Hundreds of students from Wairarapa schools are attending a driving awareness programme following the deaths of two teenagers in a Masterton crash last month.
Over 500 students from Wairarapa, Chanel, Rathkeale, St Matthews, Solway, Kuranui, and Makoura Colleges and Ponatahi School attended a Rotary Youth Driver Awareness (RYDA) programme organised by Road Safety Education held at Solway Function Centre, finishing today.
The programme aims to help young people change the way they think and act on the road, not only as drivers but also as passengers, Road Safety Education programme manager Simone Randle said.
Ms Randle said teens have more challenges than other drivers and it was up to the community to help these inexperienced road-users make better decisions.
"Their brains are still developing, they exhibit sensation-seeking behaviour, they are greatly influenced by peer pressure, they often drive less roadworthy cars, can be sleepy, and often drive at night or for 'fun'."
Ms Randle said the programme worked with crash survivors and had seen the devastating impact fatal crashes had on family, friends and the community.
The impact crashes had on the driver responsible, the psychological impact of living with it, could bring "crippling guilt and post traumatic stress", she said.
Over the past decade, the road toll in the 15 to 24-year-old demographic dropped nationwide by 52 per cent, Ms Randle said.
"This is due to many factors, including the graduated licensing scheme, safer cars, better roads and, importantly, the key role of education."
In contrast, New Zealand's road toll statistics increased for the past two successive years, she said.
Road Safety Education chief executive Terry Birss said the fatal crash in Masterton last month was a traumatic experience for everyone in the Wairarapa, following the death of 15-year-olds Pacer Willacy-Scott and Hoani Korewha.
A 14-year-old driver has been charged with dangerous driving causing death, driving while forbidden, failing to stop for police and unlawfully getting into a stolen car.
Mr Birss said youth drivers often travelled with friends in cars and had to "live for the rest of their lives with the good or bad decisions they make when doing so". "If you were to ask a young person if they could conceive of physically causing harm to a friend they would be horrified -- but they make that choice every day when they drive."
He said the 14-year-old had "already given himself a life sentence".
Statistics for youth drivers:
Sixteen per cent of this year's holiday road toll was due to inexperience.
The 15 to 24-year-old demographic represents 15 per cent of the population yet accounted for 24 per cent of the 321 road fatalities last year.
Every week, on average, a family suffers a tragedy of losing a young family member and every day a life-changing injury.
For more articles from this region, go to Wairarapa Times-Age