We let young people drive on UK roads at 17 years old – an invitation to die early?

pmqs2 boyracer

To return to a previous topic, it is a sad fact of life that we will see many-many hundreds of our driving young people heading for the morgue in the next year. How do we know that? Because it happens EVERY year – year on year, doesn’t it? Perhaps it could be even someone in YOUR family or a friend’s family – a loved one close to home? Thence an intolerable sadness for all. A quarter of all fatal accidents involve young drivers and these kids are twice as likely to be killed as mature drivers, and moreover a quarter of all 15 to 19-year-olds who die are actually killed in cars. Shocked?

But why will is this happening – does it really have to happen? NO. Is anyone doing anything about it? NO. Every few months we will read another headline in the newspapers about a further tragedy involving the deaths of a group of people resulting from an accident involving a young driver. Some of those killed will have only passed their driving test a few days beforehand – so they wouldn’t have even received their shiny new licence in the post that allows them to drive anywhere on our congested roads in Britain – including the fast moving traffic motorways that they have never ever been allowed on let alone know how to perform on.

Therein lies the root of the problem, doesn’t it? The inadequacies of our driving test which simply focuses on establishing if a person has the skills to physically drive and control a particular car on guarded daylight conditions, on the test day, together with a basic knowledge of the Highway Code. No requirement (say like an aircraft pilot) to have put in a certain number of driving hours, or having been recorded as trained by a professional instructor, or valid experience of different conditions and different types of road (particularly country roads, dual carriageways and motorways), or any understanding of night driving, or heavy rain downpours or snow storms, or safely procedures in an emergency (like mechanical failure, skidding etc).  [With a thousand pound intensive driving course a teenager can get a full licence with under forty hours of on-the-road practical].

No need to pass a medical, no need to demonstrate responsibility, no need to pass an additional assessment of driver attitude as well as competence, no need to appreciate that driving is dangerous, no need to keep driving competence (take twenty years off whenever),  eh? No, if a seventeen year old driver subsequently survives (and teenage drivers frequently crash their cars don’t they? One kid in every five crashes in the first six months and a quarter of young drivers under twenty-four crash in the first couple of years), then they have an unrestricted licence for life (and unlike a murder’s life sentence it actually means life!).

Sixty years ago Britain’s roads were still relatively quiet with few cars, and juggernauts hadn’t even been imagined let alone allowed to clutter our towns, cities and main roads. Today is a totally different matter of course (forty million cars alone on the road rather than the four million of the fifties), so we cannot allow, can we, our kids and grandchildren to be put in charge of a killing machine like a car when they are unprepared and not properly equipped to deal with it, and hence end up dead or seriously injured, or kill others?

Our dreadful politicians cannot be relied upon to take action without serious pressure from the public – they will only get their fingers out if they think there are votes in it for them, won’t they?

A move is afoot by the Young Driver organisation (who offer off-road driver experience and training to 11-17 year olds – such driving lessons gives pupils fifty percent less accidents) to petition Parliament (with an aim to reach 100,000 signatures so that the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament) to enact facilities to educate at school our young about road safety and hazard perception in the years before they are allowed to drive. [the petition is supported by the RAC, Advanced Motorists, and the British Insurers – so it has legs, doesn’t it?].

Surely, it is too late to try to teach young impressionable, unwary, overconfident, fired-up adolescents about the dangers of the road when they get their first provisional licence and eagerly jump behind the wheel? Road safety messages are better absorbed by children in their early teens when they are more receptive. Pre-driving, they need to already to understand the risks of driving – specifically at excessive speed, the effects of drugs and alcohol on a driver, the dangers faced by all on the road, the need to get professional instruction, and acquiring additional skills not covered by the current driving test. Whether or not UK schools can actually be required to play a significant part in this may well be a moot point (though other studies indicate a forty percent reduction in accidents for those who train at school), but certainly there needs to such training facilities readily available in the community, if we are to halt the current mayhem and pointless slaughter on our roads?

Don’t misunderstand the total problem – these youngsters enter an already sick driving environment where the existing supposedly ‘mature’ drivers perform like risk-adverse idiots on the road. You get the likes of 4×4 drivers tailgating to intimidate the car in front, BMW owners who think they own the lane (whichever lane you are in), let alone those who hog the motorway overtaking lane, and all and sundry diligently ignoring the speed limits even in highly populated towns. Modern cars have never been safer and the state of roads never better, and fatalities are falling as a consequence, but nearly a couple of thousand of us still perish every year, with all the associated trauma. We don’t want the next generation of drivers to end up like us, as incompetent as us, as inconsiderate as us, as unsafe drivers as us, do we?

 

[If you are interested in pressing your MP about saving the future ‘kid drivers’ lives then contact them direct, and look at and sign the petition mentioned https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104632%5D

 

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