Intended for healthcare professionals


Crashes involving young drivers

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 11 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h659

Re: Crashes involving young drivers

We agree with Jones et al that a graduated driver licensing should be introduced as a key element of a safer, healthier, and more sustainable transport strategy.(1) Young people should have the right to safety. It surely makes sense that when they begin driving they only have to negotiate relatively safe conditions that involve lower risk, and as they develop they are gradually introduced to more complex driving situations.(2)

The case for action is strong: for example, the over-representation of young novice drivers in road collisions is well documented.(3,4,5) Between 2008 and 2012, across England, there were 2,316 deaths and 35,783 serious injuries among road users under the age of 25 years.(4) The economic case for action is also considerable and besides the costs to individuals and families there are also considerable costs for the NHS, police and local authorities.

There is strong, consistent international evidence in relation to the effectiveness of graduated driver licensing programmes and their potential public health benefits.(2,3,5). The Cochrane review, for example, evaluated various types licensing and reported positive findings, with reductions for all types of crashes among all teenage drivers.(2) The authors suggested that future research should concentrate on trying to determine the relative impact of different components. Studies published since this 2011 review also support the effectiveness of graduated driver licensing.(5)

Besides evidence of effectiveness, the case for graduated driver licensing is further strengthened as it has support from a range of groups and individuals including: public health, the insurance industry, the road safety sector, the police, and road safety charities.(3,6,7) But what is missing is government support.

When introducing a graduated driver licensing scheme, it is important that we do not forget the needs of young people. They should be able to travel freely for education, work and leisure. This can be a particular issue in certain rural communities. Local authorities have key roles to play here in encouraging: the development of safer cycling and walking routes, and the greater use of public transport.

Given the huge cost of injuries and deaths to health services, economies, and people’s lives, wherever they are throughout the world, more must be done to prevent unintentional injury through high quality health education.(8) Only so much can be done to make environments safer; young people need the knowledge and skills to understand and manage risk in order to take some responsibility for their own safety. Only then will these figures improve.(8)

In conclusion, we strongly believe that the government should create evidence based public health policies and, in relation to graduated driver licensing there is a convincing case for immediate action. The evidence indicates that there would be considerable casualty savings for young people, their passengers, and other road users.

1) Jones S, McKenna F, Stradling S, Christie N, Mullarkey T, Davies D, et al. Crashes involving young drivers. BMJ 2015;350:h659

2) Russell KF, Vandermeer B, Hartling L. Graduated driver licensing for reducing motor vehicle crashes among young drivers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011;10:CD003300.

3) Peden M, Ozanne-Smith J, Hyder A, et al. World report on child injury prevention. Geneva: World Health Organisation, 2008.

4) Public Health England Reducing unintentional injuries on the roads among children and young people under 25 years. London: Public Health England, 2014.

5) Kinnear N, Lloyd L, Helman S, Husband P, Scoons J, Jones S, et al. Novice drivers: evidence review and evaluation. pre-driver training, graduated driver licensing and the new drivers act. project report RPN2553. Transport Research Laboratory, 2013.

6) RAC Foundation. Young driver safety. A public attitude survey. RAC Foundation, 2014.

7) Jones S, McKenna F, Stradling S, Christie N, Mullarkey T, Davies D, et al. Green paper on safety of young drivers has stalled. BMJ 2014:348:g476.

8) Lloyd J. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education 2013;51(3) 169-170.

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 February 2015
Michael Craig Watson
Associate Professor of Public Health
Dr John Lloyd (Immediate Past President, Institute of Health Promotion and Education).
University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham. NG7 2HA