A YORKSHIRE road safety charity has raised concerns after it was reported that the number of under-aged car drivers involved in accidents had risen alarmingly.
The number reached the highest level in four years, figures show after a Freed of Information request.
Some 91 boys and girls under 17 years old were behind the wheel during accidents last year, according to Press Association analysis of Department for Transport data.
This represents a 30 per cent spike compared with the previous year, and is the most since 103 were recorded in 2011.
Separate analysis by motoring research charity the RAC Foundation found that more than half (49) of the under-age drivers involved in crashes last year were injured, including one who was killed and 11 seriously hurt.
The accidents also resulted in 48 passenger and pedestrian casualties, including two who were killed and eight seriously injured.
The minimum age for driving a car in Britain is 17.
Jack Kushner, spokesperson for Brake, the Huddersfield-based road safety charity, said: “It is deeply concerning to see this rise in crashes involving under-aged drivers, and our hearts go out to the families and communities affected. Irresponsible under-age drivers are untrained and unlicensed, and have no right to be on the road.
“Inexperienced younger drivers have a far higher risk of crashing, and risk causing appalling suffering.
“We’d like to see roads policing given a greater priority by this government, so that we have more officers on the streets looking out for these under age drivers.”
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Anyone who thinks of driving below the legal age limit as joy riding should think again.
“Not only are under-age drivers a massive risk to themselves, last year they also caused the death or injury of at least 48 other people.
“That’s an unacceptable human toll for those directly involved, while the resulting financial costs then fall on motorists legally on the roads through having to meet higher insurance premiums.”
AA president Edmund King warned that those involved should only be driving in computer games or at specialist off-road centres.
He said: “These children should be playing Gran Turismo or attending under 17s car clubs rather than crashing illegally on the real highway.
“A proportion are likely to be involved in car crime and others may have chanced taking their parents’ car for a spin.
“Either way, they are breaking the law and putting their own and other lives at risk.”
The number of crashes featuring under-age motorcycle riders has reached the joint highest level since current DfT records began five years ago. There were 48 accidents involving riders aged under 16 in 2015, up 37 per cent on the year before.
Almost nine out of 10 (42) of the youngsters were injured, including 19 seriously. The accidents resulted in 12 passenger and pedestrian casualties, including six who were seriously injured. The minimum age for obtaining a licence to ride a moped is 16.
Brake says young drivers aged 17 to 24 are at a much higher risk of crashing than older drivers. Drivers aged 17 to 19 only make up 1.5 per cent of UK licence holders but are involved in nine per cent of fatal and serious crashes where they are the driver. Drivers aged 16-19 are a third more likely to die in a crash than drivers aged 40 to 49.