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Call for teens to drive earlier

2012-10-09 12:23

STARTING YOUNGER: A UK vehicle insurer says allowing young people to start driving at an earlier age will result in fewer road deaths.

LONDON, England - Younger drivers are often victims of the blame game when it comes to irresponsible driving, however certain vehicle insurers suggest learner drivers should be allowed to go on public roads at 16 but need to spend at least a year in a car before doing their driving test.

The Daily Mail has reported that the Association of British Insurers (ABI) believes the age at which young people can start learning to drive on a provisional licence should be lowered to 16-and-a-half, rather than the current 17. Similar in South Africa, where applying for a learner's licence requires you to be at least 17.


The UK move is part of a series of measures - including a “zero limit” for alcohol - to slash the death and injury rates among young drivers in that country.

Young drivers, the ABI said, consistently over-estimated their ability and underestimated the risks so they should be restricted in what they can do until gaining sufficient experience - reducing the risk of “thrill-seeking” and “showing off” and  “catastrophic life-changing injuries” or death.

It also claimed restrictions on night driving and zero alcohol for young drivers. Statistically, an 18-year-old was more than three times as likely to be involved in a crash as a 48-year-old driver, the insurers noted. A minimum 12-month learning period as a learner driver would enable young drivers to gain more supervised practice, it said.

Rather than raise the minimum age at which people can take their driving test at 18, the ABI recommends lowering the age at which people can start to learn to 16-and-a-half.


The ABI said: “Allowing young people to obtain a provisional licence at 16-and-a-half mitigates the impact on their mobility would result from having a 12 month mandatory minimum learning period starting at 17.”

Few young people would be adversely affected as they will get their provisional licence at 16 and a half but still undertake their practical test “at a similar age to the current system”,the ABI report said.
The ABI also called for “graduated” driver licensing with young motorists being restricted on some aspects of driving until they had gained experience. This would include restrictions on the number of young passengers they could carry in the first six months after passing their driving test.

The Daily Mail reported that young male drivers,17 to 24 in particular felt greater “empowerment” from driving, liked to “show off”, “and are more inclined to drive for pleasure or thrill-seeking”.


ABI director general Otto Thoresen said: “Radical action is needed to reduce the tragic waste of young lives on our roads, especially among the 17 to 24 age group.

“A car is potentially a lethal weapon, and we must do more to help young drivers deal with the dangers of driving."

Would this work in South Africa? Share your thoughts in our Readers' Comments section below or,  email us.

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