Will new proposals to reduce serious road accidents involving young drivers work?

October 11, 2013
Cheryl Abrahams - Partner in the Brain Injury Team

Posted by: Cheryl Abrahams


Statistics show that more than a fifth of deaths on British roads in 2011 involved drivers aged 17-24.

Young people are four times more likely to die in a road accident, than as a result of drink or drugs (RAC Foundation Motoring Research).

The government is considering ways to try to reduce serious road accidents involving young drivers, but I’m not sure these new proposals are the answer.

Ministers are due to publish proposals in a Green Paper following a report by the Transport Research Laboratory.

Under the new proposals, teenagers could have to wait a year longer than currently before they are allowed to take their driving test. The government is considering issuing only 12-month probationary licences at the age of 18. It recommended a one-year “learner stage” during which drivers would have to total at least 100 hours of daytime and 20 hours of night-time practice under supervision.

In addition, during this 12 month probation, new drivers would also face a curfew between 22:00 and 05:00 unless a passenger aged over 30 was in the car.

Other proposals under consideration are a ban on all mobile phone use, including hands-free phones, and a lower alcohol limit.

According to the Department for Transport, young drivers drive around 5% of all the miles driven in Britain but are involved in about 20% of the road accidents where someone is killed or seriously injured.

However Edmund King, president of motoring organisation the AA, said the proposals were addressing the problem of young drivers in the “wrong way”. “You should prepare young drivers to be safe when they get their licence rather than give them their licence and then restrict them,” he told BBC’s Breakfast.

He said he would like to see mandatory lessons on motorways, in rural areas and in bad weather, and warned of the problems of policing the restrictions such as carrying young passengers.

Currently drivers in England, Scotland and Wales need to pass a theory test, then a practical test before they can apply for a full driving licence. The minimum age to hold a full car licence is 17 or 16 for some people claiming mobility benefit.

I agree that too many young people are suffering serious injuries and being killed in road accidents and something must be done. I think a 12 month probation period is a good idea with young drivers having to clock up hours of driving experience before getting their full licence; however I think some of these proposals just aren’t practical. For example, many young people in rural areas will need to get to work by car, possibly at night and they may want to car share with other young people to reduce costs – they won’t be able to do this in the first 12 months under the new proposals. What about those who work at night and their only means of transport is driving in their car? How will this be policed? I think it is a step in the right direction that this issue is being discussed but I think the government needs to think again about the practicality of some of these proposals.

Posted by: Cheryl Abrahams

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