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Sunday, January 18, 2009

From knife crime to road deaths - young people in danger

With nine children convicted of knife crime charges each week and five-to-six people dying every seven days from stabbings, the statistics sound very alarming.

It surprised me then to discover there is a worse killer leading to the death of many more of our young people. While this is a knife and gun crime blog, I thought it useful to highlight the number of killings on UK roads.

I think a using a prominent public issue like knife crime to highlight another killer of young lives is acceptable when the ultimate aim is to save lives. Hopefully, more will be done to save lives!

The fact is young drivers are an extremely vulnerable group on UK roads. In my work, I develop and write for websites of insurance companies and there are some horrendous facts and figures I have come across that parents and young people, as well as public bodies such as the police, really ought to weigh up when thinking about new drivers taking to the road for the first time:

FACT: About 13 young people die each week in road crashes.
FACT: Some 3,000 young people aged under 25 are killed or seriously injured each year.
FACT: About 40,000 deaths and injuries in crashes involve drivers with less than two years experience.
FACT: One in five new drivers aged between 17 and 19 crash within the first year of passing their test.
FACT: Young people aged between 17 and 20 are TEN TIMES as likely to be killed or seriously injured as more experienced motorists.
FACT: Traffic crashes are the single greatest killer of those aged 15-24.
FACT: Up to 30% of fatal road crashes involve a young driver.
FACT: Young drivers are twice as likely to die in a road crash when carrying passengers of their own age, with one young passenger making an accident twice as likely, two or more making it five times as likely.
FACT: 26% of convictions for causing death by dangerous driving are against under 21 year olds.
FACT: Research shows that accident liability is reduced by nearly half after two years' driving experience.

There is no need to exaggerate the problem - these statistics about young drivers make for a huge, scary and intimidating list of depressing - and alarming - findings, probably enough to make many parents and youngsters, upon reflection, think twice about whether learning to drive is worth the risk.

What can be done? I've seen a few courses that improve young people's driving skills (but not enough, sadly). Many parents would probably have little hesitation paying out a little extra money that might help save their children's lives.

This year I noticed the Institute for Advanced Motoring (IAM) are offering young people a special Christmas promotion - advanced driving lessons and membership of their organisation by signing up for a 'Skill for Life for Drivers' course costing just £70 - see the following website: www.iam.org.uk.

If I were a young driver, or parent of a son or daughter who's learning or just learned to drive, this seems a small price to pay for probably saving lives. Forget buying the latest video games or gadget, save lives this Christmas and sign up for one of these courses.

It is also perhaps worth turning considerable attention to insurance companies that charge huge amounts for young people's car cover (the average annual car insurance bill for young people can be well over £1000; for some, astonishingly, several thousands of pounds).

It seems quite irresponsible to just keep raking in profits without establishing a better system of young driver training. In addition, more focus on this issue by the police and local authorities would help, not just focusing almost solely on speeding and drink-driving - just as for knife crime and other violence, they should have young people more in their thoughts... they are our future.

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