Welsh report calls for Graduated Driving Licence scheme.

Newly qualified young motorists should be banned from driving at night, carrying a certain number of passengers and after drinking any amount of alcohol to reduce the number of fatal road crashes, a new report has recommended.

Public Health Wales’ child death review, which looked at deaths of people aged 13–17  in motor vehicles between 2006-2010, has called on the Welsh Government to lobby the UK Government for changes to the licensing of young drivers.

The report calls for the introduction of a graduated driving licence which could put limitations on or ban newly qualified young drivers from driving at night and drinking alcohol. It could also limit how many passengers can be taken in the car.

Similar schemes already exist in places such as New Zealand and parts of the United States.

Public Health Wales has called for young drivers to be banned from driving at nightThe report looked at factors which could have prevented the 34 teenage deaths that occurred between 2006-2010 in cars, including loss of control that could have been due to inexperience of driving, failure to wear a seat belt and drink driving.

Of the vehicles in which there were fatalities, the driver was over the legal blood alcohol limit in five of the 22 cases and 13 of the 34 teen deaths were in vehicles with five or six casualties.

Driving at night was also identified as a key factor in these deaths, with 19 out 28 crash reports occurring between 9pm and 5am.

The review has also called on the Welsh Government to consider a public awareness campaign to highlight these risks to young people.

The report said: “One intervention that the Welsh Government may lobby for is graduated driver licensing or constituent elements which address limitations on driving during darkness, lower alcohol tolerance levels, limitations on passenger carriage and requirements for the learning process to include driving in specific settings or for a minimum number of hours.

“The Welsh Government should actively pursue the implementation of interventions such as graduated driving licensing to reduce fatalities and casualties of children and young people in vehicles. This may be through working within existing powers, seeking further or additional powers, or lobbying the UK Government for change.”

Dr Sarah Jones, one of the report’s authors and a consultant in environmental health protection for Public Health Wales, said: “The number of deaths occurring in teenagers in cars is of great concern to us, especially when our review showed that the factors leading to those deaths could have been avoided.

“In other countries it has been proven that road crashes involving teenagers can be reduced by imposing licensing conditions on young drivers such as a total ban on drinking alcohol or carrying teenage passengers.

“We have called on the Welsh Government to lobby the UK Government to consider similar licensing restrictions in Wales and hope that if this proves feasible, we may in future see fewer young people dying in car crashes.”

The full annual report shows that in 2011, there were 222 child deaths in Wales, with 61% of these in children below the age of one.  These were mostly caused by either congenital anomalies or perinatal conditions (medical conditions causing death within the first year of life).

The report also details ways of leaning from child deaths related to suicide and events of undetermined intent, sudden death in infancy – particularly where there was co-sleeping with babies, asthma, firearms, and children driving quad bikes and mini motorbikes.

Gwenda Thomas, deputy Minister for Social Services, said: “The death of a child, whatever the circumstances, is a particularly tragic event and one that affects family, friends and the whole community. Understanding the circumstances surrounding a child’s death is one way to help people make sense of the tragedy, and may help prevent the deaths of other children.

“This is why the Welsh Government supports the development of the child death review programme in Wales. I welcome the publication of these report. This important work in helping to identify patterns and causes of child deaths will further ensure effective safeguarding arrangements are in place to protect children in Wales. The Welsh Government will respond formally to the report in due course.”

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dbda is a corporate social responsibility consultancy embracing education and safety in the community. We are privileged to work with a large number of blue chip corporate clients, Government organisations, charitable bodies, Institutes and local authorities. We also have a network of schools, professional bodies, associations, universities and partners, with whom we regularly work in collaboration.

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