New government proposals mean that learner drivers may have to complete a minimum number of hours of supervised driving before taking their test, have compulsory lessons in difficult driving conditions and adhere to a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit when they do pass their test.
In a survey carried out by road safety charity Brake and car insurance firm Direct Line, drivers showed widespread support for the proposed measures, with even young drivers supporting most of the proposals:
- 84% of drivers and 69% of drivers under 25 supported a minimum learner period
- 70% supported a zero drink-drive limit for novice drivers, with 63% of under 25s supporting this idea
- 58% of drivers said that learner drivers should have to complete at least 35 hours of supervised learning before taking their tests
- 90% said that all learner drivers should have mandatory lessons on motorways and in ‘difficult conditions’
Other suggestions include young drivers facing a bar on having young friends as passengers and restrictions on late-night driving except for work and education. Newly-qualified drivers already face a probationary period of two years, during which they only need 6 points to lose their licence (instead of the usual 12), but the government is considering extending this period to three years.
Does it make sense?
I’m broadly in favour of all of these measures, although I question how effectively some of them can be enforced. Young drivers (aged 17-24) are involved in crashes that cause 20% of road deaths and serious injuries, despite only making up 12% of licence holders.
More thorough training on high-speed roads and a zero-tolerance drink drive limit are certainly good ideas, and in some ways it is surprising that this hasn’t happened already.
The drink-drive limit in England and Wales is one of the highest in the world (Scotland and Northern Ireland are lower), and proposals to lower it are usually met with hostility, but what people don’t seem to realise is that you don’t need to be drunk for your judgement and coordination to be impaired.
The UK blood alcohol limit is 80mg/100ml, but research* shows that drivers whose blood alcohol is 50mg/100ml are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than drivers who haven’t been drinking — even though they are well below the UK limit.
Research carried out by the University of Cardiff** has found that introducing a graduated licensing system in the UK — with restrictions such as those I’ve mentioned above — could prevent 200 deaths and thousands of injuries each year.
That’s got to be worth a try.
* Maycock TRL Report 232 1997
** Restricting young drivers, The University of Cardiff, 2010