By way of a break from being asked to write, talk, and attend meetings about the proposed changes to whiplash, I was pleased to be asked recently to consider whether MASS could support an initiative calling on the Government to take action on the high incidence of fatal and serious accidents caused by young drivers. As it happens one of my sons is currently learning to drive, and I have been considering what I can do to get him relatively safely and affordably on the road when he passes his test.
It is well known that young drivers are involved in more catastrophic and fatal motor accidents than any other category of road user. The risk of death is doubled for 15-19 year olds and for males in this group trebled from the general population. Most experienced personal injury lawyers will have seen those dreadful cases where a carload of teenagers suffer life-changing injuries due to the reckless driving of a teenager who has just passed his test. Apparently the cost to the economy of these was £2.9bn in 2013 – it’s a large number, and I’m not quite sure how it is calculated, but whatever the financial cost, it is insignificant alongside the personal cost to young people of having to live with the consequences of brain and/or spinal cord injuries.
Road safety charity Brake’s ‘Too young to die’ campaign is calling for the introduction of graduated driving licensing (GDL). Brake suggest a 12-month learner period before sitting an initial test. A further test would then follow after a two-year novice period when restrictions apply such as a late-night driving curfew and restrictions on the size of engine they can drive. Of course the risk of making it more difficult and expensive to become a fully qualified driver is that the number of unlicensed, uninsured young drivers would simply increase. However, the evidence from New Zealand, Australia and some US states, suggests that the introduction of GDL has reduced young driver injuries.
This is certainly a topic on which a public debate is needed, and – to come back to where I started, the proposed changes to whiplash, because I can’t get away from them – probably an infinitely better place for the Government to allocate legislative time and resource. Instead of wasting time seeking to deny accident victims justice, let’s save an awful lot of human misery by driving out accidents involving young drivers.