For the first time the human cost of crashes involving young drivers has been plotted across 49 different areas of Britain, with Cornwall having the worst safety record in England.
While nearly one in eight, 11.9 per cent, of all road casualties are hurt or killed in collisions involving a car driver aged 17-19, the figure for Cornwall is 15.5 per cent. This is despite 17-19 year-olds making up only 1.5 per cent of licensed drivers.
London had the smallest proportion, just 5.6 per cent.
The work has been done by TRL, the Transport Research Laboratory, in a report commissioned by the RAC Foundation. TRL also made a conservative estimate of what the reduction in casualties would be in each area if a system of graduated driving licensing (GDL) was introduced.
Based on the experience of other countries where GDL is in operation, the report authors concluded that across Britain about 4,500 fewer people would be hurt in an average year. This includes about 430 people who would otherwise have been killed or seriously injured.
Among other possible requirements (like a minimum learner period and lower alcohol limit for new drivers), GDL schemes typically place temporary restrictions on newly qualified young drivers in the first few months after they pass their tests. These restrictions can include a limit on the number of young passengers they can carry and a late night curfew. The aim of GDL is to limit young drivers’ exposure to risk until they have gained experience.
Currently one in five young drivers will have an accident within six months of passing their test. Novice young drivers are at particular risk because of both their lack of experience (which affects new drivers of all ages to some degree) and the biological and behavioural characteristics of youth.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Whichever way you cut it young drivers pose a significant and disproportionate risk to themselves and to others and it is in rural areas where the casualty rate is highest.
“The government has repeatedly delayed announcing its strategy to help reduce young driver accidents but here is yet another piece of evidence which shows graduated licensing can significantly cut death and injury.
“The frustration is that while ministers here prevaricate, action is being taken just across the Irish Sea. Earlier this month a bill was put before the Northern Ireland Assembly which proposes the introduction of many of the measures this government appears to have ruled out.
“We should all have an interest in preserving young drivers’ lives rather than exposing them to undue risk at the stage of their driving careers where they are most vulnerable. This is about ensuring their long term safety and mobility. Not curtailing it. ”