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Driving and the teenage brain


Greg Murphy and Nathan Wallace to tour NZ educating young drivers and their parents about safer driving.

Young drivers distracted by their mobile phones is the biggest concern of parents of teenage drivers and keeping parents awake at night, reveals a survey1 by New Zealand vehicle safety and training provider AutoSense.

Thirty-seven percent of parents said using a mobile phone while driving causes them the biggest anxiety when their young driver is behind the wheel, followed by poor decision-making due to peer pressure (28%), speed (26%) and drugs and alcohol (9%).

AutoSense, along with motorsport legend Greg Murphy and neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis are hitting the road this month with a nationwide tour starting in Palmerston North, followed by Invercargill and Dunedin—with more regions soon to be added—for a road safety talk session to help parents and young drivers understand the developing teenage brain and improve teenagers’ decision-making when behind the wheel of a car.

The Eyes Up NZ roadshow tours New Zealand in March and May. The talk sessions will highlight road safety, the science of what is happening inside the developing brains of young drivers, and how parents can talk to their teens about their worries when they are driving or a passenger in a car with friends.

Murphy said there was a 55%2 increase in drivers killed on our roads aged between 15-24 over the past two years, comparing the 2019 pre pandemic toll against the 2022 toll.

“These numbers are startling. As a country, we are responsible for doing much better because we are woefully failing our young people while bearing the burden of the social cost of this toll—in per- crash terms, the average social cost is estimated at $5,374,100 per fatal crash, $551,700 per serious injury crash and $30,800 per minor injury crash3.

“We have a duty to equip them with world-class driver education, and this is not happening. There is a myriad of reasons why the costs are big, and high on the list of reasons is that so many drivers, especially young drivers, are incredibly distracted these days by phones. If not phones, then other devices including GPS maps, smartwatches and checking social media. My message to young drivers is—turn your phone on silent and leave it in the back seat,” he said.

Wallis agrees mobile phones are a major cause of distraction while driving. “The majority of drivers have a 100% success rate when texting and driving at the same time. We think an accident won’t happen to me because it hasn’t so far, I’ve got away with it until now because I’ve done everything right so far.

“We hear a ding-ding of a new text message or notification, and it’s challenging to resist checking it despite knowing we shouldn’t. We get a rush of endorphins each time we receive a text—checking our phones becomes addictive, and that’s when driving can be lethal.”

Nathan Wallis says the Eyes Up NZ Young Driver talk is designed to inform teens and their parents about how the brain works, and how it works while driving, driving with a tired or distracted brain, peer pressure when driving, and how to get the best out of your teenager when talking about driving and the risks.

“As parents, we have a responsibility to lead by example. If our kids have seen us distracted by our own mobile phones while driving, what message are we sending them? And if their mates are giving them a hard time because they’re not driving fast enough or distracting them while they’re behind the wheel, how can we help them to resist the peer pressure and stay focused on returning home safely?

“In the talk sessions, we will identify these risks and then work to minimise or eliminate them. We can help parents to get that message across to their kids and make a positive change,” said Wallis.

Murphy says he will also provide tips on making a car as safe as possible.

Autosense says all parents and their teens are welcome at the events.

Tickets to attend the Eyes Up NZ Young Driver workshops are $29.90 for adults and $10.00 for young drivers, available from


EyesUpNZ Young Driver dates:

  • Tuesday, 21 March: Palmerston North (Freyberg High School). Time 7:00 pm-9:00 pm

  • Tuesday, 9 May: Invercargill (Southland Boys High School) 7:00 pm-9:00 pm

  • Wednesday, 10 May: Dunedin (Otago Boys High School) 7:00 pm-9:00 pm

  • Tuesday, 16 May: Christchurch (time to be announced) 7:00 pm-9:00 pm

  • Online webinar: (all welcome at, Monday 29 May 7:00 pm-9:00 pm.


1 Driving and the Teenage Brain – what is your biggest concern? Parent survey undertaken by 174 New Zealand

parents (December 2022).

2 — Safety – Road deaths

3 —Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries 2019.

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