The Chronicle

Insurance firms want special restrictio­ns on younger drivers


- By JONATHAN WALKER Political Reporter

NEW rules of the road should ban younger drivers from carrying too many passengers or taking to the roads late at night, according to insurance firms.

They have written to MPs calling for a change in the law.

The call came from the Associatio­n of British Insurers, in a submission to the House of Commons Transport Committee. The Committee, including Easington MP Graeme Morris, is investigat­ing measures that could be taken to reduce the relatively high collision rates among young and novice drivers .

Young drivers aged between 17-24 account for 7% of full driving licence holders in England, Scotland and Wales, but were involved in 16% of fatal and serious accidents in 2018. However, the number of young car driver fatalities on Britain’s roads is falling and 99 drivers aged 17 to 24 were killed in 2018, down from 158 in 2010 and 448 in 1990.

In a written submission to the inquiry, the Associatio­n said: “We have consistent­ly argued that unless significan­t reforms are made, the poor safety record of young drivers will continue.”

They are calling for the introducti­on of what’s called a graduated driver licensing system. It would mean that newly-qualified drivers receive a probationa­ry licence before eventually moving on to a full licence.

There would be a limit on the number of passengers that newly-qualified drivers would be allowed to carry. Research by the American Automobile Associatio­n Foundation has found that the fatality risks to 16- or 17-year-old drivers increased by 44% when carrying one passenger; doubled when carrying two passengers; and quadrupled when carrying three or more passengers.

They would also be barred from driving between 11pm and 4am. Research has shown that late night driving increases the crash risk among young drivers for a variety of reasons, including driver fatigue and lack of driving experience.

The restrictio­ns would be in place for six months after passing a test.

At the same time, the Associatio­n is calling for a tough drink driving limit lowering the alcohol limit to 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (from the current 80mg, and 50mg in Scotland), for a two-year intermedia­te phase following the first six months of driving. In practice, this would ban people from driving after consuming any alcoholic drink.

It’s also calling for the learning period to last for at least 12 months for every driver, to end the temptation to rush to take the driving test as quickly as possible. As part of this, young people would be allowed to start taking lessons six months before their 17th birthday.

The Associatio­n said: “As the internatio­nal evidence and above research shows, a minimum supervised learning period is a key component of the most effective graduated driver licencing schemes. The Associatio­n of British Insurers supports a 12-month minimum learning period as this allows the learner to experience driving conditions associated with a wide variety of road and traffic conditions, including driving in adverse weather conditions and low light conditions. By gaining a wider driving experience, the driver will be better prepared for solo driving after passing the test.”

Road breakdown body the AA expressed some scepticism about the idea of a graduated driver licensing system, in its own submission to the inquiry.

It said: “Some forms of introducin­g graduated training work well but there are concerns about some overly-restrictiv­e schemes. For example, curfews and passenger limits are difficult for an already stretch police force to enforce. If a solution such as this were to be implemente­d then a facility for exemptions would need to be created, managed and maintained. Without this, this type of restrictio­n may well take away the point of being able to drive for many young people (ie. those doing shift work or giving lifts to siblings).

We would support a minimum learning period (supported by a logbook), and mandatory lessons to cover different types of driving (ie. motorway/ rural/night).”

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