‘Urgent action’ needed to improve young driver safety

12.00 | 26 January 2017 | | 1 comment

Zero tolerance on drink driving, additional hazard perception training and graduated forms of licensing should become the norm to help tackle the disproportionate risks faced by young drivers, according to a new report.

Published today (26 Jan), the YEARS (Young Europeans Acting for Road Safety) report has been produced by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS).

The report sets out a number of other recommendations for ‘urgent action’, including: better enforcement of speed and drink-drive limits, seat belt wearing and mobile phone use, encouraging more accompanied driving and enabling and encouraging young people to use safer cars.

More than 3,800 young people (aged 18-24 years) were killed on EU roads in 2013 – the biggest single cause of death for this age group. Young riders are particularly at risk, with deaths for moped riders peaking between the ages of 15 and 17 years and for motorcycle riders between 18 and 24 years.

The report acknowledges that the UK has a good overall road safety record but says, as in many other European countries, young motorcyclists and drivers form a disproportionately high percentage of deaths.

The report’s recommendations in full:

  • Better enforcement of speed and drink-drive limits, seat belt wearing and mobile phone use: this particularly benefits young road users;
  • Encouraging more accompanied driving to help young people gain experience;
  • Adopting licensing systems that encourage young people to gain more experience while limiting certain high-risk activities such as driving at night and with passengers;
  • Lowering the alcohol limit for young drivers;
  • A greater focus on safety initiatives for young riders;
  • Enabling and encouraging young people to use safer cars.

Among the report’s key findings are that a range of impairments and distractions affect young people, including increased social activity, greater exposure to alcohol and drugs, the influence of peer-age passengers and the effects of fatigue.

The report also concludes that biological and social changes between the ages of 15-25 years affect the risk perception of young people. It says a lack of experience on the road also means that young drivers are worse at anticipating and reacting to hazards, and less aware of how best to drive and ride in particular road conditions and situations.

The report notes that young people tend to drive smaller and older vehicles which often have a lower crashworthiness star rating, and lack the safety technologies that feature in newer models.

David Davies, executive director of PACTS said: “The scale of death and injury involving young drivers and riders is a tragedy. They continue to make up a disproportionate number of road casualties – in the UK and across Europe. We need policymakers to commit to introducing proven measures that can help reduce this risk.

“The UK has led the way in Europe in aspects of improving the safety of young road users, including hazard perception testing and telematics-based insurance. PACTS welcomes the current proposals by the Government and DVSA to change the driving test and improve motorcycle training.

“More however, could and should be done. This is particularly important as the UK is one of the few countries in Europe where 17 is the driving test age. We need to find ways to encourage young drivers to use safer cars, and to get more experience and hazard perception training before taking the test.

“We can also learn from our others countries which have lower drink-drive limits for novice drivers and ways to encourage or require drivers to get more experience before taking the test.

“Traffic law enforcement of speed, seat-belt wearing, mobile phone use and drink/drug driving are particularly important to the safety of young road users. The reduction in police enforcement is very worrying.”

Want to know more about young drivers and road safety? 
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    The problem with some reports is that it is easy to make recommendations that you don’t have any responsibility to deliver on. For example, we don’t need a report to tell us “Better enforcement of speed and drink-drive limits, seat belt wearing and mobile phone use particularly benefits young road users” but with police resources as limited as they are, is this likely to happen? I doubt it.

    Pat, Wales
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