05 October 2011
Brake, the road safety charity
The charity Brake and Leigh Day & Co solicitors are calling for action to tackle young driver and passenger casualties, as a survey of 1,000 parents of young drivers finds almost all (94%) fear for their son or daughter's life when they are driving or getting a lift with another young person, while many believe their child takes deadly risks at the wheel. 
The survey by Brake and Leigh Day & Co solicitors found that four in five (80%) parents want the government to impose restrictions on new drivers for the first year after passing their test, such as a lower drink-drive limit, a night-time driving curfew or a limit on passenger numbers.
The vast majority are also willing to take steps themselves to stop risk taking: 84% said they would buy technology that prevents their son or daughter from speeding if it was available and affordable and 96% had spoken to their son or daughter about the importance of safe and legal driving.
The survey also found that parents are aware of shocking levels of risk taking at the wheel by their children:
- More than one in four (27%) thinks their son or daughter drives after drinking alcohol. Parents of males were more likely to report this (31%) compared to parents of females (25%).
- More than four in ten (41%) thinks their son or daughter drives while using a hand-held phone to call or text. Parents of males were more likely to report this (47%) compared to parents of females (34%).
During Road Safety Week next month (21-27 November 2011), Brake will be focusing on the theme Too Young to Die, drawing attention to the fact that preventable road crashes are the biggest killer of young people. Brake is calling on the government to tackle these devastating crashes by introducing Graduated Driver Licensing, to allow new drivers to build d experience over time, while limiting exposure to risky situations. It would include a 12-month learner period, an initial test, then a novice period, when you can drive independently but with restrictions, such as a late-night driving ban. Brake also wants compulsory curriculum education on the dangers of driving and steps young people can take to be safer.
Brake is also calling on communities, including concerned parents of young drivers, secondary schools and colleges to get behind Road Safety Week. They can order a free action pack at www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk to get involved in Brake's campaign calling on young drivers – and drivers of all ages – to have a heart at the wheel and drive sober, slow and secure.
Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer, said: "Parents of young drivers are worried and rightly so – a horrifying number of road deaths and serious injuries involve young people – but there are things they can do. It is vital that parents talk to teenage children about the risks of driving and crucial steps like staying within speed limits, never driving after drinking, and ensuring they and any passengers belt up. Brake is urging the government to listen to parents' concerns and introduce Graduated Driver Licensing to prevent more needless deaths and injuries caused by young drivers' inexperience and risk taking. These casualties are horrendously traumatic for the families involved, and constitute a significant economic burden, but we can tackle them."
Sally Moore, Head of Personal Injury at Leigh Day, said: "Every day I see the life-changing impact road traffic collisions have on the lives of individuals and their families. Many involve young inexperienced drivers who lose control of their vehicle due to speeding, being distracted by phones or under the influence of alcohol. We would encourage any parent to talk to young drivers in their families about the devastating consequences that taking risks whilst driving can have on both their own lives and others."
Bereaved parent Steve Mohabir from Godalming is speaking out to parents of young drivers in support of the campaign.
In May 2004, Steve Mohabir, his two year-old son Marcus and two of Steve's friends had been for a day out in Brighton. They were on their way home when a car travelling the other way skidded, flipped over the crash barrier and landed on their car.
The car that hit them was driven by 19 year-old driver Mitch Treliving and contained four passengers aged 17 - 20. Treliving was driving at more than 90mph. All five in his car died in the crash.
Steve sustained a broken leg, a fractured elbow, a crushed spine and a torn liver and intestine, and lost three litres of blood from massive internal injuries, but he managed to crawl out of his seat to cradle his son Marcus as he lay dying. When Steve woke up in hospital, his wife told him that their son and two friends had all been killed.
Steve says: "My life was torn apart that day. I remember looking at Marcus' limp little body and knowing he wouldn't make it. I held him for the last time and stroked his hair until the paramedics got there. I'm pleading with parents of young drivers: speak to your kids and make it your business to know how they are driving. Do everything you can to make sure they drive safely.
"I'm also appealing to young people to do the responsible, compassionate thing. Commit to never speeding, never driving on drink or drugs, and always belting up. And don't get in a car with a young driver who takes chances with people's lives. If you do this you're helping to prevent needless tragedies like the death of my son, my friends and those five young people."
Anyone who has been bereaved or seriously injured in a crash can call the Brake helpline for support on 0845 603 8570.
Young people age 15-24 are more likely to die in a preventable road crash than from any other single cause . While young drivers aged 17-24 account for 12% of licence holders, they are involved in one in four road deaths and serious injuries . One in five will crash in their first six months after passing their test  and, every year, more than 3,300 young drivers and passengers aged 17-24 are killed or suffer a life-changing serious injury as a result of a road crash, taking many more innocent road users of all ages with them . One young male driver in every 60 experiences a road crash involving the death or injury of themselves, a passenger or another road user . Young driver crashes involving the death or injury of themselves, a passenger or another road user cost the economy £1.5 billion annually .
