Drivers 'should be made to learn for a year'

L-plate being ripped up There should be a restricted "graduated" licence for those driving within six months of passing a test

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People should spend at least a year learning to drive, say insurers who are calling for an overhaul of the system.

The Association of British Insurers says drivers aged 17-24 are responsible for a disproportionately high number of crashes, deaths and claims.

The ABI also wants new drivers to face restrictions on driving at night and a lower alcohol limit.

But it says they should be allowed to start learning six months earlier - currently they must be at least 17.

It said the need for more rigorous driver training had been side-stepped "for too long".

'Lethal weapon'

"Radical action is needed to reduce the tragic waste of young lives on our roads, especially among the 17 to 24 age group," said ABI director general Otto Thoresen.

The ABI's Malcolm Tarling: "There are two key issues, we improve road safety and lower costs"

"A car is potentially a lethal weapon, and we must do more to help young drivers better deal with the dangers of driving. Improving the safety of young drivers will also mean that they will face lower motor insurance costs.

"Northern Ireland is introducing reforms, and politicians in Westminster should follow their lead in introducing meaningful reform to help today's young drivers become tomorrow's safer motorists."

Among the reforms insurers want to see are:

  • A ban on learners being able to take an intensive driving course as their only method of passing
  • The introduction of a new "graduated" licence for the first six months after passing a test
  • During this time the number of young passengers that a newly-qualified driver could carry would be restricted
  • They would also be banned from driving between 11:00pm and 4:00am for the first six months, unless they were driving to and from work or college
  • There would be no blood alcohol allowed during those first six months
  • But young drivers would be able to start learning earlier, at the age of 16 and a half

The ABI said all the evidence showed that newly passed young drivers were the riskiest on the road and that special care was needed to avoid them having accidents.

It said an 18-year-old was more than three times as likely as a 48-year-old to be involved in a crash, and that a third of drivers killed in car accidents were under 25. That was despite the fact that the under 25s form only one in eight of all car drivers.

More than a quarter of all personal injury motor claims for more than £500,000 are due to crashes involving 17 to 24-year-olds, it said.

"Young drivers are far more likely to be involved in crashes involving three to five high value bodily injury claims, reflecting the increased risk they face of having a serious crash while carrying passengers," the ABI said.

Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said the government would consider the ideas.

"We are already working with young people, the insurance industry and other key stakeholders to identify what else can be done to ensure that newly-qualified drivers are properly prepared and drive safely," he said.

The president of the AA, Edmund King, said there might be some practical difficulties with the proposals.

"We should be looking to get people safer before they get on the road, rather than restricting them afterwards, because a lot of these proposals are very difficult to police," he told the BBC.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    The driver training period should include a minimum number of hours done during darkness. Learner and new drivers should not be permitted to carry any passengers (apart from a qualified instructor). Should we also have a restriction on engine sizes for a new driver, as is the case with motorcycles?

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    Driver training needs to be more intense and done over a longer period of time, perhaps with a diploma at the end if it, the grading of which dictates the size of car you can drive and the cost of insurance premiums. Grades less than 'A' come with greater costs and greater restrictions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Driver training is far too narrow at present. How many people know the correct technique for taking a decreasing radius, off camber bend in the rain? Age is a red herring. Experience, knowledge and respect are more important. More comprehensive intitial training and five yearly renewal training would help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Whoever said that bad attitude is the biggest factor is completely right in my opinion. And that's not something that can be overcome with any amount of training. Making it harder and more expensive to get on the road will just affect young people negatively and make them even more unemployable, completely wrong course of action...

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Can I just say that SOME drivers 17-24 are more likely to crash. Absolutely not all, as most people - especially insurance companies - seem to have in their heads. Most of us are safe drivers, it's only a small minority of us that are those idiots you see tearing around trying to "impress" their mates. I passed my test in June 2010 and so far have not had to claim a single penny from my insurance.


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