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A licence path for new drivers?

When it comes to road safety and young people, everyone has an opinion. It doesn’t help when you base your reasoning for change on complaints from constituents, about speeding drivers, high performance rental vehicles, off-road motorbikes, quad bikes, dangerous parking and reckless driving. Parliament is currently debating changes to the post-test driving licence. The changes have cross-party political support and are supported by the AA, RAC, Association of British Insurers, IAM, NMC, Project Edward, UK Road Offender Education (UKROEd) and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. The proposed changes are aimed at providing a proportionate, evidence-led and effective way to ‘significantly reduce road traffic collisions’. Herein lies the problem. Everyone assumes they have the ‘evidence’ and that the solution proposed will achieve its goal. 

The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences)(New Drivers) Bill  may mandate that, after passing the national driving test, new drivers should face, for 6 months, zero limits on alcohol consumption, limits on the number and age of passengers and possibly restrictions on night time driving. There would be exemptions for work, medical appointments and emergencies, but these have not been spelt out. There will doubtless be some very creative reasons given for subverting these restrictions. The proposed Bill is very heavy on limitations for new drivers, but light on education and training. Looking around the world (see chart below), the UK lies 7th in the league table of traffic accidents. Other countries have shown that obtaining a driving licence needs a great deal of thought and practice. Losing a licence can also be done very easily. However, none have been able to achieve zero KSI figures. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just learn from those more successful than ourselves with longer, more varied and intensive training. Driving on rural roads and motorways are a particular problem for new drivers.

Gulf Oil International (2023 accessed 09/05/2024)

As the Minister for Transport has pointed out, the UK is well-placed to lead the way in self-driving technology. Whilst current systems have problems in recognising motorcycles and bicycles, the technology already exists to monitor the driving behaviour of those most at risk on UK roads. All that the new legislation needs to do is ensure that vehicles, driven by 17 to 25 year olds, are fitted with telematic devices. These devices can be improved to give direct feedback to the driver whenever they are operating a vehicle. This could include speed restriction, preventing conflict with other road users, reminders about using time, space and visual cues when driving. Giving instant, direct feedback to drivers is likely to be much more effective than any arbitrary set of restrictions in using a vehicle.