Recommendations to government
In its Strategic Framework for Road Safety, published in May 2011, the government committed to introduce a new post-test driving qualification to replace Pass Plus and introduce safety messages into the theory test. Brake is concerned their proposals don't go far enough to tackle the huge problem of crashes involving young, inexperienced drivers.
Brake calls for Graduated Driver Licensing, to allow new drivers to build driving skills and experience gradually, while exposure to higher risk situations is restricted. Brake recommends a minimum learning to drive period of one year before taking a test. Once passed, the novice driver would be allowed to drive unsupervised but would have restrictions on their licence for a minimum period of two years, including a zero tolerance drink drive limit, restrictions on passengers and late night driving ban. After this period, the driver would take a second test to show that they have skills to drive on all types of road, to become fully licensed. Read more on Graduated Driver Licensing.
Graduated Driver Licensing has dramatically reduced young driver deaths and injuries in countries such as the US and New Zealand . The University of Cardiff found that a system as advocated above could save 200 lives annually and 14,000 casualties in the UK, and save the economy £890million through the prevention of costly casualties . A dossier of evidence is available here.
Advice for parents of young people
Talk to your teenager about the dangers of accepting lifts from mates. Young drivers, young males in particular, are the highest risk group of drivers due to underestimation of risks, lack of awareness of hazards, and propensity to speed, drink and drug drive, use phones when driving and not belt up.
Agree you will always pick them up when they need you to, even if it's late. Make sure their phone is charged and tell them they can call you any time. It might be an inconvenience, but better safe than sorry. If you don't drive, give your teenager taxi numbers in case they get stranded, and have emergency taxi money in the house.
Many young people see driving as their route to independence. But the younger someone learns to drive, the greater the risk of crashing. There is often no need for young people to drive; it's dangerous, expensive, and environmentally damaging. If your son or daughter is moving out soon to go on to higher or further education, they will probably live somewhere with public transport. Encourage them to spend their cash on something more constructive than a car, such as a great holiday.
If they are determined to learn to drive, offer an incentive to delay, for example an offer to pay for driving lessons if they wait until they are 21. If your son or daughter is already learning to drive, encourage them to explore Brake's website www.2young2die.org.uk and sign up to our Pledge2DriveSafely. There are types of young driver insurance that monitor driving style and reward safe driving. These can help to keep your child stay safe so investigate them once your son or daughter passes their test.
About Road Safety Week, 21 – 27 November 2011
Road Safety Week is an annual event coordinated by Brake. Our theme for 2011 is "Too young to die". We'll be raising awareness of the fact that road crashes are sudden, violent events that rip apart families. Many of those affected are young - road crashes are the biggest killer of young people .
During the Week, Brake will be appealing to young people, drivers of all ages, parents, the wider community and policy makers to act now to stop this needless loss of young lives on our roads. We'll be appealing to young people to look out for themselves and friends as drivers and passengers, and speak out against dangerous behaviour. We'll be appealing to all drivers to make Brake's Pledge to Drive Safely. We'll be supporting communities around the country who are taking part in the Week and campaigning for road safety. And we'll be calling on policy makers to take urgent steps to improve young driver safety.
Leigh Day & Co Solicitors
Leigh Day & Co solicitors specialise in personal injury compensation claims for road traffic collisions, major transport disasters, life-changing brain and spinal injuries and accidents at work. We have been identified by the leading independent client guides as one of the country's leading firms of claimant personal injury solicitors. For further information on our services, please visit: www.leighday.co.uk/Our-expertise/accidents-disasters
 Survey of 1,000 parents of 17 – 21 year old drivers carried out by Redshift Research on behalf of Brake and Leigh Day & Co. Solicitors, September 2011
 Death registrations in England and Wales: Table 2 Deaths by age, sex and underlying cause, 2010 registrations, Office National Statistics, 2011 (traffic accounts for 19% of all deaths of people aged 15 - 24)
 Reported road accidents involving young car drivers: Great Britain 2009, DfT, 2011
 Learning to Drive: a consultation paper, DSA, 2008
 Reported road casualties Great Britain 2009, DfT, 2010
 Young fully licensed, provisional or unlicensed drivers in Great Britain aged 17 -19 in crashes of all injury severity in 2009. Based on Brake analysis of statistics received from the Department for Transport, the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority, the Office for National Statistics, and Brake's Road Safety Week survey 2011. Brake's Road Safety Week survey was used to approximate the number of young drivers driving unlicensed.
 Based on Department for Transport average estimates of crash cost, the total cost of these crashes is £1,486,643,200.00 (£1.5 billion). Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2009, DfT, 2010
 Teenagers in Michigan, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, 2008;
Intermediate drivers' licence implementation, Washington Transport Safety Commission, 2006;
Graduated driver licensing: the New Zealand experience, University of Otago, 2003
 Restricting young drivers, The University of Cardiff, 2010
 Death registrations in England and Wales: Table 2 Deaths by age, sex and underlying cause, 2010 registrations, Office National Statistics, 2011 (traffic accounts for 19% of all deaths of people aged 15 - 24).