Drivers 'should be made to learn for a year'

image captionThere should be a restricted "graduated" licence for those driving within six months of passing a test

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.

media captionThe 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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