Driving licences should be graduated, says RAC Foundation

learner driver Novice drivers could face four years of restrictions

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Learner drivers in the UK should face a graduated system of licences to help reduce road deaths, says a report by the RAC Foundation.

The study suggests that hundreds of lives a year could be saved if such a system were adopted.

New drivers would face a four-year learning period during which they would be subject to restrictions.

The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand already have graduated learning for drivers.

The RAC Foundation said such countries had seen a significant reduction in the number of young people being killed in accidents.

Deaths among 17- to 24-year-olds have fallen by up to 60%, and the number of overall casualties has fallen by up to 32%.

"Putting a firm number on casualty reduction is hard because of the pick-and-mix approach to graduated licensing," said Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

"But the evidence suggests that a full package of measures could reduce fatalities by anything up to 60%," he said.

In the UK, one in five novice drivers has an accident within six months of passing their test.

In 2011, more than 1,500 young drivers were killed or seriously injured, a rate of four a day, said the Foundation.

New system

The report says that the first 1,000 miles of driving may be the most important for cutting the risk of an accident.

woman learner driver Drivers could also face a stricter drink-drive limit, under the proposals

So it is calling for a three-stage, graduated, system. New drivers would face restrictions for four years:

  • Stage one

A one-year minimum driving period, before the test is taken. Drivers would need to experience a wide range of conditions, including winter driving and night driving.

  • Stage two

After the test is taken, drivers would face restrictions for a further year. The number of passengers they could carry might be limited, and night driving might also be restricted.

  • Stage three

A further two-year probationary period. If during the period a driver receives six penalty points, they would have to take a re-test.

The Foundation would also like to see a stricter drink-drive limit.

At the moment the legal maximum is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

But this figure could be reduced to 50mg.


Earlier this year, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said young drivers could save up to 20% on their insurance premiums, if restrictions were put in place for newly-qualified drivers.

This might include limits on night-time driving, and restrictions on the number of passengers they are able to carry.

As a result new drivers might be able to save as much as £370 a year.

The government is currently considering a range of similar proposals, and will shortly decide whether to change the rules on driving tests.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    The big problem is that driving is seen as being a right, not a privilege. As a consequence it is not treated with the respect it deserves by almost everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    There are some drivers on the road who never had to take a driving test, but they are somehow seen as safer drivers...

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    This sounds too restrictive. Why not use technology rather than restrictions. Limit what cars can be used by under 24's to a list of safe cars. Low power, modern airbags brakes etc.

    Speed limiters to 60mph and link to GPS to limit to local speed limit. Safe driving "black box" info to be made available to insurers and car owners/premium payers (often parents).

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    "Your Call Is Important To Us
    Could we also put forward an idea to have all BMWs and Audis fitted with fully functioning indicators? I can't remember ever seeing one on these cars."

    Indicators seem to be an optional extra on prestige marque German cars. However, it seems to be a standard fitting on VWs, Seats and Skodas which are basically the same car as an Audi but progressively cheaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    As a qualified Driving Instructor, perhaps if we actually taught the youth of today how to actually DRIVE rather than PASS A TEST it would help.
    The current test is completely outdated and wrong, they should be tested at Night, on a Skid Pan etc it should not be left to chance and we have a Duty to make the changes and protect our Children. Wake up Driving Standards Agency

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    I am not 100% convinced that restricting the power will make a huge difference for two reasons:
    1) Most young drivers wouldnt be able to afford the insurance on a relatively powerful vehicle
    2) Most of the reckless driving from young drivers I see all drive 1L and 1.2L hatchbacks and it doesnt stop them being the way they are.

    I agree with more restrictions though! Just please keep it sensible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    I would like to see some kind of restriction on the amount of power in a car young drivers are able to drive, say for example nothing over 75bhp until you're 25. The insurance system in a way does this at the moment through pricing younger drivers out of the market for more powerful cars, but I still don't think it's appropriate for younger people to drive some of the more quick cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    176.Chris Rowles
    stop charging young drivers 6x the amount of their car for their first year of insurance (such as in my case!).

    It's not just your car you are insuring. It's tha damage you do to other people and porperty. Insurance is based on the risk you present to others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Just realised how exploitable this really is. Start when you're 17, pass when you're 18 in last year of secondary school.

    Go off to university for three years where you really don't need to drive.

    Finish university, unrestricted driving and no experience.

    Plus, are they really going to regulate this? Will they stop all cars with three passengers to check the pass date?

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Would this mean drivers would have to be qualified for four years before being able to obtain an LGV or PCV licence, or being able to drive for work [e.g., driving a delivery van]? Looks like another ill thought out attack on the symptoms rather than the causes of bad driving. If only all drivers realised that everyone around them is another human and not just a piece of mobile scenery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    I think there should be a limit on the size and power of car that a newly qualified driver can drive. Also, the test itself is not hard enough by no means. It shouldnt just be one test and thats it, you've passed but it should be a whole series of challenges that need to be learnt and overcome. Why don't we incorporate some of the Advanced techniques for new drivers as it would be of benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Of course this is a popular measure, older drivers don't care if young people have their life opportunities restricted. It doesn't affect them.

    Add in a clause about compulsory tests for the over 60s to see if they're still fit to drive and watch people suddenly become much less concerned about road safety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Coming from a 19 year old who recently passed his test last year, I'm all for this...

    ...Provided insurance companies get sensible, and stop charging young drivers 6x the amount of their car for their first year of insurance (such as in my case!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    173.Your Call Is Important To Us
    "Could we also put forward an idea to have all BMWs and Audis fitted with fully functioning indicators? I can't remember ever seeing one on these cars."

    I saw the left indicator on a BMW work yesterday afternoon.

    Unfortunately, she turned right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Perivale Elvis, are you going to find the under-21s jobs they don't have to drive to then? And what happens when all the 22 year olds are new drivers, and there are more learners on the road at peak times because tat's the only time they can fit it around work? I assume you learned when you were older and are a perfect driver, correct?

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Could we also put forward an idea to have all BMWs and Audis fitted with fully functioning indicators? I can't remember ever seeing one on these cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Most new drivers have smal cars as teh insurance is less, these same cars have thelowest NCAP safety standardsna dhave the structural istrength of a paper bag.. I wonder what % of the 1500 lives lost each year would have been saved if they had bigger safer cars but with small under powered engines?

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    That simply wouldn't work. Some instructors string their clients along to eek as much cash as possible, especially with the abundance of instructors and schools these days. To bring in a system of "instructor endorsement" would give rogue instructors free reign to rip off learners, which is just completely unfair, and at £25/hour, for many it's also unaffordable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    If the motorbike licence can have power restrictions for new riders then the same should apply to the car licence. I saw a report of a 17 year old lad who didn't have a licence and had just won a lot of money on the lottery and his first car was going to be 400bhp V8 Audi RS4!! A new rider of the same age is restricted to 125cc and 14 bhp...!

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I agree with all the new ideas, but also there should be a restriction on the cc of the vehicle they are allowed to drive, for example first two years under 1000cc.


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