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Graduated licensing for young drivers

17 July 2013

Story from the RAC Foundation

One in five young drivers (17-24 year-olds) will have an accident within six months of passing their test and 1,552 young drivers were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in 2011 – more than 4 per day.

The introduction of a graduated licensing system - including restrictions on night-time driving and the number of passengers - would allow young drivers to gain invaluable experience in safer circumstances.

Research by the RAC Foundation of graduated licensing schemes in other countries shows fatal collisions for this age group falling by between 9%-60% and overall casualties being cut by 5%-32%, depending on the range of measures implemented.

The evidence shows that risk reduces quickly as experience is gained. Studies have found that the first 1,000 miles of driving may be the most important in terms of reducing collision risk.

The RAC Foundation study – Young driver safety: solutions to an age-old problem, authored by Foundation staff members Elizabeth Box and Ivo Wengraf - looked at evidence from several countries with graduated licensing including America, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The Foundation also backs a reduction in the drink-drive limit for all drivers to a maximum blood alcohol content of 50mg/100ml (down from the existing 80mg/100ml). This would be of greatest safety benefit to younger drivers, with knock-on benefits for the rest of the driving population.

The RAC Foundation research is published as the government prepares to publish a consultation on young driver safety.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Young people are four times more likely to die in a road accident than as a result of drink or drugs. Yet, as a society we seem to turn a blind eye to the carnage. If this was any other area of public health there would be an outcry.

“Circumstances conspire against young drivers. Their youth and lack of experience create a deadly mix which means one in five will have an accident within the first six months of passing their test.

“Our research shows that putting certain restrictions on young drivers allows them to rapidly build up live-saving experience in the safest possible way. Putting a firm number on casualty reduction is hard because of the pick and mix approach to graduate licensing. But the evidence suggests that a full package of measures could reduce fatalities by anything up to 60%.

“Some will complain that these proposals are paternalistic and limit people’s freedom. This is nonsense. 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. ”

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