drivers in the South, than those in the North

Definitive research from The Co-operative Insurance has found many young drivers, are misguided when it comes to driverless technology, as a new report ‘Young people in the driving seat’ reveals a range of misconceptions, many with potentially serious consequences.

Despite young people often embracing new technology quickly, it seems as though driverless cars are testing many to their limits. Over half, (55%) think driverless technology is not appealing, as opposed to (37%) who are welcoming it.

Over a fifth (22%) believe whilst behind the wheel, they will be free to consume as much alcohol as they want, whilst nearly a quarter (24%) think they will be able to have a snooze, at the same time as being driven around in the safety of the vehicle.

In reality, it isn’t as simple as getting in your vehicle and being driven around, drivers need to be seated in the driver’s seat at all times, adhering to the laws of the road, whilst being capable of taking over immediate manual control, in the event of a technology failure or other emergency.

Steve Kerrigan, Head of Telematics at The Co-operative Insurance, said:

“This research has shown that young drivers are unprepared and uninformed about self-driving cars. Many even mistakenly believe that you will be able to drink alcohol and sleep it off whilst you are driven home.

“Driverless cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction and are set to be on the roads in the next few years. It’s important that drivers are educated about what they can and can’t do in driverless cars, in addition to how the technology works, before they can get behind the wheel.

“With the technology fitted in cars today, we’re already seeing a positive impact on our young drivers. Our proven, ‘pay-how-to-drive’ telematics has been instrumental in improving their driving behaviours, whilst helping to keep them safe on the roads. We are also working with Brake, the road safety charity, to help create safer communities across the country.”

Sarah-Jane Martin, spokesperson for Brake, the road safety charity said:

“This research shows that a worrying proportion of young people don’t have all the facts and are often misinformed over how technology can help protect them.

“The vast majority of road crashes are caused by a mistake or risk taken by a driver so we welcome any technology that can engineer driver error and risk-taking out of the equation. Technology is already being used to make roads safer and save lives, and this is a rapidly developing field with the potential to stop more people suffering the awful consequences of road crashes.”

It appears, driverless cars also divide national opinion, resulting in a North/South divide, as the report has found that young drivers in Scotland (55%) are least likely to invest in the technology, whilst (43%) of drivers in the South East and London are more receptive to it. 

Over a quarter (29%) of young drivers are attracted by the new technology because they believe there will be less human error. (24%) of young drivers like the idea of driverless cars because there is no actual driving involved, whilst (24%) think they won’t need to monitor things such as, tyre pressure or windscreen washers, as it will all be automatic. One in twenty (4%) are excited about the technology and (4%) don’t trust themselves to drive, as they have had a crash previously.

The main worry for two thirds (68%) of young drivers, when it comes to driverless technology is that they fear the technology will fail, whilst over half (51%) worry that the technology isn’t proven. Regarding road safety, (43%) of young drivers believe that driverless cars will improve road safety, with (54%) of women believing this more so than men (32%).  



Notes to editors:

*Research with 1,000 young drivers aged 17-25, conducted by ICM Unlimited. Data from over 60,000 Co-operative Young Driver Insurance customers March 2011 – February 2016. The policy is aimed at Young Drivers aged 17-25.
***Department for Transport Road Lengths in Great Britain: 2014