As a general election looms and MP’s prepare to win voter support.

Raising the profile of local and national public concerns become key to gaining attention and votes.

With this in mind, a group of road safety experts are attempting to make the issue of young driver road safety one such electoral debating point.

Calling for action

A letter was published on the Guardian website calling on MPs from all political parties to commit to taking action on the matter.

Signed by a long list of road safety experts, it aims to put pressure on MPs and prospective MPs.

They want proven, evidence-based measures introduced in the UK.

It states that “we see too many car crashes resulting in the tragic death or serious injury of young people”.

“We see too many car crashes resulting in the tragic death or serious injury of young people. In 2022, 4,935 people were killed or seriously injured in crashes involving young drivers. “

They reveal that they were compelled to write in The Guardian following an article late last year.

‘It’s not their fault’: calls for curbs on young drivers after fatal Welsh crash, 24 November) was one of many articles published by the media after a series of fatal car crashes involving young people.

Perhaps most memorable was the death of four young men when their car left the road and became submerged in a ditch. It took days to find the missing youngsters who tragically all died in the crash.

Take the brakes off

Signatories to the letter highlights the “Department for Transport’s decision not to introduce supportive licensing changes for younger drivers”.

It asks how this can be equated with the official statement that ‘every death or serious injury on our roads is a tragedy’.

For decades is has been known that young drivers are more likely to crash due to inexperience.

When you add to this the distraction of carrying similar-aged passengers, and peer influence, the reality is grim.

“Consequences for families and their communities are devastating,” says the letter.

“These road crashes cost the economy £132m each year, add pressure on the NHS and emergency services, and inflate insurance premiums.

International success

Also highlighted is the use of Graduated Driver Licensing in other countries.

AustraliaCanada and New Zealand are just three examples.

All make statutory efforts to support young drivers through the transition from learner to solo licensed driver.

Restrictions attempt to limit the risks facing these young drivers.

By avoiding the riskiest situations, governments can help minimise the dangers. They include carrying peer-aged passengers and driving at night.

“The evidence is compelling and has reduced deaths by between 20% and 40%,” according to the letter. They add that “people in Britain generally support licensing changes to support young drivers”.

Nothing ever happens

Signing off, the signatories complain that for too many years the subject seems to have been raised by Parliament and, despite expressed concerns, nothing is done.

“Despite talking about supporting young drivers for decades, MPs have failed to act on the best evidence. In an election year, we call on all political parties to commit to taking action on proven evidence-based measures to save young lives.”

The contributors

Dr Ian Greenwood Campaigner to stop road deaths
Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore Professor of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, University of Cambridge
Dr Elizabeth Box Research director, RAC Foundation
Prof Nicola Christie Professor of transport safety, University College London
Prof Kevin Fenton President, UK Faculty of Public Health
Dr Pamela J Hardy Chair, Faculty of Pre-hospital Care, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Dr Shaun Helman Chief scientist, Transport Research Laboratory
Prof Samantha Jamson Professor of transport psychology, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Prof Andrew Morris Professor of human factors in transport safety, Loughborough University
Prof Tim Nutbeam Professor of prehospital medicine, University of Plymouth
Prof Ian Walker
 Professor of psychology and head of school, Swansea University