Sunday, 19 May 2024
Sunday, 19 May 2024

Bereaved parents demand Government action on deaths from young driver crashes

A group of 40 bereaved parents are demanding immediate action to tackle the unacceptable and disproportionately high number of young driver and passenger deaths on UK roads.

The parents, whose sons and daughters were all killed by cars driven by young drivers, have formed a campaigning group called Forget-me-not Families Uniting, calling on the Government to save young lives.

For decades, Governments have been repeatedly presented with evidence on how to reduce the huge risks facing young, novice drivers aged 17-24 and their passengers, but they have all failed to act. 

In Great Britain, young drivers between the ages of 17–24 are involved in 24% of all collisions resulting in death or serious injury, even though this group account for just 7% of the total driving population.

In 2022, 4,935 people were killed or seriously injured in crashes involving at least one young driver – this includes other road users of all ages, such as people travelling in separate cars or pedestrians.

Data from transport safety studies, car insurance companies and driving charities over many years has shown that drivers under the age of 24 are more likely to have crashes when they are carrying similar-aged passengers in their car, when driving at night and when driving conditions are difficult.

In response to this evidence, several countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many US States, have successfully introduced Graduated Driving Licensing, which restricts the number of similar-aged passengers a young driver can carry in the car and night time driving.

In these countries, there has been a reduction in deaths and serious injuries in crashes involving young drivers by between 20% and 40%, following the introduction of Graduated Driving Licensing.

Bereaved parents demand Government action on deaths from young driver crashes

Forget-me-not Families Uniting is calling for:

  • The introduction of Graduated Driving Licensing to reduce road death and serious injury
  • An expert panel to advise the Government on how Graduated Driving Licensing in the UK should look

The group is rapidly growing and currently consists of 40 sets of parents, including:

  • Sharron and Mike Huddleston, of Cumbria – Their 18-year-old daughter, Caitlin, was killed in a crash on a rural road in Cumbria in July 2017. She was a passenger in a car, driven by her 18-year-old friend, who also died, who had passed her test just four months previously. The crash was put down to the inexperience of the newly qualified driver. Sharron has been campaigning for Graduated Driving Licensing ever since.
  • Ian and Juliette Greenwood, of West Yorkshire – Their 12-year-old daughter, Alice, was killed when a car driven by a young speeding driver collided with her mother’s car in 2008. Alice was killed and her Mum and sister were both seriously injured. The young driver and his passenger in the other vehicle also died.
  • Chris and Nicole Taylor, of Northamptonshire – Their 18-year-old daughter, Rebecca, was killed in 2008 after dropping her sister off at school. She lost control of her car after hitting a large pool of standing water that was caused by a drain blocked with detritus.
  • Peter and Ondine Campbell, of Northamptonshire – Their 19-year-old daughter, Ferne, was killed as a passenger in 2016, when her friend, who had passed her driving test six weeks earlier, lost control of the car. Her friend survived the collision.
  • Joanna Alkir, of North Wales – Her 17-year-old daughter, Olivia, was killed as a passenger in a car being driven by a 17-year-old, who had passed his test just the day before. He crashed into another vehicle head-on at 80mph while racing his friend, in 2019.
  • John and Karen Rowlands, of County Durham – Their 18-year-old son, Andrew, was killed when the car he was travelling in, which was being driven by a 16-year-old, flipped over and crashed in 2020. The vehicle was illegal and unroadworthy and had been bought the day before for just £100 without a single check.
  • Jenny and Keith Challen, of Leicestershire – Their 17-year-old daughter, Emily, was killed as a passenger, when her 18-year-old friend, who was driving, drove her car into the back of a lorry in 2013. The driver and the other two passengers survived.
  • Glenn and Michelle Skivington, of Buckinghamshire – Their 17-year-old son, Luca, was killed as a passenger when his 17-year-old friend, who had passed his driving test just six weeks before, lost control of his powerful car on a bend in 2019.
  • Mandy and Mark Ogden, of Cheshire – Their 17-year-old daughter, Georgia, was killed in 2020, as a passenger in a young driver’s car. The inexperienced driver pulled out into the path of an oncoming HGV.
  • Sam and Shaun Robinson, of Hampshire – Their 17-year-old son, Billy, was a passenger in a car driven by an 18-year-old, who had recently passed their test. The car was overloaded with other young people and crashed at speed in the early hours of the morning. After almost three months in intensive care, Billy died from his injuries.
  • Patsy and Robbin Suffield, of Warwickshire – Their 18-year-old son, Neil, was killed as a passenger, along with four of his teenage friends in 1986, in a 17-year-old driver’s car. They went on to campaign for many years for a safer driving licensing system in the UK.

The parents’ calls come soon after the UK’s leading experts in transport safety, health and psychology signed an open letter calling on national politicians to commit to taking action on proven, evidence-based measures to save young lives on the UK’s roads. It was published last month in the Guardian.

Forget-me-not Families Uniting was formed by Sharron Huddleston, Chris and Nicole Taylor and Dr Ian Greenwood after years of campaigning for the introduction of a Graduated Driving Licensing system in the UK, following the deaths of their daughters.

Mrs Huddleston said:

“Enough is enough. How many more young people need to die before action is taken? We can’t sit back any longer and just watch as more and more young people are killed or seriously injured in road collisions.

“Our group was formed as a means of reaching out to the Government collectively, as individual contacts resulted in no action. I had been campaigning for years and nobody has listened, despite all of the overwhelming evidence that was being put to them by leading experts in this field.

“Our message to the Government is simple – listen to us, listen to the experts and learn from other countries, who have seen a huge reduction in young driver and passenger deaths after introducing Graduated Driving Licensing for young novice drivers.

“We all want and deserve a serious conversation with the Government. We want to know what they are going to do about this huge problem. If they won’t introduce a Graduated Driving Licensing system, why? And if not that, then what?

“They run young driver marketing campaigns, but this alone will never be enough to change mindsets and behaviours, or reduce road collisions. We need to go much further than that. And we owe it to young people and their families to do so much more.”

Dr Ian Greenwood, who has a PhD in road safety policy said:

“I am delighted that so many academics and experts have supported this letter – the ten whose names were published and the 14 others who supported it. They are experts in criminology, law, medicine, psychology, public health, and transport safety: all disciplines which impact directly on young driver safety. The evidence for Graduated Driving Licensing is strong and has been available for many years, and I hope politicians will listen to the experts and act.

“Graduated Driving Licensing was first debated in the House of Commons in 1993, and my (forever) 12-year-old daughter was killed in a young driver crash in 2008. Had politicians acted before then, or over the decades since, and not simply debated, Alice might very well be looking forward to her 28th birthday this year.

“Between 20% and 40% of other bereaved parents might still have their children too. Politicians need to decide whether they will continue to ignore the evidence and calls from parents, or finally take action.”

MPs have discussed the increased risk of young driver crashes since at least 1993 and successive UK governments have failed to introduce any type of licensing changes, citing concerns around the restriction of young people’s freedom.

However, a report in 2018 by the Transport Research Laboratory concluded that Graduated Driving Licensing not only saves lives and reduces serious injuries, but also saves millions of pounds.

In 2022, experts at the RAC Foundation confirmed that Graduated Driving Licensing improves road safety while having minimal impact on new drivers’ access to education, employment and social activities.

Forget-me-not Families Uniting has the backing of RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, Brake, the road safety charity and The Road Victims’ Trust.

The charities said:

“We’re proud to come together to back these families and this growing movement. These families deserve to be heard and we hope to see action finally taken by the Government.

“We welcome other families to join this campaign and help us to stop these unnecessary deaths and serious injuries, just as other countries have.”

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