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DfT's Evidence Review highlights the overwhelming need for graduated driver licensing

As we await the forthcoming Green Paper on young driver safety, the Government has released a review it commissioned from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) of the international literature and evidence concerning a range of road safety interventions. These included pre-driver education and graduated driver licensing.

The 190 page report considers all the available information and the conclusion is unmistakable: the single most effective intervention to improve road safety for young drivers is the introduction of graduated driver licensing (GDL).

The context for the Evidence Review and Green Paper could not be clearer. Everyone knows that the way in which young people learn to drive at present is not working; it's not fit for purpose and young people are paying too high a price for its failure. That's why insurers want to see meaningful reform introduced. Put simply, GDL is a way of allowing new drivers to build up the experience they need in low-risk driving conditions. It involves a minimum learning period followed by short-term, post-test restrictions including restrictions on driving at night and on driving with passengers under a certain age in the car.

Issues associated with young driver road safety are not unique to the UK. Many other countries have improved road safety outcomes for young drivers by introducing reform to their driver training and testing regimes. As such, much of the Review focusses on the international evidence, looking at countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where learning to drive under a graduated driver licensing framework is part and parcel of growing up.

The evidence in these countries points to the overwhelming success of graduated licencing. The most extensive review – the Cochrane review – found a median decrease of 15% in all crashes causing fatal and serious injuries in the US and Canada. Fundamentally, the international evidence demonstrates that all countries that have introduced GDL experience lower young driver casualty rates.

Robust research, such as that undertaken by the Cochrane report and the TRL Review, is critical for evidence-based policy-making. And the international evidence is overwhelming: GDL saves lives.

Reducing the costs of car insurance

While the industry has always approached the issue of young drivers from a road safety perspective, we have understandably been asked how much premiums will come down by if GDL was introduced in the UK.

Based on the international experience, we estimate that young driver premiums will reduce by 15-20%. To achieve these significant savings, the Government must introduce GDL in full – the temptation to undertake a policy pick and mix must be avoided. The insurance industry wants to see the forthcoming Green Paper ask the public what they think about all of the components of an effective GDL system including a minimum learning period and post-test restrictions on passengers and night-time driving. 

Insurers want to see premiums for young drivers come down to more affordable levels, but the only way this can happen is to make them safer drivers. If young driver road traffic crashes decrease, the risk they pose to an insurer decreases and insurance premiums for young drivers will follow. Action is needed to ensure young driver motor insurance becomes affordable and more importantly, by putting into place a GDL scheme, the Government will make sure that fewer young people are killed and injured on our roads.

As we have long argued, meaningful reform is urgently needed and it is essential that the Government takes on board the findings of their own Evidence Review.

Scott Pendry is Policy Adviser, Motor

Last updated 29/06/2016