The Government should thoroughly examine ways to improve the safety of young drivers and their passengers, says PACTS, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. It welcomes the forthcoming Government green paper on young driver safety.
Despite public and parliamentary concern, successive governments have not got to grips with the issue, according to a policy paper from PACTS, issued ahead of a debate in Parliament on road safety on Thursday 25 April.
There is a serious safety problem involving young drivers, particularly in the year after they pass their test. In 2011:
•412 people were killed in accidents involving young car drivers (17-24 years), accounting for 22% of all road deaths;
•Nearly a fifth (1,552) of all car occupants killed or seriously injured were young car drivers (17-24 years). (DfT, Reported Road Casualties Great Britain)
“The Government has recognised the cost to lives and the economy. The forthcoming Green Paper on young drivers is an historic opportunity to engage with young people, their parents and the wider public to thoroughly explore all the options. We welcome this,” says David Davies, Executive Director of PACTS.
“Successive governments have not managed to resolve the risks for young drivers and their passengers in the period immediately after passing the test. As well as the disproportionate safety risks, many young people are now excluded from driving because of high insurance premiums which reflect the level of catastrophic crashes. These issues have been consigned to the ‘too difficult’ pile for too long.”
•Young, newly-qualified drivers are disproportionately involved in crashes, particularly catastrophic crashes involving multiple passengers. This has driven up insurance premiums for young drivers.
•Young drivers themselves know that they engage in risky and even illegal behaviours, with more than average reporting that they drive too fast for the conditions or text while driving – and see this behaviour among their peers.
•New drivers know that they need to improve their skills, with 95% acknowledging the need for at least some improvement. This is more commonly reported by females.
“Nobody would expect a newly-qualified doctor, straight from medical school, to make life and death decisions in an instant without further support, experience or training. Yet this is what is expected of young drivers,” said Davies.
“Improved driver education and the use of telematics are likely to be part of the strategy. A graduated approach to learning and licensing may also be justified. Other countries restrict exposure to risk in the immediate post-test period, especially driving at night, with passengers of the same age, and consumption of alcohol.
“This is an historic opportunity to put young drivers back on the roads … in safety,” says Davies.