41 teen passengers killed or injured every week – is GDL the answer?
The RAC Foundation has reported on the latest teenage crash figures from 2013 and it's not good.
In fact, it's awful.
234 teenage passengers were killed or seriously injured in crashes involving drivers under 20. With less serious injuries added, 41 teen passengers were hurt or killed every week that year.
It's the first time the RAC Foundation has looked directly at young passenger casualties in relation to young driver crashes, and the news has got a lot of people talking about Graduated Driver Licences. GDL could set restrictions for new young drivers on things like the number of passengers they can carry and driving at night.
We know that 1-in-5 new young drivers crash in the first 6 months they're on the road - although ingenie drivers perform much better than this, crashing 40% less that the national average. Based on our community of young drivers, we wanted to look again at which parts of the GDL proposal could work.
Is graduated licensing the answer?
Limits on passengers
Unfortunately, when you're young, fewer of your peers are driving and so car trips are a very communal activity.
Most graduated licensing programmes involve restricting the number or age of passengers that new drivers can carry, which would clearly cut the number of young people injured because there would be fewer young people on the road.
But, like curfews, this is a serious imposition on young drivers. For a start, many young people are parents. Many young people drive for their living, with colleagues in the car with them.
The focus shouldn't be on restrictions - it should be on how we can provide more education and support before, during and after the learning to drive process so we can stop these crashes happening without impeding the freedom of young drivers.
Restrictions on the number of passengers and night-time driving aren't a practical solution. Young people are students, parents and workers – limiting their lives is not the answer and certainly wouldn't help our already stretched police.
While curfews usually allow exemption for those who work after hours, we think restricting young drivers in the very thing that gives them their freedom is a step too far.
We showed in our Young Driver Report that the ingenie community has a night-time crash rate that shows a very similar pattern to that of older drivers - and only 8% of our crashes happen at night. Yes, more young drivers crash at this time than older drivers - but that's because more young drivers are out at night.
The bias towards locking young people up is unfair. If you drive at night, you are more likely to crash, whatever your age or experience. Should we all stay indoors after 10pm?
Sure, it can be dangerous to drive at night. But instead of banning all night-time driving, we think more education is needed around all the different conditions that a driver will face. That would require a longer learning period (and a minimum timeline set) but the road safety benefits would be huge.
Minimum learning period
Although many teens turn 17 and race for the prize of a driving licence, it's fairly obvious that this isn't a good idea. With the recommended numbers set at 47 hours of lessons and 22 hours of private practice, getting to test time in under 6 months shouldn't happen. But it does.
It can be difficult for an ADI to tell a pupil they're not ready to take their test if, physically, they're doing everything by the book. But it's the road sense that comes with more practice, in more road conditions that can keep a young driver safe.
Limits on alcohol
Carrying passengers is not illegal - driving impaired is. For this reason, we do support the proposed restrictions on alcohol for new young drivers, who are potentially more easily impaired and less experienced with alcohol. We always advise our drivers not to risk 'just one drink' as it's impossible to calculate its effect.
Learning to deal with all the hazards of driving is a long and demanding process - combining that with the process of learning to deal with alcohol is dangerous.
How telematics can support graduated learning
If licensing does become more graded, telematics is the perfect partner for the first months and years a driver is on the road. It's the vital point of contact that stops the process from abandoning a young driver the minute they pass.
We've shown that regular feedback and contact in the event of dangerous driving has a significant impact on the safety of young drivers: a 40% reduction in their risk of crashing. Our Driver Behaviour Unit only contacts the most dangerous drivers in our community, yet in 90% of cases, those drivers improve within a month of their chat with us.
Lengthening the period that a young driver is earning their licence would make this contact even more vital. Ongoing support even after the driving test would greatly improve the chances of a graduated approach to licensing seeing success.
Time to dig out that green paper
Well, with 5 more years ahead that government's got another chance, so it's the perfect time to finally start sorting this problem out. The DfT has the support of telematics insurers in investigating both the technology and its role in any moves towards more graduated learning.
Let's hope Andrew Jones, our new road safety minister, is keen to get going on this issue.
What our followers think:
I understand what some teenage and young adult drivers are like, but we're not all the same. I've heard the cut off point could be as early as 10pm. I often finish work after 10pm and this would cause me to either give up work or take public transport. Which is crazy considering I pay over £1500 for insurance for the privilege to drive. We're not all the same and out to be stupid drivers.
If they don't want young drivers and passengers killed then there's a nice and simple solution to it: instead of being able to drive and pass at 17 years of age, take it up to 20. No teens getting killed. Or, anyone under 20 has to have a telematics box on their motors until they're 20 and have a couple of years' experience. Everyone would feel safer and probably not so many idiots on the roads.
Got an opinion about Graduated Drive Licensing? Leave us a comment.