Graduated licensing – restrictions on new drivers – has been debated back and forth for years.
Countries including Canada and Australia have versions of graduated licensing, but the UK has always steered clear to avoid interfering with young people’s lives unduly.
Now, the Department for Transport is giving consideration to how it could implement graduated licensing, which it will detail in its Road Safety Action Plan – due to publish Friday 18 July.
Current graduated licensing schemes restrict things like number of passengers, time of day and alcohol limit (usually zero tolerance) for young drivers.
This is intended to reduce the risks inexperienced drivers encounter on the road: distraction, unfamiliar conditions and impaired driving.
In the UK, we have a limit on the number of points a new driver can rack up in their first two years on the road. Six points in that time and you’re out.
When the government introduced the six-point penalty for phone use at the wheel, this meant an immediate ban for any driver not through that probationary period. But apart from that, the UK really doesn’t have restrictions on new drivers at this point.
One of the reasons Ticker doesn’t have a curfew is that it’s been done before – with bad consequences.
In the early years of telematics insurance, there were box policies with curfews and young drivers were racing against the clock to get home and avoid a penalty. Young drivers will always need to drive late, and we all push it when we’re rushing. The combination of the late hour, speeding and pressure is a dangerous one.
Nine to five jobs aren’t the norm in your teens. A young driver using their car to get to and from their job can’t only accept early shifts.
Similarly, college and uni often require late driving during exam season.
Quite aside from safety and work, driving is about freedom. Restricting the hours or ways in which a young driver can socialise, travel and manage their lives is something that needs serious consideration.
While a few months driving alone is a good idea for a new driver, to minimise distractions, rules about carrying passengers are a big deal.
Lift sharing is important to our environment and, at the time when not everyone you know is driving, a social necessity.
It also gets forgotten that many young and new drivers have children. Driving is vital for many parents, and taking that away could make people’s lives very difficult.
Our roads are getting safer. Crashes have reduced by 16% for the general population since 2011. Even better – crashes have reduced by 35% for 17 to 19-year-olds. Why the big difference? The rise of telematics insurance.
Of course, one serious injury or death on the road is too many. There’s still more work required to make our roads safer, but blanket restrictions on an entire age group is not the only solution.
“Box insurance is now the number one option for young drivers and will keep improving road safety, but we still need the excellent work of car manufacturers, charities and government bodies to keep raising the bar. Mobile phone use necessitated government intervention, and it’s past time we had a zero tolerance approach to drinking before driving.
“But it’s about working together to solve the problem in a way that improves the lives of all road users, rather than resorting to heavy-handed measures. That work shouldn’t include restricting the freedom of young drivers to travel, work and learn – on their schedule, not the government’s.”