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 Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday June 9, 2003


Sean Duffy in front of his car
One in five of all serious accidents involve drivers under the age of 21

Around 2,000 young drivers are killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads each year. The figure is falling, but is enough being done? Inside Out investigates.

Eleven years ago John Paul was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 17. He was a passenger in the car of another 17 year old who had only recently passed his test.

Since John's death, another 40,000 people have been killed on Britain's roads - a large percentage of those were young drivers.

"Teenagers that are new to driving want to experience what these wonderful motor cars can do," explains PC Alan Rogers of Warwickshire's ASTRA project.

"They do use these country lanes unfortunately to have this experience of speed and they can't cope with it."

John  Paul under an umbrella
John Paul tragically lost his life in a road accident 11 years ago

A growing concern

It is estimated that as many as one in five of all serious road accidents involve drivers under the age of 21. So in Warwickshire the police are keeping a close eye on their young drivers.

Poorly maintained cars pose a risk in themselves. The addition of speed can have devastating results, as Paul Kerr can testify.

In 1992 Paul lost his 17 year old son in a road accident. He now works alongside PC Alan Rogers on a project called ASTRA, to take his message and his son's story around every school in Warwickshire.

ASTRA targets 16 to 17 year olds and drives home the message through advertising campaigns and Paul's own moving account of his son's tragic death.

Driving the message home

The sessions are often emotionally charged.

"We have had students go out because they are too emotionally affected by it," says PC Rogers.

Car wreck
Disturbing images help to drive the message home to pupils

"They go away much better for it because they suddenly appreciate that it can happen. It does happen."

The sessions have the desired affect on pupils. Students and staff are forced to consider what kind of drivers they are, or will become.

"It's really, really shocking," says one pupil. "You don't really realise the magnitude of what can happen through speeding."

Money matters

Another way that young drivers are being targeted is through their wallets.

Eighteen year old Sean Duffy has an insurance quote of £3,000 - a quote that can be reduced through the Pass Plus scheme.

Although Sean has passed his test, he is not ripping up his 'L' plates just yet. Instead, Sean is continuing lessons to improve his driving skills.

Sean Duffy driving
Sean may have passed his test but his 'L' plates are staying on

"When you look at him, he looks like a boy racer," says driving instructor Mark Hudson.

"He's got a good attitude to driving. He is just a pleasure to be with."

Mark certainly believes that Sean's skills are improving, but what about his insurers?

Testing times

Insurance Connections use a psychological attitude test as a means of identifying safe young drivers.

"You'd think like any kind of novice, the problem is they don't know what they're doing," says Professor David Clarke, Psychologist at Nottingham University.

"In fact, in about half the cases we study, there's no shortage of skill… the problem is they do a whole bunch of silly things that anyone could chose not to do. That's what we call the attitude factors.

The test has a one in five pass rate so it's not easy.

Sean scores highly, 15 out of 16, but it is not enough to be insured by Insurance Connections who demand full marks.

PC Alan Rogers
Deaths on the road have fallen by a third in the last 10 years

Positive steps

In the last decade deaths on the road have fallen by a third. This is in part due to a more rigorous driving test and adjusting the points system. Six points is all it takes to receive a ban in the first two years of driving.

For those who have suffered tragedy however, this is simply not enough.

Paul Kerr has been campaigning for the nationwide use of schemes similar to ASTRA. So far the government have refused.

"I want projects like ASTRA to be taken right across the country, because I know in my heart of hearts it saves lives."

While fatalities continue on Britain's road, Paul Kerr will continue campaigning. One death on the road is still one too many.

See also ...

BBC: Motoring - Safe Driving
BBC: News - Teenage drivers 'die showing off'

On the rest of the web
Institute of Advanced Motoring
Pass Plus
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Tammy Marwood
I believe the advert shown on the programme should be aired in this country by all drivers. It made me feel physically sick and if it doesn't stop people from drink driving then nothing will.

Margaret Goldsmith
Eight years ago this weekend, my 25 year old daughter Rachel died as a result of a car accident, the other driver took a corner too fast, lost control of his car and went straight into her.

She died in the QE hospital. This accident was not her fault and even after a lenthy court case brought by the crown prosectuion service due to a technicality he got away with taking a young persons life, and devistation her whole family.

The victims of crime always come off worse and the standard of driving is appaling - perhaps something would happen if Mr.Blaires loved one was killed.

We must do something to improve driving and make penalities tighter!

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