The first few years of driving are a dangerous time when a lack of experience combined with misplaced confidence can often result in a crash. Nearly one in three of those killed or seriously injured on UK roads is under the age of 25, according to a report on young drivers by the AA.
The report highlighted the fact that 40% of young British drivers have been involved in a road crash by the time they are 23. Lack of experience behind the wheel means young drivers tend to have poorer anticipation of hazards than more experienced drivers.
According to research carried out by road safety charity Brake, young drivers are also more likely to take risks. They might do things like exceed speed limits and cut in and out of traffic, often in an attempt to impress their passengers. They’re also more likely to be distracted while driving or be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, significantly increasing the possibility of a crash.
What else can be done to reduce young driver deaths?
While the changes to the practical driving test are positive, many road safety groups don’t think they go far enough and want to see more drastic alterations made in the future. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and IAM Roadsmart support the introduction of a graduated licensing system for new drivers that would impose lower permitted blood alcohol levels and limit the number of peer passengers they can have in the car during their first year of driving.
RoSPA’s head of road safety, Kevin Clinton, says: “One of best ways of reducing young novice driver risk is to make sure that learner drivers take as much supervised driving practice and instruction as possible, in a wide variety of driving conditions, while they are learning.
“The next step is to reduce their exposure to the highest-risk situations, like driving late at night and with a carload of young passengers, while they gain experience for the first year or so after passing their test.
“A graduated driver licensing system works very well in other European countries and in the USA and Australia.”
IAM Roadsmart believes road safety education should be part of the National Curriculum, with theory and hazard perception training and testing taking place within the education system. It also supports a minimum 12-month learning period before new drivers can take the practical test, citing evidence that around 120 hours of driving experience (not all as lessons) in mixed conditions makes safer drivers.
The charity wants to encourage young drivers to carry on improving their skills after they've passed their test. There are lots of courses for new drivers, ranging from short motorway driving stints to taking IAM Roadsmart’s full Advanced Driver course. In 2016 IAM RoadSmart also gave away 1000 driving module sessions to drivers under 23 in three of the UK’s worst accident blackspots.
The chairman of the Under 17 Car Club (U17CC), Paul Silverwood, acknowledges the benefit of getting as much experience behind the wheel as possible. “Parents generally put money into driving lessons, asking periodically how their teen is getting on, abdicating the responsibility of teaching to a driving instructor,” he says.
“But becoming a skilled, safe driver is like learning a musical instrument: it’s all about practice, and that’s where parents can make a big difference by spending time helping their child learn.”
The Government is considering further changes to the driving test as part of a £2 million research programme that is aimed at identifying the best ways to teach learners to become safer drivers.
And, although they won’t be required to do so as part of their test, from 2018 learners will be allowed to drive on motorways in a dual-control car with an approved instructor.
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