Should young drivers be subject to restrictions?

August 2, 2012 | By | In Statistics

One demographic that is most moaned about and often feared in the motoring world is the young driver. Perceived as reckless, fast-driving, irresponsible and inexperienced, young drivers are often tarred with the same brush, despite many young people being just as cautious and careful as older drivers.

So is this stereotype really true, and should restrictions be put into place to try and counter-balance some of the bad habits that younger drivers fall into? In 2008, the greatest number of car driver deaths was in the 20-29 year-old category, and research from Cardiff University suggests that one in five new drivers will crash within their first six months on the road. The AA notes that young males are often most at risk when driving, especially during the early hours of the morning or at night, while the House of Commons Transport Committee showed that “27% of 17 – 19 year-old males are involved in a road collision as a driver in their first year”.

A lack of experience on the roads and in varied conditions does mean that young drivers are more at risk of accidents; no matter how careful or cautious they may be, driving experience is only gained through age and time. The current driving test does not represent a realistic driving experience, either; the most sensible young drivers will take the Pass Plus course, as well as practising driving at night and in poor weather conditions, before they embark on solo journeys.

Driving restrictions on young drivers – like being banned from carrying passengers of similar ages or from driving at night – have the potential to make these young drivers feel even more victimised, especially if they are determined to be responsible motorists. The restrictions are also more focused on the cultural influences on young drivers, such as peer pressure to drink and drive, or to show off in their car by driving recklessly. Legislation, unfortunately, won’t necessarily stop this: just look at under-age drinking or smoking. Instead, breaking the law (instead of merely flirting with it) might give reckless driving even more kudos for young drivers.

The solution seems to be in the hands of those determining how young drivers are tested. One BBC reader comments: “Having passed just over two years ago I can say that I no longer use any of the methods I was taught…the whole testing area needs modernising”. Driving tests in Europe involve new drivers logging the hours they spend driving at night or in poor conditions, as well as ensuring that their lessons are spread out over a longer period of time to ensure that they get more practice between lessons, therefore increasing their experience. Would the UK benefit from this sort of enhanced test?

Legislation to ban young drivers is unlikely to achieve the desired effect of reducing accidents and collisions, as recklessness might then be seen as the ultimate kudos due to the law-breaking involved, while simultaneously preventing young drivers from experiencing certain driving conditions at all. Instead, targeting the root of the problem – inadequate provision for young drivers at the lesson and test stages – might be a better way to help avoid further road accidents in this demographic.

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