Reducing young driver death toll
With the MP ballot for private members bills taking place in Parliament today, the Association of British Insurers explains why a bill changing driving lessons rules would help reduce young driver deaths.
In 2011, 1485 people aged 16-25 were killed or received life-altering injuries on our roads while driving a car or as a passenger with another young driver. 1485. And yet there was little outcry. If it were a new disease killing that many teenagers and young adults there would be panic. Queues would be forming outside doctors surgeries, government ministers would be making urgent statements, parents would be demanding that the Government take action. Instead, we have become accustomed to this death toll.
Each statistic represents a tragic waste of life that could be prevented. Inexperience, youthful bravado and sheer recklessness all play a part and we need tough action and meaningful reform to better equip young drivers to handle the dangers of driving. At the same time, the cost of insurance for young drivers has continued to rise. High motor insurance premiums for young drivers are the direct result of their poor safety record, and a result of the statistically higher risk that they will cause themselves, their passengers, or other road users severe and life-changing injuries. Insurers don’t create the society in which we live. They hold up a mirror to it and price their policies accordingly. And the mirror reflects a society that continues to allow a young drivers’ testing and training regime which simply isn’t rigorous enough.
Driving at night, driving with friends, driving too fast, driving in poor conditions, and driving on bendy country roads are all things young drivers aren’t equipped to deal with. They haven’t had the chance to gain enough experience on the road. It’s easy to find examples of what happens – the 19-year old who spun off a country lane at night and whose passenger is now a paraplegic needing a lifetime of care; the young driver who lost control of their car and crashed into a parked vehicle, blinding one of their passengers.
We also know from international examples what can be done. Young British people are not alone in being a danger on the road and other countries – including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and now Northern Ireland - have introduced or are bringing in changes to the ways young people learn to drive. The
ABIwould like to see Britain follow suit and a Private Members Bill bring in some simple changes:
1) A year-long learning period to allow young people to experience different road conditions;
2) The age they can start to learn reduced to 16 and a half in recompense;
3) Restrictions on night-time driving, and…
4) Carrying passengers (with exemptions for work and education) for the first six months so that young drivers gain confidence and experience by themselves;
5) A zero tolerance on alcohol.
These measures would make young drivers safe and see their premiums reduce by 15-20%. Most importantly, it would stop hundreds of lives being lost or ruined. The Government has announced it will be bring forward a green paper soon to look at the ways people learn to drive can be made safer, but a Private Member’s Bill would see this issue being debated in Parliament now.
The biggest accidental killer of 16-25s is being in a car crash. If this were a new disease we wouldn’t be waiting to act.
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