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Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

Young drivers – a poor safety record

Young drivers remain a major danger on the road, to themselves, their passengers and other road users. Young drivers are grossly overrepresented in the official accident figures and each statistic represents a tragic waste of life that could be prevented.

The ABI has long campaigned for safer roads. We have consistently argued that unless radical reforms are made, the poor safety record of young drivers will continue. If the number of crashes involving young drivers decreases, the financial risk they pose to an insurer will decrease and insurance premiums for young drivers will follow.

Crashes involving young drivers are generally the result of one or more of the following:

Driving at night

Driving in the dark requires different skills from driving during daylight hours. Young drivers travelling late at night are more likely to crash for a variety of reasons:

  • driving at night is more difficult;
  • many newly licensed drivers will have had less practice of driving at night;
  • fatigue – thought to be a problem for teenagers at all times of the day – may be more of a factor at night;
  • recreational driving that is considered to be high risk, sometimes involving alcohol use, is more likely to take place at nigh

Bends and speed

Young drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash as a result of excessive speed, sudden braking and loss of control. Sudden braking is also a significant contributing factor with young drivers more likely to have a crash undertaking this manoeuvre than drivers aged over 25.

Adverse driving conditions

Wet roads require a different driving style from dry, clear conditions. Young drivers are far more likely to have a crash on slippery roads than a driver aged over 25.


Research has shown that the presence of friends can both distract young drivers and encourage them to drive in a more risky way. Young drivers carrying two young passengers are twice as likely to be killed as those driving alone; and they are four times more likely to die if they have three young passengers.


The attitude of a young driver plays a significant role in road accidents. Young drivers are far more likely to be involved in a crash due to being careless, reckless or in a hurry than drivers aged over 25. They are also are significantly more likely to have crashes that involve speed or aggressive driving.

What can be done to improve road safety for young drivers?

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) is designed to delay full licence issue, allowing beginners to obtain their initial driving experience under lower risk conditions. It is divided into three stages: a minimum supervised learning period, an intermediate licence period that places restrictions on the newly qualified driver, and the acquisition of a full, unrestricted, driving licence available after completion of the first two stages.

The current UK licensing system allows a young person to drive unaccompanied and with no restrictions as soon as they pass their practical driving test unlike with a motorbike where they have graduated licensing. It is therefore unsurprising that many young people try to pass it in as little time as possible, many taking just a few months to learn the skills required to pass the test. The result is that inadequate emphasis is placed on the benefits of gaining road experience and, subsequently, young drivers can have little experience of driving in different road and traffic conditions. It is unsurprising that these drivers with the least experience subsequently go on to have the highest crash rates when fully licensed.

The ABI proposes the following measures to improve the situation in the United Kingdom:

  • A minimum 12 month learning period before the driving test can be taken, enabling drivers to undertake supervised practice without an incentive to rush to take the practical test.
  • The lowering of the age at which young people can start learning to drive to 16 ½ years.
  • A ban on intensive driving courses.
  • Introducing graduated driver licensing for drivers under the age of 25. During the intermediate phase, restrictions would be placed on the number of passengers a young person can carry and the time of day they can drive.
  • Restricting the number of passengers young drivers are able to carry for a period of 6 months.
  • A night time driving restriction between 2300 – 0400 during the first 6 months of driving.
  • A lowering of the blood alcohol limit to 20mg/100ml during the intermediate phase

See the full report 'Improving the Safety of Young Drivers' here.