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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 17:15 GMT
'Show-off' teenage drivers targeted
The M5 at peak traffic
Novice drivers are over-represented in crash figures
Teenage motorists may face limits on the numbers of passengers they can carry, as ministers seek ideas to cut accident figures among newly qualified drivers.

The Automobile Association (AA) says research suggests both young men and women are more likely to drive badly if they are carrying young male passengers.

Young drivers, who make up by far the biggest share of novice drivers, are over-represented in road accident figures.

We need to make younger drivers drive like older drivers

Andrew Howard

Accident experts suggest the problem lies not in how young drivers are trained but more in their attitude once they get behind the wheel in front of their friends.

Almost 10% of all the 12,695 car drivers injured in crashes in the year 2000 were aged between 17 and 19.

Road Safety Minister David Jamieson told Parliament on Tuesday the government would soon be inviting new ideas on making novice drivers safer.

Mr Jamieson said the government wanted learners to gain "broader experience of driving conditions".

Drive for ideas

The government is publishing a consultation document, called Introducing a More Structured Approach to Learning to Drive, in the next few weeks.

A Department of Transport spokesman said: "We are keen to hear from interested parties about how to improve driver training."

David Jamieson, Road Safety Minister
Jamieson is expected to launch the consultation on Tuesday

Changes to the driving tests are due to be introduced this autumn, ensuring all candidates must take a "hazards perception" test, where they have to point out danger spots on video clips.

That follows changes in 1997 which mean that for their first two years on the road, drivers can be disqualified on the lower threshold of six penalty points.

Although the number of accidents has fallen, the AA's Andrew Howard said the over-representation of young drivers in accident statistics remained, and the fall may be due to population trends.

'Showing off'

Research for the AA in the early 1990s suggested the crashes happened not because young drivers did not know how to drive but because they chose not to drive in the proper way.

"That's often because they try to impress their friends," said Mr Howard.

"We need to make younger drivers drive like older drivers."

Car driver injuries in 2000
17-19 years: 1,275
20-24 years: 1,880
25-29 years: 1,558
30-39 years: 2,759
40-59 years: 3,201
60 years and over: 1,783
Research undertaken for the AA by Reading University suggested young men were likely to drive faster and closer to the vehicle in front if they were carrying a male passenger.

That was true also of women drivers, who would drive more carefully if they were with a female passenger, the study found.

Such findings may fuel calls for a probationary licence that means novice drivers are limited in the number of passengers they are allowed to carry.

Advocates of such a scheme argue drivers cannot show off if they have no passengers to impress.

But Mr Howard was concerned it could mean five cars racing to a nightclub in a row rather than just the one.

Part of citizenship learning

Paul Atkinson, managing director of the British School of Motoring (BSM), also argued changing young people's attitudes to driving were a key issue.

BSM's two interactive courses tackling attitudes to driving are already being used in 1,400 secondary schools, as well as sixth form colleges.

Mr Atkinson suggested they could be rolled out further, perhaps as part of new citizenship classes in schools.

Other perennial suggestions that might be re-examined once the new consultation is launched include:

  • Allowing 17-year-olds to apply for their licence but have to wait between three months and a year before they are allowed to take their tests.

  • Log books to ensure each novice driver has been trained on various aspects of driving.

  • Probationary plates, which could limit driving at night, engine size and motorway driving.

  • See also:

    09 Aug 01 | Scotland
    Road safety advice for tourists
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