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Motoring groups welcome report

Motoring and road safety groups have welcomed a Government-commissioned report on young drivers that could cut accident casualties by more than 4,000 a year.

From transport research group TRL the report recommends teenagers should not be allowed to take their driving test until they are 18 rather than the current age of 17.

They would have to have a 12-month "learner stage" beginning at 17 with a requirement for at least 100 hours of day-time and 20 hours of night-time supervised practice.

Having passed the test, they would then get a probationary licence and would have to display a green "P" plate.

Restrictions placed on them would include a night- time driving curfew running from 10pm to 5am (unless accompanied by a passenger aged over 30) and a ban on carrying passengers under 30 years old for all novice drivers aged under 30.

The report said that a ban on any mobile phone use (including hands-free) and a lower alcohol limit should be considered for young drivers.

After the 12-month probationary licence, drivers would automatically graduate to a full licence and unrestricted driving.

TRL said that this graduated driver licensing system could result in annual savings of 4,471 casualties and a saving in cost terms of £224 million.

It added that these figures only relate to 17-19 year olds and that if the system was applied to all new drivers the cut in casualties and costs would be "even greater".

More than one fifth of deaths on Britain's roads in 2011 involved drivers aged 17 to 24, and around 10% of novice drivers are caught committing an offence within their probationary period.

The report is now being considered by the Government which is due to publish a Green Paper later this year.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at road safety charity Brake, said: "Through our support services for bereaved and injured crash victims, we witness the suffering and devastation that results from crashes involving young, inexperienced drivers.

"We wholeheartedly welcome this report, which is further recognition of the compelling case for graduated driver licensing. We urge the Government to act swiftly and decisively by committing to a full system of graduated driver licensing, to help reduce the danger young drivers pose to themselves and others."

Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "Young people are four times more likely to die in a road accident than as a result of drink or drugs. Yet as a society we seem to turn a blind eye to the carnage. If this was any other area of public health there would be an outcry.

"Circumstances conspire against young drivers. Their youth and lack of experience create a deadly mix which means one in five will have an accident within the first six months of passing their test.

"Our own research shows that putting certain restrictions on young drivers allows them to rapidly build up live-saving experience in the safest possible way. Putting a firm number on casualty reduction is hard because of the pick and mix approach to graduate licensing. But the evidence suggests that a full package of measures could reduce fatalities by anything up to 60%.

"We should all have an interest in preserving young drivers' lives rather than exposing them to undue risk at the stage of their driving careers where they are most vulnerable. This is about ensuring their long term safety and mobility. Not curtailing it."

AA president Edmund King said: "There are many proposals in the report with merit and which are advocated by the AA.

"Road safety on the national curriculum is something we have long campaigned for and I am pleased to see it being recommended here. Likewise we would also support learner drivers being allowed on motorways with their instructor.

"However, at the extreme end this report could be seen as just recommending taking novice drivers off the road by regulation and restriction rather than helping them develop the right attitudes and skills to provide them with the mobility they need.

"Rather than compensating the proposed significant new restrictions through earlier access to the roads under supervision the authors propose delaying and extending the driving development process to the point where even some 30 years olds will be restricted in whom they can carry as passengers.

"This academic report has raised a number of options for debate and careful consideration. The question is how many of its recommendations will be acceptable to the Government and public at large."

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "Young drivers drive around 5% of all the miles driven in Britain, but are involved in about 20% of the crashes where someone is killed or seriously injured.

"We are committed to improving safety for young drivers and reducing their insurance costs. That is why we are publishing a Green Paper later in the year setting out our proposals. This will include a discussion about how people learn to drive.

"The research report has been produced by TRL under commission by the DfT and it, among other things, has informed the Green Paper."

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