Fleets looking to employ newly qualified drivers may face added difficulties due to plans being considered by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Graduated driver licensing, which would include not being able to drive at night, is being explored as part of the government’s road safety action plan to reduce new driver crashes. The accident management proposal comes in response to a fifth of new drivers crashes within their first year on the road.
Under the plans being drawn-up by the DfT, new drivers could face limits on what they can do on the road in order “to ease them into a lifetime of safe driving”. Other restrictions could include a minimum learning period and not driving with passengers under a certain.
Road Safety Minister Michael Ellis said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking at ways to make them safer.
“Getting a driving licence is exciting for young people, but it can also be daunting as you’re allowed to drive on your own for the first time.
“We want to explore in greater detail how graduated driver licensing, or aspects of it, can help new drivers to stay safe and reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads.”
Graduated licensing schemes already operate in New Zealand; New South Wales and Victoria in Australia; New York and California in the USA; Ontario and British Columbia in Canada and in Sweden. However, schemes of this nature in the UK have previously been rejected due to concerns that it may potentially restrict new drivers’ access to jobs and education.
The proposed plans have had a mixed response from IAM RoadSmart. Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “We strongly support many of the key components of a successful GDL (Graduated Driver Licensing) scheme, in particular the 12-month minimum learning period which will ensure a much wider range of driving experience, but we still need to be convinced that night-time curfews will work and support a pilot scheme first.
“Gaining the right experience behind the wheel is the key to a lifetime of safe driving; restricting the opportunity to learn how to drive safely at night seems counterintuitive. Restrictions on the distraction caused by peer passengers makes more sense but some flexibility will be required. We also support a lower drink drive limit in the first years of driving.”
The proposed plans have also been broadly welcomed by the RAC, however they warn that any additional measures should be balanced against the potential risk of disadvantaging young drivers who need to use vehicles for night work.
Disadvantaging young drivers
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy, RAC, said: “Young drivers sadly are overrepresented in road traffic collisions so we welcome plans to improve their safety. Graduated driver licensing has the benefit of providing a more controlled environment when learning how to drive, however this must be balanced so it does not disadvantage young drivers who need to use vehicles for night work.
“We certainly would welcome a minimum learning period, or indeed a minimum number of learning hours required, while there may also be merits in restricting new drivers from carrying some passengers at certain times of the day and possibly even having a stricter drink-drive limit for new drivers. But we would also encourage the Government to look closely at providing incentives for the uptake of telematics based policies for new drivers, and consider how any new rules governing new drivers can be effectively enforced.”
Welcoming the announcement from the DfT, Director of General Insurance Policy at the Association of British Insurers, James Dalton, said: “The potential for Graduated Driver Licensing to dramatically improve road safety in the UK is indisputable and insurers have long called for its introduction. Research commissioned by the Government in 2013 concluded evidence of its effectiveness was overwhelming and it has already delivered great results in places such as Canada, New Zealand, California and parts of Australia. Given this, the road safety action plan should focus on the practicalities of introducing such an approach without delay.
“The main aim must be to reduce deaths and serious injuries but it is also true that a dramatic reduction in accidents would do a lot to alleviate the pressure on insurance premiums for young drivers. This will be even more important given the recent move by Government to set the rate for major compensation payments in a way which is likely to increase motor insurance costs, particularly for those younger motorists.”