Could Restricted Licences Keep Young Drivers Safer?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 14:27
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Road safety charity Brake have recently conducted a survey which questions how we can keep our roads safer and, just as importantly, how can we keep new drivers safe? The study came in response to new figures which showed that 2088 young drivers and passengers were involved in serious and fatal crashes in a 1 year period.

Statistics from the DoT indicate that even though drivers aged between 17 and 19 make up just 1.5% of those holding a UK licence[ii], they are involved in 9% of fatal crashes. These shocking figures lead Brake to gauge the public opinion on the safety of our youngest drivers; what, if any, restrictions could improve their safety, and could a graded licence system be the answer?

A number of countries around the world now use a graded driving licence system, the specifics can vary between countries but in New Zealand for example a 16 year old can apply for a learner licence which they will only receive after passing a computerised multiple choice theory test. The learner licence allows them to drive only if accompanied by a “supervisor” who must have held a full licence for over two years.

Once they have held their Learner Licence for a minimum 6 months they can apply to take their restricted licence practical driving test, if they pass this they progress to carrying a restricted licence which permits them to drive unsupervised but only between the hours of 5am and 10pm (if they wish to drive outside of these hours eg: for work reasons they must apply for an exemption or be accompanied by a supervisor) and they must not carry passengers unless it is a spouse or dependant minors.

Only after a restricted licence has been held for 18 months can a further practical driving test be taken to advance to a full drivers licence. This staggering of the licences could be the answer to reducing accidents and deaths to young people on the roads. Brakes study found that 66% of people questioned were in support of 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.

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. however as many already know, driving lessons are getting increasingly more expensive and if there was a legal minimum this might give driving instructors the freedom to charge even higher rates.

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.”

Full survey results

Q1: Do you think learner drivers should have to undertake a minimum period of learning to drive before taking their practical test?

  • Yes, less than six months           12%
  • Yes, six months                          47%
  • Yes, a year                                 16%
  • Yes, more than a year                4%
  • No                                               21%

Q2: Do you think learner drivers should have to undertake a minimum number of hours of supervised driving before taking their practical test?

  • Yes, at least 25 hours             35%
  • Yes, at least 35 hours             25%
  • Yes, at least 50 hours             25%
  • No                                           15%

Q3: Do you think new drivers should have to abide by any of the following restrictions for a year after passing their test? 

  • Displaying “P” plates, to show driver is “on probation”                                   66%
  • Zero-tolerance drink-drive limit                                                                       63%
  • Maximum engine size                                                                                     50%
  • Restrictions on carrying young passengers, unless family/dependants        44%
  • Restrictions on night driving (midnight-4am), unless for work/education      38%
  • Revocation of licence if traffic laws broken during this period                      35%
  • None of the above                                                                                          8%


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