Pictured: Students from Stockton Riverside College, involved in the road safety campaign are, pictured L-R, Connor Errington, Geoffrey Wood, Laura Lillystone, Emily Howard, Sienna Pounder, and Delroy Witbeen.

Young motorists are being urged to drive with care after the latest figures released by Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) showed the highest number of fatalities in the region since 2017.

Young drivers aged between 17 and 24 continue to be the highest risk group on the region’s roads, with speeding, distraction, drink and drug driving, and failing to wear seatbelts considered the fatal four causes of road casualties involving young people.

Now, students from Stockton Riverside College and Newcastle College have thrown their weight behind the campaign by RSGB NE and police and fire services, appealing for young drivers to recognise the risks.

During the past five years alone, 37 young drivers and passengers have been killed on North East roads and 590 seriously injured in collisions that, in most cases, could easily have been avoided.

Speeding and failing to wear seatbelts are believed to be the biggest factors in road casualties and deaths involving young people.

Young drivers hold just 6% of driving licences in the region but account for 17% of driver casualties. Nationally, the figure is 9% and 22%.

Peter Slater, Chair of RSGB NE, said: “Every year we see young people tragically killed and injured in road collisions, causing enormous heartache to so many families. The majority of the time, they could easily have been avoided.

“We are urging young drivers to do everything they can to keep themselves and their passengers safe by being sensible and taking responsibility for each other. They need to ask themselves, could they live with themselves if they were responsible for the death of their friend or another person?”

The students at Stockton Riverside College have taken part in campaign videos that are being rolled out across the region, highlighting common risks.

Stockton Riverside College student Laura Lillystone said: “It’s great to bring some awareness to young people who are new to the roads. We see some young people doing stupid things and they need to know the risks they can cause to themselves and others.

“I just want to say to other young drivers, stick to the speed limit, focus on the road, never drink/drug drive and always wear a seatbelt. Don’t be distracted. It could save a life.”

Newcastle College student Olivia Russell said: “I think it’s really important to make young people stop and think before they get in their cars, especially if they’ve just passed their tests.

“It’s easy to think ‘that’ll never happen to me’, but you never know. The best way to make sure it doesn’t is to drive as safely as possible, and always wear a seatbelt.”

Around 88% of young people killed on the roads were not wearing seatbelts at the time, and almost a quarter (23%) of those injured were involved in a collision where speed was a factor, rising to 36% of those killed.

Some 15% of young road casualties were involved in collisions where alcohol was a factor, and 36% lost their lives.

Meanwhile, collisions caused by distraction are believed to be widely under-reported.

Inspector Steve Clyburn, of Cleveland Police Roads Policing Unit, said: “In Cleveland, we have seen an increase in fatalities and serious collisions involving young drivers. All too often our officers are attending the home addresses of teenagers who have been killed or seriously injured in collisions, which could have been avoided.

“We urge young drivers to enjoy their new freedom, but at the same time to not do anything to put their own, their friends’ or other road users’ safety at risk.”

Inspector Kevin Salter, of Durham Constabulary’s Roads & Armed Policing Unit, said: “Driver safety is our utmost priority, especially for young drivers who will not have the same level of experience on the roads as older drivers.

“Whilst passing your test and getting out on the roads is an exciting milestone, it also demands respect and caution, bearing in mind the choices you make as a driver can hugely impact people’s lives.

“We extend our appreciation to the students for their initiative in raising awareness and will continue to work together with drivers of all ages to make sure everyone arrives home safely.”

The new figures have shown that while males accounted for over two-thirds of the young drivers injured or killed on the roads, more than half of the passengers were female.

And whilst young drivers were not always at fault, they remain the highest risk group.

Group Manager Steve Thomas, Head of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s Prevention and Education Department, said: “Following the laws of the road and remaining vigilant, respectful and careful while driving means everyone can get to and from their destinations without danger and harm. It only takes on bad decision to cause a collision.”

The statistics below show the breakdown of young casualties across the region. County Durham, Northumberland and Newcastle have the highest level of casualties; however, this is due to the size of those areas and the number of young people living there. The rural nature of Northumberland and County Durham is also a factor in young driver collisions.

Young driver/rider and passenger casualties by local authority, 2018 to 2022

Local Authority Fatal Serious Slight Total
County Durham 13 148 483 644
Darlington 1 23 105 129
Gateshead 2 49 238 289
Hartlepool 1 12 97 110
Middlesbrough 0 24 180 204
Newcastle upon Tyne 3 54 345 402
North Tyneside 2 21 149 172
Northumberland 6 100 394 500
Redcar and Cleveland 1 28 103 132
South Tyneside 1 23 104 128
Stockton-on-Tees 5 47 186 238
Sunderland 2 61 334 397
Total 37 590 2,718 3,345