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Why is there a minimum age requirement on driving

Getting your driver’s licence offers unparalleled freedom. You can go where you want; the world is your oyster. So why do we reserve this gleeful opportunity for those over the age 17 only? Let’s find out…

Them’s the rules

Before we explore why there is a minimum driving age, let’s take a look at the current situation. Here in the UK you can apply for your provisional licence at just 15 years and 9 months – but you can’t drive a car until you are 17. For those keen to get going earlier, you can ride a moped or quad bike at 16. Or alternatively, you can apply for the enhanced rate of mobility part of the governments Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme.

Around the world

So it turns out we’re actually fairly lenient age-wise in the UK. The standard age for driving in most countries is 18, or 21 unfortunately for those based in Guatemala! There are a few places where younger teens can drive, for example you only have to be 15 to drive in El Salvador.

But even countries with low age minimums are starting to bump it up. New Zealand has just recently pushed up the age from 15 to 16 in a bid to increase road safety. Whilst this is still fairly young, New Zealand has a long established history of an agriculture rich economy, so learning to drive ASAP is a part of their culture. Something must have made them do it.

Statistics speak

17 – 19-year-olds only make up 1.5% of the total driving population in the UK. Despite that, 12% of people who were hurt or killed in a car accident were involved in a crash with drivers aged between 17 – 19. As a result, the RAC want a graduated licencing system for new drivers, which they say could stop 4,500 people getting hurt each year.

The AA state that a significant minority of young drivers are considered unsafe (around 35%), they blame peer pressure and a culture of “showing off” for the consequential accidents. They have posted a range of scary stats on their website, including:

  • In 2011 more than 1 in 3 car occupants killed or seriously injured were under the age of 25
  • 46 teenage drivers were killed on the roads in 2011 and 511 were seriously injured
  • Nearly 9000 teenage passengers were casualties in road accidents in 2011. 61 were killed. 

So, why do we have a minimum driving age?

So far, 17 has been considered a fair age to take the wheel of a car and drive. But the statistics mentioned above mean our relatively low age could be under threat. Proposals have included pushing the test age forward to 18, a 12 month probationary period, night-time driving curfews and further supervision. Though despite media coverage, nothing is set to change yet.

As for our opinion? 17 seems a fairly lenient age to start learning to drive, we certainly wouldn’t want to see it dip any lower! 

Driving Advice  02/06/2015 09:40:37

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