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Coroner wants review of licensing program and 106 deaths of young B.C. drivers

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February 12, 2015 - 7:00 AM

VICTORIA - A 17-year-old who was thrown from his sports car as it flipped several times and landed on its roof in a ditch is among more than 100 young drivers whose deaths have prompted a call for a review of British Columbia's Graduated Licensing Program.

A report released by the B.C. Coroners Service on Wednesday said the teen, who was found several metres from his vehicle, suffered traumatic injuries to his head and chest and died at the scene.

Drivers who witnessed the crash and tried to rescue the young man reported seeing his car weaving through traffic at speeds above the posted 70 kilometre-an-hour limit before it crossed two lanes of traffic and attempted to make a right turn without slowing down.

The teen's father said his son was driving the used sports car he bought with money he earned at his after-school job. He was three months into the Novice stage of his graduated licence when he died.

The coroners service is asking the government to review the deaths of 106 youth who were killed behind the wheel between 2004 and 2013.

B.C.'s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe told a news conference that the Graduated Licensing Program has reduced young driver deaths since it was adopted in 1998, but it's time for a review to bring home the message to youth and their parents that driver safety saves lives.

A panel of the B.C. Coroners Service found that most of the deceased drivers were males between 17 and 18 years old.

Motor vehicle incidents are the leading cause of death for B.C. youth between 15 and 18 years old.

"The youth driver fatality review really confirms the stats we see across fatalities, for adults as well, in that the three highest risk factors are speed, impairment and lack of seatbelt use," Lapointe said.

The report makes three recommendations, including a review of the Graduated Licensing Program by 2017 and a focus on finding ways to reduce crashes at the higher-risk Novice licensing stage.

The licensing program involves a learner's stage when drivers who pass a knowledge test must display an "L" sign on their vehicle, followed by a road test that leads to the novice stage and an "N" sign on vehicles.

Novice drivers with a 24-month unblemished driving record can leave the graduated program by passing a second road test.

The report also recommends starting pilot projects that involve automated speed enforcement at limited sights identified as crash areas.

The ministers of justice and transportation said they were open to implementing the recommendations in the report, but added it was too early to say when that would happen.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who is responsible for the Insurance Corp. of B.C., said the call for a review of the Graduated Licensing Program was a "practical suggestion."

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said she will consider a pilot project to monitor driver speeds in hazardous areas.

"We have an ambitious goal to have the safest roads in North America by 2020," she said. "We are always interested in what kinds of approaches we might take to reduce deaths on roads. Safety is our No. 1 priority."

Lapointe said the government did not contact the coroners service before raising speed limits on some roadways last year.

Stone said the service had an opportunity to contribute its input to the speed limit decision, but did not submit a viewpoint.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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