Sandy Allan: Put young drivers on road to safety

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has long campaigned for the introduction of interventions which would reduce the number of 17 to 25-year-olds involved in fatal and serious collisions.

The accident took place on Saturday
The accident took place on Saturday

Analysis of recent crash data from across the UK has shown nearly 12 per cent of all fatal and serious injury crashes involve someone aged between 17 and 19, yet this particular group make up only 1.5 per cent of all licence holders. In the Grampian area of Scotland this figure is nearer 16 per cent.

According to the recently published Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2013, there were 172 people killed in crashes on Scotland’s roads, a decrease of three per cent on 2012. This is the lowest figure ever recorded. Similarly, the number of people seriously injured was also down to 1,672, the lowest figure since records began.

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The car driver most at risk is male and aged between 17 and 25. He is one-and-a-half times more likely to be involved in a crash than his female counterpart. These figures should never be seen as acceptable and we should all do everything we can to reduce risk on our roads.

The issues cannot be addressed by enforcement alone, we need to encourage and educate our young drivers as to the risks involved and means by which they can develop their skills.

All local authorities across the Lothians and Scottish Borders organise, in association with key partners from the emergency services, events specifically aimed at 17-year-old potential drivers or their passengers. These events highlight to all those attending the consequences of being involved in a crash, but also encourage skill development and responsibility.

Unfortunately they only target a captured minority who remain in education until their sixth year. Efforts should be made to engage with all potential young drivers who are equally at risk. For instance, individuals attending vocational colleges would be easier to reach as a 
collective if partnerships were formed. This issue should not just be abdicated to professionals such as road safety officers or driving instructors – we can all play our part.

We at RoSPA have campaigned for a number of years for the introduction of a Graduated Driving Licence Scheme whereby young drivers would gain skills and experience potential dangers through limited exposure. Contributory factors often cited in crashes surround issues such as carrying young passengers, night driving and offending. These could be addressed under such a driver training programme.

In countries where such a scheme has already been introduced casualties, within this age group have reduced significantly. Despite proposals for such a scheme being put forward to the UK Government, this has been recently shelved. It is very encouraging though to see the Scottish Government has continued to pursue this proposal.

When we hear about young people being killed or seriously injured on our roads, our hearts go out to their families and those affected. Whilst we would not comment on any particular event, it is suggested we all start looking at this as an issue where we should and could do something about, rather than just empathising with the families affected and moving on.

• Sandy Allan is road safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)