UK moves toward graduated licensing

Drivers 17 to 19 make up 1.5% of drivers but account for 9% of crashes

Published: May 23, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: May 27, 2016, 1:59 PM

UK studies indicate 17 to 19 year olds make up 1.5% of drivers but account for 9% of crashes

A recent study out of the UK suggests many people back some kind of restriction for new drivers, in the wake of freshly released figures that show drivers between the ages of 17 and 19 are involved in 9% of fatal crashes despite making up just 1.5% of the driving population.

The study was conducted by Brake, a charity dedicated to improving road safety for all users (and also to support those bereaved and seriously injured in road incidents) by working with communities and organisations across the UK.

“Our first years behind the wheel are among the most dangerous of our lives, with one in five new drivers crashing in their first six months on the road,” said Alice Bailey, Communications and campaigns adviser for Brake. “We must do more to help keep young people safe behind the wheel. Countries and states that have introduced restrictions for newly qualified drivers have seen big drops in crash rates. We’re pleased to hear the government has announced plans for a full review into the current driving test this year, with a view to making it more like ‘real life driving.’”

The UK’s Department for Transport suggests 4,471 casualties and £224 million (over $426 million Canadian) could be saved in Great Britain each year if restrictions were brought in for novice drivers aged 17 to 19.

In light of the latest figures that also showed over 2,000 annual deaths and serious injuries of vehicle occupants in the 17 to 24 age range, Brake wanted to get the public’s opinions on several graduated licensing strategies (something that is already in place in many jurisdictions around the world, including Canadian provinces).

Among the restrictions those surveyed liked was the use of a special vehicle plate with the letter P (for Probationary driver), with two thirds of respondents (66%) supporting the stipulation. Drivers in Canada’s graduated licensing systems do not have special designation, but many European and Asian countries do.

Another interesting stipulation was the restriction of engine size in the vehicle driven the by Probationary driver, with half of respondents (50%) conveying support for it. Again, that is something not enforced in Canadian jurisdictions under graduated licensing, though it might be irrelevant to put such a restriction in place given the ever-increasing power outputs of today’s increasingly-smaller engines (as well as the aftermarket modifications that can make more powerful still).

Other stipulations suggested for a graduated licensing program in the UK are already part of the Canadian systems, as well as those of other countries — zero tolerance when it comes to drinking and driving (supported by 63% of respondents), restrictions on the number of passengers and their ages (supported by 44%), restriction on night driving (38%), and maintaining a clean driving record (35%).

Of interest is that although 79% or respondents thought there should be a minimum time frame before a full license is issued, two-thirds of respondents (62%) felt six months would be enough time for new drivers to gain experience before taking their practical test (with 35% of total respondents saying 25 hours of supervised driving would be sufficient).

Twenty-one percent of respondents thought there should be no restrictions for supervised driving, 16% thought a year should be the required learning time, and 12% thought it should be less than six months. Similarly, 50% or respondents thought there should be at least 50 hours of supervised driving (with half of those thinking between 35 and 50 hours), and only 15% thought there shouldn’t be a limit on the number of hours required at the wheel with supervision.