The number of road traffic accidents taking place on the country’s rural roads has prompted road safety charity Brake to call for changes to the current learner driver system.
Statistics from the Department for Transport show that in 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available, 120 young drivers were killed in road traffic accidents. Around 80% of these accidents occurred on rural roads, 16% on urban roads and 4% on motorways.
These shocking figures have led Brake to conclude that the current system for learner drivers is no longer fit for purpose and in need of major reform.
System Overhaul Required
“High speeds, sharp bends, narrow lanes, risky overtaking and the presence of vulnerable road users like cyclists, make rural roads the most dangerous by far,” explained Jason Wakeford, Director of Campaigns for Brake. “The combination of rural roads and novice drivers is lethal – a staggering 80% of all young car driver fatalities occur in rural locations.”
“Brake is calling for a total overhaul of the learning to drive system to help cut fatalities and injuries,” he added. “A graduated licensing system, including a minimum learning period, mandatory training on rural roads and restrictions for newly-qualified drivers – such as a zero drink-drive limit – will allow new drivers to build up more skills and experience over a longer period of time.”
According to Brake, a similar approach in other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, has led to a sharp fall in the number of road casualties and could save up to 400 lives a year in the UK.
Driving Test Changes
The UK Government does appear to recognise the need for change, highlighting that road traffic accidents are the biggest killer of young people and account for over 25% of all deaths of those between the ages of 15 and 19.
It therefore announced earlier this year that it would be introducing some changes to the driving test in an attempt to reduce casualty numbers amongst younger drivers.
These changes are due to come into effect in December and include increasing the independent driving part of the test to 20 minutes, and a new requirement to follow directions given by a sat nav. The Government believes these changes are necessary because:
- Most fatal collisions happen on high-speed roads (not including motorways). Therefore, changing the format of the test will allow more of these types of roads to be included in driving test routes.
- 52% of car drivers now have a sat nav, and so new drivers should be trained to use them safely.
- Research has shown that new drivers find independent driving training valuable – they can relate it to driving once they’ve passed their test.
“Our roads are among the safest in the world. However, road collisions are the biggest killer of young people,” explained Transport Minister, Andrew Jones. “These changes will help us to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads and equip new drivers with the skill they need to use our roads safely.”
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