How many accidents are caused by younger drivers?



It perhaps goes without saying that with age comes experience – and sadly, that’s something younger drivers can’t achieve until they’ve had a good few years behind the wheel.


Without basic practical driving experience, younger drivers are naturally less equipped to spot potential hazards; nor do they possess the requisite knowledge to deal with unexpected situations as and when they happen.


In a cohort study of learner and novice drivers undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory in 1995, it was proven that crash risk can only reduce over time and certainly with experience; thus making it apparent that those drivers who start driving at a younger age are much better placed to reduce the overall level of risk in any given driving scenario.


As car accident solicitors, Smith Jones takes a look at how many accidents are caused by younger drivers and the impact it has on UK stats.


How many accidents are caused by younger drivers?


According to the UK road safety charity, Brake, younger drivers are at a much higher risk of crashing their car than older and more experienced drivers.


Whilst drivers aged between 17 and 19 only make up 1.5% of UK driving licence holders, they’re involved in 9% of fatal or serious crashes across the UK – which is certainly quite a major concern.


Further data collated on younger drivers also shows that:


  • Drivers aged between 16 and 19 are a third more likely to die in a crash compared to drivers aged between 40 and 49 (source: Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2014 by the Department for Transport)


  • 23% of drivers aged between 18 and 24, crash within two years of passing their driving test – so that’s almost a quarter, or one in four of drivers (source: Young drivers at risk, The AA, 2012)


  • Young male drivers are involved in many more crashes than female drivers (source: Department for Transport in the same report as mentioned previously)


Why are accidents caused by younger drivers?

There are numerous reasons why accidents are caused by younger drivers including (but not limited to) the following key factors:




  1. Over-confidence


Whilst confidence is usually considered to be a positive trait, over-confidence can have the absolute reverse effect.


Over-confidence generally becomes apparent when the new driver might well believe they’re in control of their driving ability when in actual fact, they’re not. In turn, this leads to unnecessary risk taking and ultimately, a much higher risk of causing an accident. In a longitudinal study of calibration in young novice drivers produced by SWOV in 2010, research found that younger drivers who demonstrated over-confidence during self-assessment of their skills were much more likely to crash in their first two years of driving than those who were less confident about their driving ability.


  1. Poor assessments of potential hazards


According to the publication “Young novice drivers:  careless or clueless?” produced by Accident Analysis and Prevention 2003, whilst some hazards on the road are fairly obvious, only experienced drivers have the foresight to notice hidden hazards and then react in time. Consequently, younger drivers tend to pay less attention, have reduced visual awareness and are much less able to judge appropriate speeds for a given situation.


  1. Risk taking


Risk taking can happen for a number of reasons – not least of all to “impress” passengers, who typically may not have passed their own driving test yet. According to the UK charity ‘Brake’, younger drivers are much more likely to take much more serious risks, such as speeding, overtaking blind, driving whilst under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and not wearing seat belts. From a medical viewpoint, this may well be because the front lobe – the part of the brain which helps control impulses and assesses risk – isn’t fully developed until a person reaches their mid-20’s.


  1. Speeding


In a study undertaken by Devon County Council in 2010, it was revealed that excess or inappropriate speed play a key part in crashes involving young drivers in the UK.  And this specific problem certainly isn’t geographically restricted since a third of fatal young driver crashes in the USA are also speed related.


  1. Drink and drug driving


It’s commonly accepted that a lot of things happen when a person approaches their late teens – including the opportunity to consume alcohol and start driving.  Not a great combination given that both are brand new concepts and tend to be explored with much enthusiasm.


Unfortunately, drivers in their 20’s have by far the highest rates of both drink and drug related driving crashes, with the majority of such incidents being caused by male drivers.


In 2012, the RAC produced a publication entitled “Young drug-drivers’ on the rise” which found that almost one in ten of young drivers (aged between 17 and 24) readily admitted to having driven whilst under the influence of drugs.


  1. Driver distractions


Whilst driver distractions certainly aren’t restricted to the younger age groups, evidence suggests that young drivers are much more likely to use mobile phones whilst driving – including the use of social media for either live feeds or ‘selfies’.


  1. Carrying passengers


Research shows that drivers aged 17 are up to four times more likely to die in a crash whilst carrying young passengers than whilst driving alone, although 62% less likely to when carrying older adult passengers.  This tends to suggest, then, that peer pressure plays a huge part in accidents caused by younger drivers.


  1. Driving at night


Although it’s a statistic often overlooked, younger drivers have a much higher percentage of crashes in the evenings and early mornings – and particularly with male drivers.  In fact, in the UK alone, male drivers aged between 17 and 20 are seven times more likely to crash than all male drivers but between the hours of 2am and 5am with their overall level of risk being a massive 17 times higher.


  1. Using unfit vehicles


Unfortunately – and primarily due to general lack of experience – younger drivers are also more likely to drive an unfit vehicle, and often without being aware of it.  Again, this is due to the fact that younger drivers are much more likely to driver cheaper and older vehicles, usually to keep insurance costs down.




With all these facts and figures in mind, it seems quite apparent that younger drivers are responsible for a considerable number of road accidents across the UK.


In an attempt to address the problem, various recommendations are currently being put forward to the Government, including a ‘graduated driver’ scheme, whereby new drivers can build up their driving skills and experience through a more staged and structured approach than the one currently in place.


Much criticism has also been made towards the fact that the current UK driving test makes no provision whatsoever for motorway driving; nor does it educate young drivers on the apparent risks of being on the road.


Consequently, until such time as more positive changes are made, it seems very little can be done about reducing the number of car accidents caused by the sheer inexperience of younger drivers on Britain’s roads.