Young Drivers Accident Risk Warning

Teenage drivers are involved in almost one in eight road accidents involving injury, according to a survey.

Based on nationwide statistics covering five years, the survey showed that 11.9% of all road casualties were injured or killed in collisions involving a car driver aged 17-19. 

This was despite those aged between 17 and 19 making up only 1.5% of licensed drivers. 

The proportion of casualties involving drivers aged 17-19 was highest in the Dyfed Powys area of Wales at almost one in five (18.2%). 

This was followed by Gwent in Wales (17%), Cumbria and North Wales (15.8%), the northern and Grampian regions (15.7%) and Cornwall (15.5%). 

London had the smallest proportion (5.6%). Covering the five years from 2008 to 2012, the survey work was commissioned by the RAC Foundation and carried out by transport research laboratory TRL. 

TRL also made a conservative estimate of what the reduction in casualties would be in each area if a system of graduated driving licensing (GDL) was introduced. 

Among other possible requirements (like a minimum learner period and lower alcohol limit for new drivers), GDL schemes typically place temporary restrictions on newly-qualified young drivers in the first few months after they pass their tests. 

These restrictions can include a limit on the number of young passengers they can carry and a late-night curfew. 

The aim of GDL is to limit young drivers' exposure to risk until they have gained experience. 

Based on the experience of other countries where GDL is in operation, TRL concluded that across Britain about 4,500 fewer people would be hurt in an average year. 

This includes about 430 people who would otherwise have been killed or seriously injured. 

The RAC Foundation said that currently one in five young drivers will have an accident within six months of passing their test. 

Novice young drivers are at particular risk because of both their lack of experience (which affects new drivers of all ages to some degree) and the biological and behavioural characteristics of youth. 

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "Whichever way you cut it young drivers pose a significant and disproportionate risk to themselves and to others and it is in rural areas where the casualty rate is highest. 

"The Government has repeatedly delayed announcing its strategy to help reduce young driver accidents but here is yet another piece of evidence which shows graduated licensing can significantly cut death and injury.'' 

He went on: "The frustration is that while ministers here prevaricate, action is being taken just across the Irish Sea. Earlier this month a bill was put before the Northern Ireland Assembly which proposes the introduction of many of the measures this Government appears to have ruled out. 

"We should all have an interest in preserving young drivers' lives rather than exposing them to undue risk at the stage of their driving careers where they are most vulnerable. This is about ensuring their long-term safety and mobility. Not curtailing it. '' 

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We know the number of young people being killed on our roads is far too high, which is why we want to do all we can to tackle this issue. 

"It is vital we strike the right balance between safety and not unduly restricting the freedom of young drivers, which is why we are carrying out further research to fully understand the issues before setting out how we proceed.''

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