With the introduction of the new moped license for 16 year-olds on 19th January 2013, debate opens up once again around the minimum driving age. It is usually assumed that the older the driver, the safer they will be on the roads – but is this a fair assumption?
Government figures show that although 17-25 year olds make up just one-eighth of drivers on the road, one-third of road deaths involve this demographic. The implication, of course, is that safety on the road is down to the age of the driver.
Driving is a skill like any other, and requires practice. As with other skills, like cooking, painting or riding a bike, experience makes a big difference to someone’s ability to perform it well. Unlike other skills, however, a lack of experience in driving can prove fatal. However, a lack of experience is not unique to young drivers; new drivers of any age lack experience.
However, it is not just a lack of experience that is cited as the reason that younger drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents. Often the confidence of younger drivers outweighs their ability, and they are much more likely to take risks whilst driving and overestimate their capability to avoid hazards. According the research, this is because the part of their brain that evaluates risk is not fully mature until the age of 25.
Various restrictions and policies have been proposed to combat these horrifying statistics, which suggest that the age of the driver is not at fault; rather, it is particular driving behaviours. A zero-alcohol limit, curfews prohibiting driving at night and bans on carrying passengers at certain times have all been recommended. Whilst these behaviours are not necessarily linked to age, it is widely accepted that young people are more susceptible to peer pressure to drive dangerously and, despite their faster reaction times, are most likely to crash at night.
It seems that safety on the road is down, in some part, to the age of the driver. Younger drivers, on the whole, less experienced, more immature and more likely to engage in dangerous driving practices. It may not be fair to tar a whole age group with the same brush, and there will always be exceptions to the rule, but the statistics speak for themselves.
What do you think? Are younger drivers more dangerous on the roads?