Would phased driving licences save lives?
Increasing unemployment levels have put paid to Government plans for graduated driving licences.
Until recently, the Government was considering a new structure to the driving licensing system which would see a cascading number of tighter restrictions placed upon newly qualified drivers. Measures would aim to combat the higher driving risk of newbies, making British roads safer for all.
By no means the first to adopt such a system, the UK would have followed 73 countries and American states where something like this already exists. In these locations, collisions and casualties where new or young drivers are involved have already decreased by as much as 40%.
But concerns about whether a graduated system would restrict new drivers’ employment opportunities has led to the consultation being abandoned. It’s not the first time work on graduated licences has been abandoned, with the Department for Transport exploring the possibility seemingly every couple of years.
But is this something that the UK would really benefit from? Let’s take a look.
Why change the system?
Every year the Government faces pressure to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities on British roads.
According to Department for Transport data, there have been around 1,700 fatalities and serious injuries a year since 2012. And, while only 7% of licensed drivers are aged 17-24, it’s the drivers in this age bracket who are involved in some 24% of the fatal collisions that do happen. And that’s on top of their involvement in a quarter of the incidents that result in serious injury too.
As the old adage goes, with age comes experience, and that’s certainly the case on UK roads. Research into young driver behaviour at the Transport Research Laboratory suggests that a 17-year-old’s driving risk reduces by 6% in their first year of qualified driving, simply because of increasing maturity alone.
That being said, it looks as though miles are a more significant factor than age when it comes to gaining experience. Further research shows that the risk will lower by 36% during the same period if around 4,500 miles are covered – irrespective of age.
What were the proposed updates and what’s changing instead?
Proposed measures would have mimicked those already in place in other regions. The update would have meant the introduction of night-time curfews and limits on the number of passengers of a similar age that young drivers could take. The after-dark driving ban would likely have been in place throughout a new driver’s first year.
Now that the Department for Transport’s scrapped their plans, the Government will oversee the restructuring of driving lessons instead. They plan to introduce a new curriculum to cover a variety of issues that newly qualified drivers face; dealing with adverse weather conditions, rural roads and distractions behind the wheel will be top of the list.
Many driving instructors have welcomed the cancellation of the proposed graduated system. But are they right? Is the economic impact to young drivers more important than reducing fatalities? And how can they guarantee adverse weather conditions for learners to practise in?!
As with all subjects surrounding driver risk, we’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, so send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got an insight to share.