THE toll of deaths and injuries caused by teenage drivers in North Yorkshire is one of the worst in the country, new figures have revealed.

Fourteen per cent of all road casualties in the county are hurt or killed in collisions involving a car driver aged 17-19, even though this age group makes up only 1.5 per cent of licensed drivers.

The figure, equating to about 380 casualties per annum, compares with 11.9 per cent across Britain and only 5.6 per cent in Greater London. The highest figure in Britain was for Dyfed Powys, where 18.2 per cent of casualties were in accidents involving teenage drivers.

The statistic is thought to be so high because a higher proportion of young people hold a driving licence in the county, young drivers are driving greater distances and more young drivers are coming in from other regions.

But now experts from theTransport Research Laboratory have calculated that the number of casualties in North Yorkshire could be reduced by 20 per cent to just over 300 per annum if a system of graduated driving licensing (GDL) was introduced.

Such a scheme typically places temporary restrictions on newly-qualified young drivers in the first few months after they pass their tests to limit young drivers’ exposure to risk until they have gained experience.

Restrictions can include a limit on the number of young passengers they can carry and a late night curfew, said the RAC Foundation, which commissioned the TRL's report.

"Currently one in five young drivers will have an accident within six months of passing their test," said a spokesman.

The report said the data suggested that in England, the biggest reductions in the young driver collision rate would be likely to occur in North Yorkshire.

A man whose 17-year-old son died in a road accident while driving home from the cinema in York gave the introduction of GDL his qualified support yesterday.

David Warin, of Pickering, whose son Daniel died in 1995, said anything which reduced the number of people killed and injured would be very welcome, but he said the introduction of GDL should not be rushed into.

He felt account should be taken of the specific needs of young people in rural areas, where there was very little public transport and they might not be able to get a job or meet their friends unless they could drive.

North Yorkshire County Council's road safety team also said there needed to be a balance between protecting young drivers and preventing them from getting a job or having a social life just because they lived in the countryside.