It seems that this topic has been coming and going for some time, with reports as far back as 2007 suggesting the government wanted to raise the driving age to eighteen to reduce fatal accidents on the road, but it seems that a new report commissioned by the government looks set to create yet more momentum on the issue, as it continues to call for a raise in the driving age. But will this really make a difference and does the government report really address the underlying issues?
Some of the statistics being used to bolster the view that raising the driving age would save lives include*:
- More than 20% of deaths on Britain’s roads in 2011 involved drivers aged 17-24
- Around 10% of novice drivers are caught committing an offence within their probationary period.
- Young male drivers aged 17-20 are seven times more at risk of a road accident than the average male driver
- Between the hours of 2am and 5am that risk is 17 times higher
* Centre for Transport Studies
But if we look at these figures closely, we can see that they are only a small part of a much bigger picture, a picture the government either does not see, or does not want us to see.
The first statistic conveniently lumps 17 year olds with their more experienced 24-year-old counterparts – but it is the 20-24 year old bracket which is by far the most vulnerable to death from a road traffic injury. Stats from The RAC show that in 2009, 273 men aged between 20-24 died from a road traffic injury, compared to the younger 15-19 year old group, where there were 259 deaths from driving. And that’s not all.
Most statistics where fatalities occur involve men, not women, and yet these new proposals would sweep across the board, something we’ve already written about in terms of car insurance and the way the government is allowing the insurance industry to effectively steal money from new drivers by overcharging women. Back to our dangerous driving stats, and we can see from the RAC’s data from 2009 that of the 327 driving related deaths for 20-24 year olds, of which 273 involved men, a stunning 59 deaths, the remainder, involved women in that age group. In this age bracket alone, men accounted for 82% of the fatalities, and women a mere 18%.
The second statistic from the Centre for Transport Studies relates to what are called novice drivers committing an offence. This stat is placed at only 10% and hardly bolsters the view that novice drivers are reckless felons on the road. If anything, research has proven quite the opposite – most novice drivers are even more careful on the roads than their more experienced counterparts because everything is new, and nothing is taken for granted. Other statistics reveal that most accidents occur within a five-mile radius of our home because experienced drivers become complacent on the road and consider their home turf to be predictable. In short, experienced drivers are far more likely to go on Autopilot and miss vital signs for caution on the road. How do we know this? Because we attended a driver’s awareness course, where our professional driving instructor (who trained senior police officers) told us. (We were caught doing 35 mph in a 30 mph zone, and for the record, we are in our thirties….)
It is also worthy of note that driving related deaths involving teens does not just refer to teens who are behind the wheel, it also refers to teens who are passengers in a car, usually being driven by people within a much older age bracket.
The third statistic looking at male drivers between 17-20 being more at risk of an accident also lumps up more experienced drivers with novice ones and also fails to outline how many of these accidents actually involve teens behind the wheel, rather than passengers. And the last statistic is just as nebulous – because as our previous research into this area suggests, by far the most deaths on the road are caused by men driving fast, and expensive cars - hardly the profile of a novice driver.
So where does this leave the government’s stance on raising the driving age? The AA is not convinced by this proposed measure – they are sceptical too of the proposed curfew which would see all new drivers having to avoid the roads between 10pm and 5am, unless accompanied by someone over 30, and we are too. Surely raising the driving age by a year would not prevent accidents, but would rather prevent novice drivers from acquiring experience sooner rather than later and therefore would have no effect on reducing the number of accidents at all?
Road traffic accidents that lead to death are certainly not the biggest cause of death in the UK – 13% of people in the UK die from a traffic accident, as opposed to 21% of people who pass away from self harm and a further 54% who die from falls or accidental injury. But it is a statistic we should concentrate on reducing. We just don’t think that penalising the wrong people will have the desired effect and we hope that the government will think carefully and in a more sophisticated way about this issue, before unnecessarily marginalising and alienating its young population further.