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One child a week found guilty of dangerous driving

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With a high number of under-17s being convicted of dangerous driving and drink-driving, campaigners are calling for better education and tougher deterrents.

Teenage driver making phone call after crash

Scores of children have been charged with motoring offences over the past 12 months, despite being too young to even apply for a driving licence.

Research carried out by insurer Churchill, based on official DVLA statistics, has revealed that the courts convicted 66 under-17s of dangerous driving in 2015.

Repeat offenders

One child was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving last year, while a further 12 were convicted of drink-driving.

The 2015 figures are however an improvement on the previous 12-month period, during which 38 minors were convicted of drink-driving and 85 of dangerous driving.

Just as worrying as the headline statistics was the fact that there appears to be a high number of repeat offenders.

Churchill found that 923 underage drivers have been prosecuted more than once for motoring offences.

One 16-year-old has now been prosecuted 15 times for such crimes.

Weak deterrents

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill, said: “While the volumes of offences concerning underage and under the influence drivers are low, the impact on the victims and their families involved in accidents with these drivers is immeasurable.

“Highlighting these frightening statistics will hopefully act as a catalyst for the government and educators to address this issue as a matter of urgency.”         

Barrett also pointed out that the deterrents for underage driving may not be working well enough.

Under the current system, driving bans often start from the date of conviction and may in some cases have expired by the time the offender turns 17 and becomes eligible to apply for a provisional licence.

Call for school training

However, he added, any endorsements would still be listed on the newly issued licence.

Last year, the Young Driver organisation set up a petition calling on ministers to introduce driving lessons and road safety training to the national curriculum.

The petition was backed by the likes of the RAC, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Association of British Insurers.

Young Driver said that introducing driving lessons for the under-17s in a controlled environment could cut the high accident rates currently seen among new drivers.

Speeding crackdown needed

But the government is yet to act on the proposals.

The IAM has also recently demanded that ministers consider introducing stiffer sentences and more effective remedial training courses for motorists of all ages who have been caught speeding excessively.

The organisation has found that in 2015 five drivers were caught travelling at more than 100mph on roads with limits of just 30mph or 40mph.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said: “These are the roads we all use on a day-to-day basis and as a result are rife with hazards for any driver. 

‘Potentially suicidal’

“Schoolchildren, shoppers, the elderly – they are all using the same space and won’t be prepared for anybody travelling at this speed.”

Sillars explained that at 30mph the overall stopping distance is 22 metres, while at 100mph the stopping distance is 182 metres.

“Exceeding the limit to such a degree is potentially suicidal in such conditions, not to mention incredibly dangerous for other road users,” she said.

“Clearly these drivers do not see the potential consequences of what they are doing.

“We believe if we are going to change this mind set, there needs to be personalised sentencing options made available to challenge this behaviour fully.”

Sillars added: “The IAM would support further research on which types of courses would be most effective in changing entrenched speeding attitudes so that we can start to offer them alongside the well-established speed awareness courses for those just over the limit.”

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