Fleet News

MPs target younger drivers

The House of Commons Transport Committee has recommended sweeping changes to the way young drivers are treated.

The Fleet Safety Association’s Steve Johnson examines the proposals and puts forward a few of his own.

“For those of us working in the fleet industry, young drivers rarely come across our radar, simply because they are generally outside the company-provided vehicle parc.

However, young drivers are now increasingly cropping up amongst the ranks of those who drive for business purposes.

Commercial organisations have every right to be concerned about the financial and duty of care burden they pose, as the statistics have consistently proven over many years that they are disproportionately responsible for road collisions.

What of the new proposals? Extend the full licence acquisition age to 18? Why not make it 24 instead?

That would put the cat amongst the pigeons. But why not? The 17-24 age group is the highest risk group by far, so why not bar them from the driving community until they are mature enough to take responsibility for their actions?

Absurd of course but, if all we are going to do is shift the goals posts, why not?

Restricting the numbers of young people in a car after certain hours - how would that be monitored?

There is already a dearth of traffic police patrols nationally and there just isn't the manpower to cope with such a proposal.

The handheld mobile phone ban is a case in point. Despite claims by the police in several regions about the number of prosecutions being made, I think all us who drive considerable distances on business each day are sceptical and can site many instances where we have seen this dangerous practice going unnoticed and unchecked in an open and flagrant way.

  • TRAINING NEED

    So what's to be done about this menacing group of young hotshots currently stalking out highways and occupying rural roadside ditches in seemingly increasing numbers?

    Education of course... but then working for a driver risk management company, I would say that wouldn't I? But surely it's the only way forward.

    But it has to be training with a difference. It has to be fun and empowering and almost elitist.

    Make them feel a sense of pride, encourage them to become almost an ambassador for youth skills, a cut above the rest on the road. Don't make it prescriptive, curriculum-driven and boring.

    Inspire them, make them want to accept the responsibility for their actions and display their skill with pride.

    Imbue them with a sense of social responsibility by illustrating the devastating effects that a road fatality can have on a family. But at the same time show them that safe driving doesn't mean always sticking to an outdated upper speed limit if the conditions dictate that you can exceed it safely and responsibly by a small margin.

  • WHO SHOULD PAY FOR IT?

    It would be easy to suggest the driver himself or perhaps his parents. There is certainly the demand and the will out there, judging by a straw poll we have carried out recently.

    But no, why shouldn't it be the insurers? There is no question that it would be in their interest in the long term.

    We know from experience in the fleet industry that we can make a huge difference to claim rates, so why shouldn't the same apply for the individual young motorist? Would it not be possible to offer two insurance quotes - one with and one without training, the latter being loaded by 50% or so?

    Market forces would then come to bear and it is pretty obvious what would happen to take up.

  • SHOULD MORE BE DONE?

    I reckon we need to go back a step as well, to the schools and colleges. Why not make driving part of the national curriculum on the basis that it is a life skill in the same way that swimming is?

    Some individual schools are now offering basic driving lessons within the curriculum but it is, understandably, a cost option for the parents and not all can run to that.

    We shouldn't just be thinking about the pure act of driving. Pedestrian casualties amongst children are on the increase again, as are those for young cyclists. All these groups could benefit hugely from an integrated 'road awareness' course which brought together all the strands of road usage.

    Young pedestrians would be more aware of what a cyclist, car driver, bus driver, van driver or truck driver has to consider whilst behind the wheel, and vice versa.

    Is this vision too utopian? Maybe, but couldn't it be achievable, given the groundswell of opinion that this is a cause worth pursuing? Corporate social responsibly (CSR) is a favoured buzzword at the moment. Surely such a programme of education of this nature, aimed at changing the fundamental approach that the drivers of the future will take, is the epitome of CSR?

    Oh, and by the way, the insurers will save lots of money and be able to reduce car insurance premiums for all of us. The only losers will be the vehicle repairers.”

    The MPs recommendations include:

  • Minimum driving age should be raised to 18
  • Complete alcohol ban for new drivers
  • Novice drivers prohibited from carrying passengers between 11pm and 5am

    Steve Johnson’s suggestions:

  • Raising minimum age will have little effect – might as well raise it to 24!
  • Passenger ban not enforceable
  • Education is the key, and it should be enjoyable
  • Insurance industry could pay for extra training
  • Training should be introduced in schools
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