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New Graduated Driving Licence

New Graduated Driving Licence

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Newly qualified driving licence holders could face restrictions on when, how fast and with whom they can drive under proposals currently being discussed at government level; motoring journalist, John Swift takes a look at the proposals.

Road Accidents are the biggest cause of death for under 25s

In an attempt to to reduce these statistics proposals are being discussed to graduate the driving licence:

  • Curfew during hours of darkness
  • Limiting the number of passengers
  • Putting a cap on how powerful an engine can be
  • Keeping a log of how many hours’ supervised driving they do
  • Making P plates mandatory for two years after gaining a full licence
  • Limiting the top speed allowed
  • Fitting telematics as a condition of getting insurance

Night time curfews, observing a lower speed limit and a restriction on how many passengers they can carry are all topics under consideration for a graduated driving licence scheme. Several countries such as Australia, Ireland and parts of the USA already have similar schemes; in essence a probationary period while drivers, who are still new behind the wheel, gain more experience and polish their skills and the UK could soon join them.

As things stand, newly qualified motorists are treated almost the same as those with many more miles under their belt. True, the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act cuts the threshold to just six points on their licence in the first two years before being banned (it’s 12 for more experienced drivers) and there is a lower drink/drive alcohol allowance too. Some choose to display green P plates to warn other drivers to be prepared to give them a bit more time and space, but this isn’t mandatory. Otherwise they can drive just like anyone with years more experience.

The rationale for the proposal being looked at by the Department for Transport is to cut the disproportionately high accident toll among new licence holders while they gain the necessary skills to be safe. The stark fact is that one in four of them are involved in an accident of some kind, however minor, in the first two years and around 400 under-21s die each year on the road.

Pass Plus on a blue and white road sign

It is the biggest killer in their age range; under-25s account for almost one in three of the people killed or left with life-changing injuries yet make up only around seven per cent of full licence holders.

These numbers seem to show there’s something wrong with the way novice drivers go from their first lesson, to getting a full licence, to driving on the roads and there’s broad agreement among the road safety sector and insurers that it serious reform is needed.

Some of the areas being looked at include making post-test tuition and more advanced courses, such as the PassPlus scheme, compulsory or insisting younger drivers fit black-box telematics as a condition of getting insurance cover.

Putting road safety tuition on the national educational curriculum, restricting how powerful an engine is acceptable, not being allowed on the road during the hours of darkness and keeping a log book signed by a parent or qualified instructor with a tally of how many hours experience they rack up, are all there in the mix too.

The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) recommend that learners have 45 hours practice while wearing L plates as well as 22 hours with a professional instructor. At the moment this is only advisory but could become mandatory as part of the reforms.

Whatever the proposals, there is unanimity on the argument that just passing the current practical test is simply not enough to allow someone to drive solo.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Too many young drivers pass the practical test, but are unprepared for the road, so any graduated licence scheme must focus on building experience in all traffic conditions. Learning to drive shouldn’t stop at the practical test. IAM RoadSmart supports post-test check-ups to embed learning and help new drivers negotiate our stressful roads.”

Newly quaklified young female driver receiving extra tuition.

There have already been changes made to the process of getting a full licence and raising the standards needed to qualify for one. This year the practical driving test was made harder, and more realistic, by including independent driving; learners are allowed on motorways with qualified supervision, but campaigners say these are just small steps towards a much wider reaching reform.

However, there are problems. The number of young people applying for licences and owning cars is falling, presumably because of the cost, and all these proposals will only add to that burden and put personal mobility beyond the reach of many.  

Of that cost the biggest single element is insurance with many under-21s looking at £1,250 to £1,500-plus, annual premiums. If they can demonstrate they’re less of a risk, because they have more experience and are therefore safer, then that cost should come down and insurers will be key to making any changes work.

Some of the proposals will also pose what could be seen as unfair difficulties on young drivers; a night time curfew would make night-time working impossible and policing any curfew would be impossible without a black box.

That said, sadly the statistics on crashes don’t lie.


Proposals under discussion:

  • Curfew during hours of darkness
  • Limiting the number of passengers
  • Putting a cap on how powerful an engine can be
  • Keeping a log of how many hours’ supervised driving they do
  • Making P plates mandatory for two years after gaining a full licence
  • Limiting the top speed allowed
  • Fitting telematics as a condition of getting insurance