We are the voice of insurance and long-term savings | Contact us

Young Drivers debate: Time to introduce meaningful reform to driver training

James_Dalton_blogSince its launch last September, the ABI's Safe Young Driver campaign has significantly raised the profile of the poor safety record of young drivers and what needs to be done to address it.

Everyone knows that young drivers are more dangerous than older, more experienced drivers. Yet, despite the all the academic studies, all the international evidence and all the numbers indicating that young people are much more likely to kill or injure themselves than other road users, successive Governments have failed to act. But the signals that are now coming from the Government are much more positive. The Department for Transport is committed to exploring all the options.

Only by introducing meaningful reform will the poor safety record of young drivers be improved and the ABI's campaign has shone a spotlight on sensible solutions (Guardian article) that will have a huge impact on improving the safety record of young drivers. To date, only limited measures have been introduced such as improvements to driver education and minor reforms to the driving test itself. Although these measures are welcome, they only scratch the surface. Fundamental reform is needed.

The insurance industry would like to see a minimum one year learning period followed by a short period (six months) where newly qualified young drivers face a restriction on driving during night time hours and a restriction on the number of passengers they can carry.

Commonly referred to as graduated driver licensing, it is a way of allowing new drivers to build driving experience in lower risk conditions. The proposals we are advocating will provide young drivers with a protective environment while they are continuing to learn to drive, along with encouragement to obtain plenty of practical experience. The restrictions ensure young people drive at times and in situations known to be lower risk, so that they gain essential practical experience as safely as possible.

While we're pleased that these proposals have hit the headlines, much more needs to be done to explain the proven benefits of graduated learning and address the critics.

Fundamentally, all of the international evidence (Cochrane Library) points to the success of graduated learning, particularly those schemes that contain both restrictions on the number of passengers that can be carried and a limit on driving during certain hours during the night. As for the criticism that the restrictions cannot be enforced, again, the international evidence speaks volumes: The evidence from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has shown that young drivers do comply, given most are law-abiding citizens anyway. Correspondence with officials in Canada and New Zealand has confirmed that non-compliance with restrictions is low, for instance, in New Zealand, the level of non-compliance is similar to other driving offences such as speeding and driving while using a mobile phone. And let's not forget, motoring laws are, for the most part, self-enforcing anyway for example laws governing wearing a seatbelt, refraining from using a mobile phone and obeying the speed limit.

Too many young people have died or have been seriously injured on our roads. It is time for that to stop. My hope is that if graduated learning is introduced, that will be the result. That young driver car insurance premiums are likely to reduce by 15-20% is an added benefit.

Fundamental change is needed and the introduction of a graduated driver licensing system in the UK is the key reform required so we look forward to making the case to the Department for Transport in response to their Green Paper, expected to be released in July.

And we look forward to continuing to work with partners such as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Parliamentary Council for Transport Safety, the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, Road Safety Analysis and leading academics to make the case for meaningful reform.

Last updated 29/06/2016