A significant number of young drivers regularly take extreme risks, such as overtaking when the view ahead is not clear and driving under the influence of illegal drugs.
The news comes just weeks after Fleet News revealed the extent of drug driving and the need for fleet managers to seriously consider mandatory drug testing of drivers (Fleet News 24 Jan).
Research just published reveals that 11% of young motorists aged between 17 and 25 regularly drive while under the influence of illegal drugs.
The survey of 4,600 drivers, carried out by road safety charity Brake and Green Flag, also discovered that one in three young drivers overtake even when they can’t see what’s coming.
And these are not one-off ‘moments of madness’: one in six drivers under 25 overtake blind once a week or more; and one in five use a hand-held mobile at the wheel once a week or more.
As a result of this culture of risk taking, a disproportionate number of young drivers are killed - more than 14 young people are killed every week on the roads.
Now fleets with younger drivers are being urged to manage this high risk group says Dr Will Murray, research director at Interactive Driving Systems.
“This is an important issue that lots of companies are grappling with at present,” he said.
“Young drivers need to be treated in a similar way to all other drivers – the risks need to be addressed and managed accordingly.”
Assessing young drivers’ abilities and attitudes is essential so that potentially 'at risk' drivers can be identified and preventive measures taken.
BT for example carries out in-vehicle induction and apprentice training for all its young drivers as well as vehicle familiarisation courses.
Driving a van for the first time is a particular problem for many young drivers.
As Mr Murray explains: “Inexperienced and first-time van drivers being unfamiliar with the vehicles they are being asked to drive is a recurring road safety theme.”
At a national conference, which was held to formulate a national strategy to manage young drivers, Brake urged the Government to publish its consultation on novice drivers and take action to cut casualties.
Brake’s head of campaigns, Cathy Keeler, argued that the current system of learning to drive is inadequate.
She said there is a need to introduce compulsory road safety education in schools and a system of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL).
GDL systems mean that a learner driver must have a minimum number of hours of professional tuition and that this training is carried out over a 12-month period.
The drivers then enter a novice period after completing the learner period and passing practical and theory tests.
This novice period has restrictions on high-risk situations including driving at night and carrying passengers.
Passing a second test at the end of the novice period means a full licence is granted.
Ms Keeler, said: “The Government must take steps to tackle extreme risk-taking and appalling numbers of deaths and injuries involving young drivers.
"Brake is demanding that the promised Government consultation is published and decisive action taken.
"We must educate young people on the consequences of taking these deadly risks and ensure we have a robust, structured system of learning to drive in place.
"We know Graduated Driver Licensing works, and we can’t afford to drag our heels.
"The longer we delay, the more young lives are needlessly wasted.”