Brake road safety

Posted by Tim Williamson on
Brake, the road safety charity, has issued best practice guidance and a fleet survey report for fleet managers in relation to young drivers at work.

The best practice guidance highlights that there is a risk to fleet safety when employing young drivers due to their lack of experience and the fact that young drivers are statistically more likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviour.

The guidance suggests that a graduated driving licence ('GDL') system would help to reduce this risk. The GDL system enables young drivers to gradually build up their skills. This system imposes restrictions aimed at reducing road risk, for example:

  • a minimum learning period;
  • a ban on driving between certain hours at night;
  • a limit on how many passengers (and of what age) can be carried;
  • a low maximum alcohol limit;
  • a maximum driving speed; and
  • compulsory use of 'P' plates, which inform other road users that the vehicle is being driven by a new driver.

A GDL system is currently in use in New Zealand and also some parts of Australia and America. Interestingly, the introduction of such a system in New Zealand led to a 23% reduction in car crash injuries for 15-19 year olds and a 12% reduction for 20-24 year olds.

Traffic fatalities are the most common cause of death for 15-24 year olds worldwide. It is thought that these younger drivers are over represented due to their inexperience, which leads to a failure to cope in unexpected situations and also the fact that they may be distracted by passengers or driving too fast for the conditions.

Within Brake's guidance, Dr Will Murray, a research director at Interactive Driving Systems, outlines some of the problems with young drivers' behaviour, which contribute to death and injury. He notes that young drivers often drive too fast because they underestimate the risks associated with speeding. Young drivers also have the highest level of drink-drive crashes per mile and one in five young road users admit to driving after drinking alcohol. Further, young drivers statistically have more crashes at night than other, more experienced, drivers.

Brake, in conjunction with this guidance, also released a fleet survey report which encourages fleet managers to manage their road risk. This includes being aware of how many fleet drivers are under the age of 25 and keeping a record of the proportion of collisions involving a driver who is under 25. Interestingly, small fleets were less likely to employ young drivers, suggesting that small fleets are less inclined to carry the risk of employing such persons.

At Blake Morgan, we support the notion of a GDL system; however we would suggest that this be used for all drivers. Introducing a continuing professional development type system for all road users would ensure that we all re-evaluate and improve our driving skills on a regular basis. Complacency is another common contributor to road traffic accidents and this could be reduced if we all had to continually develop our driving skills.

Copies of these reports are available free to Fleet Safety Forum subscribers, or can be purchased as a 'young driver at work' pack for £7.50 for non-subscribers. Please email admin@brake.org.uk or call +44 (0)1484 559909 to order.

About the Author

Tim is a leading Criminal and Regulatory lawyer, who defends businesses and individuals under investigation by the police and regulatory bodies and when accused of criminal offences.

Tim Williamson
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