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Lifelong learning for drivers

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The Government has announced plans to introduce major reforms to the way people learn to drive, how they are tested and how motorists – especially those who drive for work - will be expected to embrace a culture of lifelong learning.

A vital component of this ‘skill for life’ concept will be the development, in partnership with employers, of vocational qualifications for all at-work drivers, particularly van drivers.

“Employers and insurers should have greater confidence in the driving abilities of those who have undertaken further training, and so we will work with them to develop proposals for post-test courses and qualifications that produce safer drivers, and that they are prepared to reward,” said transport minister Ruth Kelly.

“Examples of this could include a new advanced training qualification, a course in motorway driving or vocational qualifications such as for van drivers."

RoadSafe welcomed the news.

Its director, Adrian Walsh, said: “Whether driving company cars, vans or their own vehicles on business, employees who drive as part of their job undertake daily one of the most dangerous tasks they will ever be asked to undertake in their working life.

“The Government recognises that and wants to develop a programme of higher and vocational qualifications, which includes an assessment.

"That is an initiative which has our 100% support.

"Once developed, we believe such qualifications could be a key part of a company’s staff recruitment process.”

The other main focus of the Government’s new proposals is to tackle young driver casualties.

As a result, the current learning and testing procedures will be strengthened.

Changes include learning the basics of car control, driving in difficult weather and at night and enhancing driver awareness to help novice drivers predict the intentions of other road users.

While support for the plans has been widespread, the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) described the Government's proposals as a ‘catastrophic missed opportunity'.

"By ignoring the recommendations of the Transport Committee and placing the emphasis on reforming the testing rather than the training process for learner drivers, this increasingly lame Government is placing popular decision making before lives,” said Stephen Picton, editor of Driving Instructor.

“The consultation paper represents a catastrophic missed opportunity and a gross dereliction of duty by a Government desperate not to lose any more votes, which will almost certainly result in the deaths of more young people on our roads."

But the DIA appears to be out on a limb. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) welcomed the plans, as did the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the Association of British Insurers.

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