According to research published by the British Medical Journal, almost 9000 injuries could have been avoided in the last two years had young drivers been restricted when they first passed their driving test. Campaigners would like to see a series of “graduated driving licences” which could include restrictions on the age of passengers that newly qualified drivers can carry, restrictions on driving at certain times at night and other similar limitations.

With this in mind there was a recent discussion on a local radio channel regarding graduated driving licences and how they might work in the UK. Tony Mihill, owner of APass4U, was invited to contribute to the discussions which have been summarised in the post below.

Peter Roger, Chief Examiner for The Institute of Advanced Motorists, said:

“This idea has been around for a long time. The government promised us a green paper on these issues so we could have discussions to work everything out, and it hasn’t appeared. Then about a year ago they said they weren’t going to do it, but the problem remains. We know we need to do something, we’re not entirely sure exactly what’s going to work, we are in favour of doing things which are positive, rather than just imposing restrictions, because that’s the easy thing to do.”

The British Medical Journal suggests that the main reason for the delay is due to the recent increase in popularity of telematics and black box technology, which has been proven to show promise, but will unlikely be a complete solution. Graduated driver licensing would add an intermediary phase.

Peter continued:

“The Austrians came up with a clever scheme, in the year or so after you’ve passed your driving test, you have to go back and see them again and have classroom discussions. They talk about driving in the ice and snow or things, because that’s what Austria is like. If you took the idea and applied it to our circumstances, we think there would certainly be value in trying that. To see if rather than just be restrictive and beat our youngsters around the head, because most of them don’t crash – it’s only a minority who do, lets give them some support and try to help them through the process”.

“In general, students have quite reasonable skills in the car, the driving instructor industry at large does quite a good job of dealing with all that. The driving test process and the way the market works means that for a lot of young drivers the experience of driving on rural roads, or carrying passengers is restricted, and as they get that experience, taking the opportunity to talk to them about it, and getting them to talk to each other about it can be much more powerful, Those kind of things are worth exploring.”

Tom, a caller from Chelmsford, was asked how he ensured his sons stayed safe on the roads after passing their test, added:

“I made sure that my sons paid their own insurance when they passed their driving test for a start. The second thing was that they had to drive a very low powered car. When they passed their tests they were driving 800cc cars and everyone else had a litre and a half car and everything else. You can’t get a modern car these days that won’t do 70mph, its just physically impossible. They put restrictors on vans that restrict them to 65mph and 60mph, so why not turn around and say that young drivers can have their freedom, they can have their cars and so on and so forth, but they have a restrictor put on to it and the cars have to be insured in their own name.”

Peter Rogers responded:

“He is right, modern cars have changed, all sorts of things about modern life have changed, the power of the vehicle i don’t think is now the issue. The vehicle itself is not what’s causing the problem, it’s our expectation of what it’ll achieve for us. We are all responsible individuals, as parents we should be bringing up our youngsters to behave properly. The vast majority of them do. The government need to give some leadership on the issue so that the rest of us can get it sorted out, get on with it and do things well.”

At this point a Department of Transport statement was read as follows:

“Too many young people die on our roads. There is a difficult balance to strike between the safety and the freedom of our young drivers. We are currently undertaking research into how telematics can help make our roads safer. We won’t rule out any program that safeguards young drivers, but at the moment we are focusing our efforts on technological solutions.”

Tony Mihill was then asked to clarify what the government were talking about.

“At the moment the DVSA are trialing a new test for learner drivers, they’re taking away some of the old ways of thinking that people should be able drive, like being able to reverse around a corner and do a turn in the road. They are taking away these types of things and are bringing in a more independent style of driving. Where before they would ask a pupil on a test to drive for 20 minutes following a certain route. They are now stepping that up slightly, introducing things like using a sat-nav in the car. This is purely on a trial basis at the moment, in 20 different test centres across the country, its all voluntary and the pupil on test is going to have to follow a certain route, depending on where the sat-nav takes them. They’re bringing things like that in. A part of the test as well, is some safety check questions where they are now going to bring in questions like turning on and off the radio or windscreen demister.”

“The graduated licences are a bit restrictive, but i would love for them to come in for all drivers so that they would be tested every ten years, because there’s no doubt about it, it’s not just young drivers that cause problems on the road. Learner drivers at the moment can’t go on motorways. There are many instances where they have an accident because they are not used to driving on ice at all, so introducing what was called the “Pass Plus Scheme” where you would take them on a motorway, you would talk about stuff, or use a skidpan to teach them how to use the car on ice, things like that, bringing that in as a second step would be a fantastic idea. Unfortunately the government don’t have the infrastructure to be able to cope with it because at the moment they can’t even cope with the tests that they are supposed to be running. For instance Southend test centre, if you wanted to book today (12th Feb) you are looking at a test for April. So there is no way that they are going to be able to cope with the administration, let alone the actual physical dealing with the test itself.”

What advice have you got? When your youngsters passed their driving test, what did you say to them to keep them safe? Have you got any other suggestions as to what we can do to help keep them safe once they pass their driving test?