'Most want greater limits on new drivers amid youth death toll'

The proposals for a phased drivers licence scheme stemmed from the deaths of two teenagers in a crash in 2017.

Nearly two-thirds of people would support a new phased driving licensing system to safeguard young drivers on UK roads, according to a new survey.

More than 1,500 young people are killed or seriously injured in road incidents each year.

Those aged 17–24-year-old account for only 6% of all licence holders in Britain, yet they represent 18% of all car drivers killed or seriously injured.

Young drivers aged 17–24 years are also at greater risk than other drivers because of age and inexperience, charities have warned.

Experts say normal brain development means young drivers are often more likely to take risks and are less able to regulate their impulses or understand the consequences of their decisions.

The report – Driver Testing and Education – released on Friday (July 14) by Brake and AXA UK, challenges the government to conduct a high-level strategic review of road safety.

The top recommendation from the report is to implement a progressive licensing system that provides safeguards for learner and newly qualified drivers.

A progressive licensing system – which introduces elements such as a minimum learning period and a lower blood alcohol limit, while also reducing the number of similar-aged passengers a newly licensed driver can carry – has proved successful in reducing road deaths and injuries of young drivers in other countries.

For example, a similar system in New Zealand led to a 23% reduction in car crash injuries for 15–19-year-olds, and a 12% reduction for 20–24-year-olds. There is evidence that additional hazard perception training is another effective way to improve driver safety.

Sharron Huddleston lost her 18-year-old daughter Caitlin was killed after the car she was a passenger in collided with an oncoming van in July 2017.

Caitlin’s friend Skye Olivia Mitchell, who was driving the car, also died in the crash.

Caitlin Huddleston, 18, died in a crash in July 2017

Sharron Huddleston now campaigns for road safety and supports the proposed scheme.

She said: “The girls weren’t doing anything wrong at the time of the crash. The young, novice driver wasn’t speeding but the road was wet and she lost control on entering a bend on a rural road.

“The car spun and collided into a van travelling in the opposite direction. At the Inquest in 2018, the Coroner put the crash down to the inexperience of the newly qualified driver.

“I support this campaign for a safer driving licensing system which will help young, inexperienced drivers to build up their skills and experience gradually without being exposed to danger in those first few months, up to a year of driving.

“In particular, I am calling for a limited time for young newly qualified drivers to not carry their young friends as passengers, not until they have gained more experience in driving first.

“I know through evidence-based research that a phased licensing law could have saved Caitlin and her friend’s lives, and the many other young lives that have been tragically lost on our roads too.” 

Ross Moorlock, interim CEO at Brake, said: “Today (July 14) is the six year anniversary of Caitlin and her friend dying in this crash. Brake has long been calling for this type of licensing to be introduced. We need a system in place that is designed to help and support people as they learn to drive.

“This report shows that nearly two-thirds (63%) of drivers surveyed said they would support a phased or progressive licensing system, and only one-sixth (16%) would be against it. This overwhelming majority demonstrates that there is clear public support and appetite for a system like this, and for ensuring we prioritise the safety of young drivers on our roads.

“We ask the government to ensure that in another six years we aren’t still asking for a system that we know could help safeguard young and new drivers on our roads.”

AXA Commercial CEO Jon Walker said: “It’s encouraging that 63% of respondents support the idea of graduated driver licensing, which has proved successful in reducing road deaths in other countries.

“This study raises a number of issues around driver education, testing and licensing that warrant further consideration. It’s concerning to see that 71% of respondents were unable to identify the correct distance they should keep from the car in front and 59% chose the incorrect national speed limit on dual carriageways.

“We therefore urge the Government to undertake a high-level strategic review to explore the issues raised in more detail, including the introduction of a graduated driver licensing scheme.”

The report also focused on other aspects of system change, lifelong learning and further testing such as clearer speed limit signs on single and dual carriageways, more driver education and awareness around stopping distances, and a further call for a reinvestment in active travel schemes.

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