Suggestions that the Government will introduce a graduated licence scheme for newly-qualified motorists has been lambasted by the nation’s biggest driving school.
Last week, Theresa May said during Prime Ministers Questions that she would ask the Department of Transport to investigate the effectiveness of graduated licences in a bid to reduce the number of casualties on British roads.
However, RED Driving School CEO Ian McIntosh blasted the proposal, saying young drivers face enough financial limitations preventing them from getting behind the wheel and the UK ‘already has virtually the safest roads’ in the world.
Driving school slams notion of graduated licences: Ian McIntosh, CEO at RED Driving School said the introduction of restrictions for newly-qualified drivers could kerb the number of young people getting behind the wheel
The idea to implement a graduated licence structure could see those who have recently passed their test have restricted driving hours, limits on the passengers they can carry, and a smaller pool of cars to choose from.
They could also have to be supervised for the first two years on the road, be banned from using motorways, not allowed to give their friends lifts, and have to take further tests to prove they’re safe enough drive alone.
Road safety charity Brake has backed the introduction of such schemes, claiming that they have effectively reduced young driver casualties in countries where they are being upheld, such as Australia and Northern Ireland.
Following the inauguration of graduated licences in New Zealand, car crash injuries fell by 23 per cent for 15 to 19-year-olds and 12 per cent for motorists between the ages of 20 and 24 years, figures presented by the charity showed.
It also highlighted a 2014 West Virginia University study that found that the youngest of drivers in the US who were subject to graduated licences had 37 per cent fewer crashes per year, and 17 per cent fewer accidents per mile driven.
The RAC Foundation in the UK has previously estimated that a similar scheme could cut 400 deaths and serious injuries every year, and save the economy £200 million annually through crash prevention.
WHAT LIMITS COULD NEW DRIVERS FACE?
1. Drivers should hold a novice licence for two years after passing a practical driving test.
2. Novice drivers should be allowed to drive unsupervised, but with certain restrictions on their driving, including:
- Not being allowed to carry passengers who are younger than 25 unless supervised. Novice drivers who are parents or carers and need to carry children should be exempt from this restriction.
- No driving between 11pm and 6am, unless supervised or travelling directly from home to work or school.
- Zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml blood (Brake recommends this for all drivers).
- Complete ban on motorway driving when unsupervised.
3. Restrictions to the size of the engine fitted to the cars they can drive.
4. Any driving offences, or failure to comply with the restrictions during this period, should result in automatic disqualification.
5. Novice drivers should be required to take a further 10 hours of professional tuition, during which they must drive on motorways and at night.
6. Novice drivers should be required to pass a second driving test at the end of the two year period to help ensure safe driving on all types of roads.
Graduated licences could see drivers who have been on the road for less than two years banned from driving between 11pm and 6am
However, RED Driving School objected to the notion, claiming there was a better way to improve the safety record of the newly-qualified motorists in Britain rather than implementing a raft of restrictions.
‘Restricting driving licences may deter youngsters from learning to drive,’ McIntosh said.
‘This would impact social mobility, employment prospects and local economies, and the support networks built around friends and families – particularly in rural areas where public transport options are limited.’
The chief executive of the nation’s biggest driving school, which has over 1,500 instructors and trains over 100,000 new learners each year, added that young drivers face more financial barriers and higher insurance premiums than any other age group – all of which are already preventing them from being able to get on the road.
But the RAC and comparison site ComparethemaRket both said last week that graduated licences could ease that pain with premiums likely to fall, in a similar way to black box telematics policies offering lower costs to those willing to have their driving monitored.
Theresa May was questioned about the implementation of a graduated licencing scheme – similar to those in Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and some US states – last week during Prime Minister Questions
Mr McIntosh said graduated licences reduced crashes among drivers in other countries with much higher accident rates than in the UK
McIntosh also questioned the effectiveness of graduated schemes when the country’s roads are already very safe.
‘With just two deaths per one billion miles driven, the UK already has virtually the safest roads among developed countries,’ he continued.
‘This figure is at least four times higher in countries such as Australia or New Zealand where graduated licenses have been in place for several decades.
‘The dominant reason for dangerous driving among young people remains their attitude. Tackling this problem can’t simply be achieved through restricting their independence on the road.
‘Young drivers adopt a responsible mindset only when they are taught to respect the dangers of the road.
The government should prioritise these kinds of initiatives, as it did when educating people about the risks of smoking. Changing attitudes is the only long-term option for increasing road safety.’
McIntosh went on to question the validity of enforcing such licences, with fewer dedicated traffic police officers on the road to monitors traffic at night, conduct on-the-spot checks of drivers’ IDs and take the time to examine the size of the engines in the vehicles they’re using.
He also called for the Government to instead improve efforts to make the current driving test more life-like to reduce road casualties among newly-qualified drivers.