Researchers at Cardiff University are advocating the introduction of graduated licensing for drivers aged 17-19, which they claim could save 200 lives a year and also prevent up to 1,700 serious injuries. They have also called for young drivers to be forbidden from driving at night and carrying passengers of a similar age to themselves.
The proposals are in line with similar initiatives already adopted in Australia, New Zealand and some states of the USA, although motoring organisations here say that it would be difficult to implement such measures.
Researchers compiled their study based on an analysis of road traffic accident statistics from 2000 to 2007, and will present their findings at the World Safety Conference, Safety 2010, being held in London this week and co-sponsored by the World Health Organization.
According to BBC News, researchers found that one in five new drivers are involved in a crash within six months of passing their test, and they believe that graduated licensing may help avoid many accidents as well as saving the country an estimated £890 million
The research team was led by Dr Sarah Jones, who told the BBC: "Graduated driver licensing works in other countries and there's no good reason why it wouldn't work here."
Dr Jones added that restrictions could remain in place for up to two years and might include a total ban on alcohol, and that consideration might be given on whether to impose limitations just on young drivers or to extend it to all new drivers.
The BBC says that jurisdictions abroad adopting such an approach include Western Australia, where drivers under 19 are banned from driving at night and are required to have a zero blood alcohol level whenever they are driving. In California – where the legal drinking age is 21 – new drivers cannot drive at night and are not allowed to carry passengers aged below 20.
However, Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, said that the negative aspects of implementing such a regime here could detract from the positive aspects. Those included penalising people who work at night, plus the difficulty of enforcing any new rules.
"It would give totally the wrong signals to introduce new laws aimed at young people and then not enforce them - many would feel that all motoring laws could be broken," Mr Howard told the BBC.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also expressed reservations over whether it would be practical to enforce such rules in the UK, and said that it might be better to focus more on improving the education of young and new drivers.
Other speakers at the conference, which began yesterday and continues until Friday at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, include a team from the University of London arguing in favour of more 20mph zones, particularly in underprivileged areas, and Manpreet Darroch of Tune Into Traffic, which seeks to highlight the risks to young people of listening to personal music players while out and about.
As reported on road.cc last November, Darroch drew up his campaign after attending a a United Nations conference on road safety as a representative of the UK’s Youth Parliament. Tune Into Traffic was also the focus of a documentary in Channnel 4’s Battlefront series in 2009.
At the time, Darroch told The Sunday Times that while his campaign was primarily aimed at pedestrians, the safety message applied equally to those on two wheels, saying: “It’s a serious problem which is only going to get worse as the number of cyclists increases — lots of people are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. People don’t realise how dangerous listening to music is on the roads — whether pedestrian or cyclist. It takes one of your key senses away. People shouldn’t do it.”
Earlier this week, Darroch told The Daily Telgegraph that iPods and similar devices also posed a danger to young drivers, claiming: “Road traffic collisions are the biggest cause of death among young people and, from our own observations and what young people are telling us, the distraction posed by these devices is huge.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.