UK

Coroner Calls For New Restrictions On New Drivers After Death Of Teenager In Road Crash

15/01/2013 19:50 GMT

A coroner has called on the government to impose new restrictions on recently qualified drivers following the death of a teenager in a road crash.

Michael Rose, coroner for Taunton in Somerset, has written to the Department for Transport after 17-year-old Bethany Adams was killed when the car she was a passenger in lost control.

The driver, also 17, was inexperienced on the road and was speeding at the time, the coroner said.

Mr Rose said he had written to the government department following the inquest last year to discover how many road crashes were caused by new drivers, but had yet to receive a reply.

On Tuesday, he sent a fresh letter to the DfT, calling for reduced maximum speed limits for new drivers, and hefty penalties for those who break them.

Mr Rose said: "Following the inquest, I stated that I would consider making a request to the (transport minister) to compel recently qualified drivers to carry a distinguishing letter on the car they were travelling in and to restrict their speed to 50mph on open roads and 60mph on motorways for a period of one year.

"(Also), to enforce the law to consider imposing an obligatory six points penalty, meaning that if a driver was twice in breach of such regulations he/she would be banned from driving.

"I did however state that I would first write to the Department for Transport to ascertain the extent of the problem, and in particular find out how many accidents were caused by recently qualified drivers. Despite their assistance I have been unable to obtain such figures and wonder if they are kept although the statistics for 17 to 23-year-old drivers reveal a large number of fatal and serious accidents.

"I have therefore decided to make a formal request to the minister under rule 43 (which gives enhanced powers to coroners to prevent further deaths).

"It is hoped the minister will accept my recommendations which in themselves are not revolutionary, but merely bringing in restrictions that are already in place in a number of advanced nations."

Under current rules, any motorist building up six or more penalty points within the first two years of passing their first driving test will automatically lose their licence.

It means that, under Mr Rose's proposals, a new driver could be banned from driving should they exceed the lower speed limit.

Responding to Mr Rose's comment, Road Safety minister Stephen Hammond said in a statement this evening: "I have every sympathy with the family involved in this case and I have read the coroner's letter carefully.

"Improving the safety and ability of young drivers is a key priority for the government, which is why we have made the driving test more realistic.

"As part of the ongoing work to reduce the risks of accidents involving young drivers, the department is considering several options to ensure that newly-qualified drivers are properly prepared and drive safely.

"We will continue to work with young people, the insurance industry and other key partners on the development of measures to improve the safety of young drivers."