Will the UK introduce Graduated Driving Licensing for Young Drivers?

16th June 2015

According to recent figures from the RAC Foundation over four teenage car passengers are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads every week. This shocking statistic has been put down to the inexperience of young drivers.

Youthful fearlessness, lack of experience and packing cars with similarly aged friends has been attributed to the abnormally high teenage death toll and motoring chiefs are now calling for the introduction of ‘graduated licences’ in the UK.

The Statistics

In 2013 the foundation has recorded accident figures for teenage car passengers for the first time and recently published the results, which found that 234 teenage passengers were either killed or seriously injured after the 17-19 year old driver they were travelling with was involved in a collision. This figure rises to 2,144 when you Include injuries of all severities, which equates to around 41 per week.

In addition to passengers, the government reported that 191 under 24 year old car drivers and motorcycle riders were also killed in 2013 and 20,003 were injured.

Although drivers aged between 17 and 19 make up only 1.5% of full licence holders, they are involved in a disproportionate 12% of accidents where someone is killed or seriously hurt.

Road accidents are currently the biggest killer of young people in the UK, more so than alcohol and drugs.

Calls for Change

These figures have provoked calls for a graduated licensing system to be introduced into the UK, whereby full driving licences would be withheld from young drivers until gaining adequate experience on the road.

Conservative MP for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson introduced a private members bill in 2013 that called for a graduated licence system, however this was subsequently parked. The coalition government had also promised changes via its Road Safety Green Paper, but failed to deliver.

Director of the RAC Foundation, Stephen Glaister, said "Graduated licensing has been common in many countries for some time and would help keep newly-qualified young drivers, and their passengers, safe during the critical first thousand miles after people have passed their test."…….. "It is a tragedy it has not been introduced or even debated as a policy option."

Graduated Licencing Elsewhere

Graduated licensing has proved effective in several countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and works by restricting the activities of recently-qualified drivers.

Following the introduction of graduated licensing in New Zealand, car crash injuries fell by 23% for 15-19 year olds and by 12% for 20-24 year olds. In the US, 16 year old drivers were reportedly involved in 37% fewer accidents per year and by 17% per mile driven.

It is estimated that in the UK that graduated licensing could result in 114 fewer deaths and 872 fewer serious injuries per year.

How does it work?

The graduated system usually involves two stages before a full a license is issued. The first of which is the ‘learner’ period that lasts for at least 12 months.

An ‘intermediate’ or ‘novice’ stage typically follows this stage, whereby restrictions are placed on the licence for a period of 6 months to two years. These commonly relate to the carrying passengers and the times of day that the young driver is permitted to drive.

After the intermediate period the full license is issued, however this is sometimes accompanied by age-based restrictions on alcohol limits.

Increased Learning Period

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) strongly supports the idea of graduated licensing. It reports that one in five young drivers will be involved in an accident within six months of passing their test and has submitted a proposal to establish a minimum learning period of one year for new drivers.

As it stands, drivers in the UK can become fully licensed in a matter of weeks and it is estimated that 89% of young drivers do not complete the 40 hours of driving tuition recommended before taking their test.

To reflect the fact that the risk of accidents significantly increases with young passengers in the car, the ABI also wishes to restrict the number of passengers that a young driver can carry after passing their test, for a minimum of six months.

It is also in favour of imposing a zero alcohol limit for the first six months and to prevent driving between the hours of 11pm and 4am, unless travelling to a place of work or their school or college.

Road safety charity, Break, has put forward its own suggestions and is also calling for a minimum learner period of 12 months, with 10 hours of professional tuition in a car with dual controls.

Cheaper Car Insurance

The ABI has reported that a graduated system would reduce accidents and reduce insurance premiums.

It claims that the average motor insurance premium of a 17-18 year old could fall by 15-20%, which could work out as a saving of up to £370.

Driving Restrictions

Brake has recommended that drivers should hold a novice license for two years and that this should include restrictions on engine sizes, the carrying of young passengers, driving at night and alcohol consumption.

Brake also believes that novice drivers should be prohibited from driving on motorways and should be required to undertake 10 hours of professional tuition specifically on motorways at night time before they are able to graduate to a full license.

The charity has also recommended a second driving test at the end of the two year period.

What does the public think?

The RAC Foundation recently reported that over two thirds (68) of adults and 41% of young drivers would be in favour of a graduated licensing system.




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