What’s the biggest killer of youths aged 15 to 24? Alcohol? Drugs? Crime? No. Cars kill more kids than all of those things put together.
Figures revealed in a RAC Foundation report showed young drivers were four times more likely to die in a road crash than from knife and gun crime, alcohol and drugs combined.
According to the report, 1,552 young drivers were killed or seriously injured in the UK over the course of 2011, equating to an average of more than four deaths or serious injuries every day.
The report also revealed another disturbing fact: One in five young drivers will have an accident within the first six months of passing their test, with the “biological and behavioural characteristics of youth” cited as a primary cause.
“Young people are four times more likely to die in a road accident than as a result of drink or drugs,” RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister commented. “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.”
The RAC Foundation is calling for a graduated licence system that has proven to reduce the number of fatalities in countries where the system is already in place.
“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,” he added. “But the evidence suggests that a full package of measures could reduce fatalities by anything up to 60 per cent.”
As part of its proposals, the RAC Foundation wants to implement a number of changes including a one-year minimum learning period that includes driving at night and in a variety of weather conditions, a one-year post test that includes mandatory passenger restrictions and conditions for late-night driving and a two year probationary period during which the accumulation of six points means a retest.
The RAC Foundation also wants the drink-drive blood alcohol limit reduced to 50mg per 100ml instead of the current 80mg per 100ml.
Professor Glaister was keen to dismiss criticisms that such legislation would infringe of a young person’s freedom, stating that “we should all have an interest in preserving young drivers… where they are most vulnerable”.
Is the price of reducing road deaths worth the cost of freedom? Let us know.