Suffolk: Calls for newly-qualified drivers to face licence restrictions as teenagers involved in one in eight injury-related crashes

A five-year study found 13.5% of collisions in the county which resulted in a death, or either a ser

A five-year study found 13.5% of collisions in the county which resulted in a death, or either a serious or minor injury, involved a driver aged between 17 and 19. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Calls have been made for newly-qualified drivers to face temporary restrictions after research found one in eight injury-related crashes in Suffolk involved teenagers.

A five-year study found 13.5% of collisions in the county which resulted in a death, or either a serious or minor injury, involved a driver aged between 17 and 19.

Nationally, the age group makes up 1.5% of licensed drivers.

It led to calls for the Government to introduce a graduated driving licensing (GDL) system, as well as a minimum one-year learner period and a lower alcohol limit for new drivers.

GDL schemes place temporary restrictions on newly-qualified young drivers to limit their exposure to risk until they have gained enough experience.

Restrictions can include them being banned from driving on motorways and owning powerful cars, undertaking at least 10 hours of further training on motorways and at night, and having to pass a second practical test after two years.

Other suggestions include a limit on the number of young passengers they can carry and a late-night curfew. Road safety should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum in schools, campaigners say.

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The three-phase GDL system – learner’s permit, restricted licence and full-driver’s licence – is not enforced in Europe, but has, in various forms, been introduced in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Between 2008 and 2012, Suffolk (13.5%) had a higher rate of injury-related collisions involving teenage drivers than the UK (11.9%), according to the research by the Transport Research Laboratory for the charity RAC Foundation.

The numbers behind the percentages were not released, but the report said if GDL was introduced, every year in Suffolk there would be 63 fewer incidents of teenagers injuring another motorist, and five fewer deaths or serious injuries, saving an annual £2.5million.

In Essex, teenagers were involved in 13.8% of injury-related collisions. GDL could cut the number injury-related crashes by 136 every year, and deaths or serious injuries by 16, saving £7.1m. Researchers used police accident data.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said young drivers pose a “significant and disproportionate risk” to themselves and other motorists, particularly in rural areas.

“The government has repeatedly delayed announcing its strategy to help reduce young driver accidents, but here is more evidence showing graduated licensing can significantly cut death and injury,” he added.

“We should all have an interest in preserving young drivers’ lives rather than exposing them to undue risk at the stage of their driving careers where they are most vulnerable.

“This is about ensuring their long-term safety and mobility, not curtailing it.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said officers experience a “greater number” of crashes on the county’s roads which involve young drivers.

“They, like any inexperienced driver, are not as aware of all the dangers on the roads,” he said.

“Although they reach a level of competence to pass their driving test, it is another step to be driving alone or with distractions such as friends in the car with them.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “These figures show the continual need to promote road safety to young people. We continue to work with Suffolk police and the Fire and Rescue on Suffolk Roadsafe initiatives promoting good practice and strategies for improving their safety.

“Our work with schools, colleges and universities make sure these messages get to young people. These include initiatives such as Get in Gear, a course specifically aimed at 17 to 19-year-olds (and) newly qualified drivers to give them the skills to cope with driving independently and to reduce the chances of being involved in a collision.”

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