1 in 5 teen drivers admit driving on drink or drugs

One in five 17-18 year-old drivers (19%) admits drink-driving and one in fourteen (7%) drives on drugs, according to a survey released today by national road safety charity Brake and leading motor insurer Co-operative Insurance (CIS).

The UK-wide survey revealed that young people are not only gambling with their own lives, but that of their peers: a third (32%) of the 3,118 teens surveyed said they had been a passenger with a drunk or drugged driver.

Latest Government figures show that EVERY DAY four 17-18 year-old car occupants are killed or seriously injured in crashes in Great Britain - 10% of all car occupants killed and seriously injured. [1]

Last month, Brake backed a report from Parliament’s influential Transport Select Committee (TSC), which recommended a raft of Government measures to prevent young driver crashes [see editor’s notes]. There indications that a consultation paper could be published as early as this autumn proposing a revamp of driver training and testing and a zero alcohol limit for newly-qualified drivers. Government statistics show that per mile driven, drivers aged 17-19 are 14 times more likely to be involved in a drink-drive crash resulting in injury than 35-49 year-olds. [2]

The shocking survey results and death toll have prompted leading insurer CIS to back Brake’s calls for Government action on young driver safety and to call on the insurance industry to work together to examine ways to incentivise novice drivers if a system of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is introduced. GDL, supported by the Association of British Insurers and introduced in several other countries, features many of the measures recently recommended by the TSC. GDL breaks the learning to drive process into stages, and typically includes restrictions on novice drivers to limit exposure to high-risk situations, such as a ban on carrying young passengers and zero alcohol limit.

Brake and CIS are also backing the TSC’s recommendation that road safety and driver education become part of the National Curriculum, to help address the attitudes of teenagers towards driving before they start learning to drive.

Brake in partnership with CIS are already going into schools and colleges with their ‘Too Young to Die’ survival guide (voted 2007 Corporate Social Responsibility project of the year at this year’s British Insurance Awards), which spells out the deadly risks of drink and drugged driving, speeding and not belting up.  The comprehensive FREE pack for educators includes a hard-hitting DVD and accompanying booklets, both supported by CIS, plus a Department for Transport-backed PowerPoint. (Follow links to view an on-line version of the booklet and clips of the DVD).

Brake and CIS’s message to young drivers is simple: never drink or take drugs and drive – not even one drink or one joint. As well as showing young people the effects of drink and drugs on driving and the tragic consequences of driving impaired, the Too Young to Die pack also includes information about the dangers of driving the morning after drinking. Click here for the facts on how long different drinks stay in your system, contained in the pack.

As well as calling for GDL, both Brake and CIS would welcome the following measures to tackle drink and drugged driving:

    * A lower drink drive limit for ALL drivers, from the current 80mg per 100ml of blood to a maximum of 50mg per 100ml of blood, in line with EU recommendations, or ideally to 20mg per 100ml of blood;
    * Targeted, roadside drink-drive testing (at the moment, the police can only test drivers following a moving traffic offence or if they have reason to believe a driver has been drinking);
    * Greater investment in dedicated traffic police, which have been falling in number. [3]
    * Development and type-approval of a drug-testing device that can be used effectively by police at the roadside, in random tests.

Jools Townsend, head of education at Brake, said: “Every day young drivers kill and seriously injure themselves and others through a deadly combination of inexperience and taking risks like drink and drug driving. Brake and CIS’s Too Young to Die campaign is promoting life-saving messages to teenagers – such as the fact that even small amounts of alcohol or drugs can have catastrophic consequences behind the wheel. But decisive Government action to tackle young driver crashes is long overdue. We are demanding that the Government moves forward with an overhaul of driver training and testing, and introduces graduated driver licensing, which has been highly effective in cutting casualties in other countries. We also need compulsory road safety education in schools and much greater investment in traffic policing, to show that driving that threatens lives will not be tolerated.”

David Neave, CIS Director of General Insurance, said: “Clearly too many young drivers are risking their lives and the lives of others by driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs. More needs to be done to educate young drivers on the horrific consequences this can have on people’s lives.  Both the introduction of road safety education into the national curriculum and the introduction of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) would play an important role in reducing the death toll.  As a responsible insurer our role isn’t just about picking up the pieces when dealing with the resultant claims.  Our message is clear – let’s stop the growing number of fatalities by sending out the message that even one drink or a relatively small amount of drugs in your system is too much. Young drivers need to act responsibly and not bow to peer pressure.  The decision not to drive on drink or drugs could be the most important decision you will ever make”.


Case studies

Jane Evason and Chris Lee are both available for interview. Contact Dianne Ferreira at Brake on 01484 559909.

Chris Lee was just 16 when he crashed his sister-in-law’s car into a lamp post after an afternoon drinking at a party. He was hurled 100 feet through the windscreen and it took medical teams 12 years to repair the horrific damage after he broke every bone in his neck and head. He also suffered brain damage, which changed his life forever. Chris, now 34, from Manchester, says: “I don’t remember much about the crash but I have been told that I must have taken a sharp bend at more than 80mph before the car somersaulted. The only saving grace is that I didn’t hurt anyone except myself by my stupidity, but now I’m paying the price. I had good looks, a good job and a promising future. Now I live with a disfigured face and brain damage which causes epilepsy and mood swings. Drinking and driving wrecked my life, it’s as simple as that. But at least I survived to tell my tale and to plead with others to learn from my experience.”

