Thursday, November 21, 2013

A new report by the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK has re-confirmed the global understanding that young and inexperienced drivers are a significant threat to road safety. Young drivers are involved in about 20% of the crashes in the UK where someone is killed or seriously injured.

In South Africa, and according to a recent report, young, inexperienced drivers are particularly dangerous in the first two to three years after getting their licence.

Worldwide, the contributing factors to the high number of road accidents involving young people are the same; youth and inexperience. South Africa is no different. Here, young drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to crash – largely due to inexperience. They also have a greater propensity to speed, run red lights and drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

According to Amanda Thomas, General Manager of website comparison engine,, “Experience has shown that driving risk reduces with age - older drivers have fewer accidents than young or new drivers. All insurers charge premiums according to a sliding scale, where an 18-year-old driver will pay the highest premium and the premium loading reduces over the years. According to our data, young drivers between the ages of 18 and 25 can expect to pay about 10% more for car insurance.”

“With this in mind, more should be done to entrench safer driving amongst South Africa’s young drivers,” says Thomas.

Based on the Transport Research Laboratory’s report, the UK government is considering much stricter rules, and a higher legal driving age limit, for young people qualifying for driver’s licences. Not only will 17 year olds have to spend at least a year learning how to drive before they can take their driver’s test at 18 years old, but they will also have to spend another year on “probation”, before they can qualify for a full, unrestricted licence at the age of 19.

During the learner stage, young drivers will have to total at least 100 hours of daytime driving and 20 hours of night-time practice under supervision. During the probation year, after passing their test, drivers will face numerous restrictions. For instance, they will be subject to a “no driving” curfew between 22:00 and 05:00 unless there is a passenger over the age of 30 in the car with them. They will also have to display a green “P” plate indicating that they are still in probation phase. Other proposals under consideration for young drivers are a ban on all mobile phone use, including hands-free phones, and a lower alcohol limit.

This approach, known as Graduated Driver Licensing, has been evidenced internationally as effective at reducing collisions involving young, novice drivers in countries including in Canada, New Zealand, and some USA states.

“Imposing similar restrictions could help curb negligent or impaired driving amongst novice drivers in South Africa where accidents by young drivers occur mostly between 21:00 and 06:00 on weekends.

“It also may assist in reducing the high premiums that young drivers pay. Right now, the only way young drivers can reduce their car insurance premiums is by fitting their car with additional safety features such as a tracking device or an alarm.

“Perhaps it is time for South Africa too to re-look at the criteria for qualifying for a driver’s licence,” concludes Thomas.

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