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Changes to young driver licencing

If there was something that was killing four times as many young people as drink or drugs, we’d all want it stopped wouldn’t we? Well there is something that is doing just that – and it’s driving.

Young drivers account for over 20% of all serious accidents, yet they only do 5% of all driving. Young drivers are statistically more likely to have a crash, and that likelihood rises even higher if they have young friends in the car, due to distractions and peer pressure to show off.

So what is being done to stop this needless danger to young drivers? And why are some people, so opposed to the proposals?

What is being done?

The Government has recently commissioned a study by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) into young drivers, asking for suggestions as to how to reduce the accident rate. Some of the proposals they have come back with represent a radical rethink of the licencing process. For example, they suggest:

  • A full year of driving training up to the age of 18
  • A further provisional year from 18-19 including:

    100 hours of supervised daytime driving
    20 hours of supervised driving at night
    Displaying a green P plate

  • A ban on young passengers unless there is someone over 30 in the car
  • Lower blood alcohol limits
  • A ban on driving between 10pm and 5am

While nothing has been agreed or suggested yet by the Government, a green paper is due out before the end of 2014 that will contain their version of the TRL proposals.

What has been the reaction

Unusually, the RAC and AA have come out on different sides of the debate. RAC Foundation director, Stephen Glaister, described the proposals as a positive thing, commenting that: “this is about ensuring their (young people’s) long term safety and mobility, not curtailing it”. However, AA president Edmund King took the opposite view, claiming that the proposals meant “taking novice drivers off the road by regulation and restriction, rather than helping them develop the right attitudes and skills”.

If enacted, the legislation is likely to be very unpopular, especially with the young drivers themselves. According to research commissioned by the AA, 11% of young drivers said they would be less likely to want to pass their driving test if they were restricted in this way. Furthermore, 34% said the driving hours restriction would make it harder to get to work, especially on the kind of shifts young people often work to fit around college or sixth form studies. Around the same number said it would prevent them helping out siblings and friends.

So what’s next?

It remains to be seen what the government decide to propose in the green paper, and even then, much of that may never make it in to law. However, something has to be done. As Stephen Glaister says, “As a society, we seem to have turned a blind eye to the carnage.” Perhaps with these new restrictions, we are starting to look a bit more thoughtfully at the situation.

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