New drivers should be restricted

A new study by Brake, the road safety charity, has revealed 92% of people back some kind of restriction for newly qualified drivers.

The latest figures show 2,088 young drivers and passengers aged between 17 and 24 were killed and seriously injured in just one year. Drivers aged between 17 and 19 make up just 1.5% of those holding a UK licence, but are involved in nine per cent of fatal crashes.

Because of these shocking figures, Brake was keen to find out what the public thinks about the idea of extending the time it takes young people to learn to drive, and of putting some restrictions in place when people first pass their test. The idea of a graduated driving licencing system, which is now in place in a number of countries around the world, is to make sure young people are as skilled and as safe as possible when they go out on the roads unsupervised.

When asked what restrictions should be in place for the first year after someone is given a driving licence, two thirds (66%) of people questioned said they support the use of a ‘P’ plate to show a driver in on probation. A similar number back a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit for novice drivers.

Half of those questioned said they think there should be a restriction on car engine sizes for new drivers, and more than a third of people think that a newly qualified driver should lose their licence if they break any traffic laws during their first year on the road.

Almost eight in 10 people (79%) said they think there should be a minimum time frame for learning to drive, and almost two thirds (62%) think that should be at least six months.

Three quarters of people (75%) said they think there should be a requirement for a minimum number of taught hours before learner drivers are allowed to take their practical test. Half of those questioned (50%) said they think people should have at least 35 hours of driving lessons before taking their on-the-road test.

Research shows that the combination of youth and inexperience puts younger drivers at high risk. Their inexperience means they have less ability to spot hazards, and their youth means they are particularly likely to take risks. In this way, crash risk not only reduces over time with experience but is also higher for those who start driving at a younger age.

There is clear evidence that shows changes to how people learn to drive and restrictions on newly qualified drivers can have a huge impact on road safety. Research for the Department for Transport describes the large number of young drivers involved in crashes as a public health risk, with analysis of DfT figures suggesting 4,471 casualties and £224m could be saved in Great Britain each year if restrictions were brought in for novice drivers aged 17 to 19 in the shape a graduated driver licencing system.

Communications and campaigns adviser for Brake, the road safety charity, Alice Bailey said, ‘Our first years behind the wheel are among the most dangerous of our lives, with one in five new drivers crashing in their first six months on the road. We must do more to help keep young people safe behind the wheel. Countries and states that have introduced restrictions for newly qualified drivers have seen big drops in crash rates. We’re pleased to hear the government has announced plans for a full review into the current driving test this year, with a view to making it more like “real life driving” but the introduction of graduated driving licencing would make young and novice drivers much safer and save lives.’