Jane Evason’s son Gareth was 19 when he was knocked down and killed by his 18-year-old friend Mark. They had been drinking in the pub together before Mark knocked Gareth down as he walked home. Mark was given a four year sentence for causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol. He served one year in a young offender institution, one in jail, and one on parole before being released. Jane, of Oxford, says: “A drink-driving teenager turned my family’s lives upside down. My son was killed by his friend just minutes after they had been sat together in a pub. Young people still don’t seem to get the message that drinking and driving destroys lives. It’s not just yourself you are putting at risk; it’s your friends and anyone who may be unfortunate enough to be there when you crash.”

For interviews with Brake, Jane Evason or Chris Lee, for TV or radio broadcast, contact Brake’s Dianne Ferreira on 01484 559909 or Duncan Bowker Public Relations Manager CIS on 0161 827 5617/07810 756 137.

 Notes to editors:

Survey results in full

Survey carried out by Brake and CIS Co-Operative Insurance of 17 and 18 year-olds around the UK. 3,118 17 and 18 year-olds were surveyed, of which 2,267 said they drove.

1.       Have you ever driven after drinking alcohol? 428 out of 2,267 (19%) of drivers questioned said yes

2.       Have you ever driven after taking drugs? 150 out of 2,267 (7%) of drivers questioned said yes

3.       Result of combining question 1. and 2. (i.e. drivers who said they had driven after drinking alcohol or taking drugs) – 474 out of 1,998 (21%) said yes to either question

4.       Have you ever been a passenger with a driver who had been drinking or taking drugs? 1003 of 3,118 (32%) of young people questioned said yes


[1] In 2005, 1,412 17 and 18-year-old drivers or passengers were killed or seriously injured in road crashes. 14,617 drivers and passengers of all ages were killed or seriously injured in crashes. (Table 34, Road Casualties in Great Britain 2005, Department for Transport, 2006)

[2] Table 2g, Road Casualties in Great Britain 2005, Department for Transport, 2006

[3] Parliamentary Question asked by Owen Paterson MP (Con), 6 June 2007

Too Young to Die education pack

Any UK educator can obtain the free education pack (P&P to be paid) by calling Brake on 01484 559909 or emailing admin@brake.org.uk, stating full contact details and number of students. The pack is designed as a comprehensive resource to help educators run lessons for 15-21 year-olds on staying safe as drivers and passengers. It includes:

·         a hard-hitting Too Young to Die DVD, which features interviews with people bereaved in young driver crashes, emergency surgeons, fire officers and paramedics;

·         copies of the Too Young to Die booklet, a new resource for students to take away and keep as their guide to staying alive on the road – designed to be handed out after showing the DVD (click here for an online version);

·         instructions on downloading a free powerpoint presentation by Brake (funded by the Department for Transport), which can be used on interactive whiteboards or using a projector as part of a lesson incorporating the DVD.

Facts about young drivers and passengers: (click here for a fact sheet)

·         Road Crashes are the biggest killer of 15-24 year-olds [Deaths by age, sex and underlying cause, 2005 registrations: Health Statistics Quarterly 30]

·         One in four convictions for causing death by dangerous driving are against under-21s [Motoring Offences and Breath Test Statistics 2004, Home Office 2006] despite this age group accounting for 8% of licence holders [Driving Standards Agency press office, 2006]

·         The Government set a target of reducing road deaths and serious injuries in Britain by 40% by 2010, compared to the average for 1994-98 [Tomorrow’s Roads – safer for everyone, Department for Transport, 2000]. It did not set any specific target for reducing young driver and passenger casualties or fatal and serious injury crashes involving young drivers.

·          Government statistics show that in 2005 1,297 people died and a further 11,535 were seriously injured in a crash involving a driver or rider aged 15 to 25. That’s 35 deaths and serious injuries every day [Road Casualties in Great Britain 2005, Department for Transport, 2006]

Further information about GDL and the Transport Select Committee recommendations

Crucial elements associated with GDL systems in other countries, which are at the heart of Brake’s Licensed to Kill? campaign, were recommended in the TSC report, to which Brake submitted oral and written evidence.

The Committee’s recommended changes to driver training and testing include:

    * a minimum 12-month learner driver period;
    * raising the age of driving unaccompanied to 18;
    * a structured learning syllabus undertaken and examined by an Approved Driving Instructor; and
    * better hazard perception training.
    * A 12-month post-test period with restrictions including zero alcohol limit and a ban on carrying young passengers at night.

Brake welcomes all these sensible and crucial suggestions but would like to see a further tuition for newly-qualified drivers following their 12-month learning period, followed by a second test.

Brake is also calling for additional restrictions on newly-qualified drivers during the 12-month period following their first test, including restrictions on driving larger engine size cars unaccompanied; a prohibition on carrying young passengers at any time of day or night unaccompanied; and a total curfew on night-time driving.

Brake is an independent national road safety charity.  Brake exists to stop the 9 deaths and 82 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes.  Brake produces educational road safety literature, runs community training programmes and runs events including Road Safety Week (5 – 11 November 2007).  Brake’s Fleet Safety Forum provides up-to-date fleet safety resources to fleet managers.  BrakeCare, Brake’s support division, cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Co-operative Insurance (CIS) insures almost three quarters of a million motor vehicles and is committed to improving road safety for everyone. CIS forms part of Co-operative Financial Services (CFS) which is an Industrial and Provident Society, CFS brings together the Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) and The Co-operative Bank under common leadership. It is owned by the Co-operative Group (CWS) Limited, which is, in turn, the largest consumer co-operative in the UK, democratically run for the benefit of its members.

Healthcare Republic does not have an editorial influence or input in to these press releases. The views expressed within these documents are not endorsed by Healthcare Republic or Haymarket Medical Publications Limited.

Enquiries should be directed to any contacts listed within the press releases.


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in