James Sullivan examines how insurers, the government, and the legal profession are tackling the problem of rising fatalities among young drivers

It doesn’t pay to be young and British at the moment. Whether it’s promiscuity, binge-drinking, or anti-social behaviour, it seems

that the youth of today are doing it to excess, and giving rise to more outraged column inches in the press than ever before.

Scorned and disparaged, teenagers and young adults are sometimes painted as the scourge of our society.

At this rate, pretty much all deterioration will eventually be linked to this cross section of society.

So it is not surprising that young drivers have come under the spotlight, with the latest report of the Commons’ transport select committee, which focused specifically on this issue.

According to the report, the situation is far from encouraging, The statistics show that young ‘ ‘ driver have a disproportionate number of accidents. While one in every eight driving licence holders was aged under 25, one in three drivers who died in collisions was under 25. And almost one in two drivers killed at night was under 25.

And according to the government’s estimates nearly 38,800 people are killed or injured each year in collisions involving at least one driver with less than two years’ post-test experience.

As result of such statistics, significant reforms have been suggested, including raising the minimum driving age from 17 to 18 in a bid to reduce the number of road deaths by 1,000 a year.

Ministers are considering a year-long training period for novice drivers.

The report has also called for newly-qualified drivers to be subject to a zero alcohol drink-drive limit for a year after they pass their test, until they gain more experience.

Naturally insurance plays a crucial role in this whole dilemma, yet it is unsure exactly what can be done by the industry in order to solve what everybody seems to accept is a continuing and worrying problem.

Insurance Times asked the three main parties with a vested interest: insurers, the government, and the legal profession what they would like happen.

The legal profession

Royston Smith is managing partner of North-West law firm Scott Rees & Co, which specialises in motor claims. He feels that blaming underwriters over the issue is missing the point. He says that some sort of legislation is needed if we are to seriously expect to improve road safety among young drivers.
“I fail to see how trying to price young drivers out of certain types of car will make the issue any better,” he comments. “What we need is legislation to make sure that people can only drive, say, a one-litre vehicle with anti-lock brakes for a certain period.”
Smith says that what is needed is a cultural shift in attitudes. “In the US people can drive at a younger age to places of education. That seems to me a better way of going about it than what’s being suggested at the moment. Raising the age for driving will only serve to criminalise a new age group.”