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Saturday, 22 November 2014

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Measures to cut road deaths could be devastating for rural Cumbrian drivers

Measures being mooted to help reduce road deaths could be devastating for drivers in rural Cumbria.

Keith Forster photo
Keith Forster

That’s the fear of Young Farmers’ Clubs in the county whose members are arguing it would be unworkable to impose a night-time curfew and ban on novice drivers carrying passengers.

And there are fears that if such restrictions were introduced, it could force some to break the law just to make a living.

While they support the principals behind the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system, young farmers believe some of the measures suggested are a step too far.

Cumbria Young Farmers’ county chairman Keith Forster said: “We would all be affected by the curfew, especially during peak seasons when working late nights and early mornings on farms is compulsory. It would see us breaking the law.”

But campaigners are calling for a radical shake-up of the driving test for teenagers and rules regarding new drivers. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) wants a minimum one-year learning period before young drivers can take their test.

And it says novices should be at least 17 years and six months old before they can take the practical exam.

The ABI’s plan for 17 to 24-year-olds – statistically the most dangerous age for people to be involved in serious road crashes – includes zero tolerance on alcohol.

The industry body reckons such measures could prevent up to 9,000 people becoming victims of fatal or serious road accidents a year, and save the economy £447m.

Four men have died in road crashes in Cumbria this month. One driver was a 22-year-old Carlisle factory employee on his way to work at about 5am and Caldbeck pub manager Dominic Loftus, 22, was a passenger in a BMW which crashed at about 11.30pm.

Mr Forster said: “It is not only getting to their place of education or work that would be affected. Socially they rely on their cars to get to meetings and competitions. Those in the 18, 19, and 20 age bracket transport younger members to competitions. If the proposals go-ahead this would put a huge strain on parents.”

Carol Barker, Cumbria YFC vice-president, who lives in Appleby, added: “We are hard enough hit in rural areas for transport without this. Our farmers would also not be allowed to silage after 10pm or start lambing before 5am.”

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