New Government-commissioned report also recommends night-time driving restrictions for young drivers and a new graduated licensing procedure for novices
Matt Burt
11 October 2013

Young drivers could be prevented from taking their driving test until they are 18 and face a raft of motoring restrictions if proposals put forward in a new Government-commissioned report are adopted.

The proposals – which also include measures such as teenaged motorists from being forbidden to drive at night or with similarly aged friends as passengers – are contained in a 190-page research report into novice driving standards by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

The TRL study was commissioned by the Department for Transport to analyse statistics that suggest young and novice drivers are much more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents than older, more experienced motorists.

DFT figures suggest 22 per cent of fatalities on Britain’s roads in 2011 occurred in collisions involving a driver aged between 17 and 24.

In 65 per cent of those collisions, the fatal injuries were sustained by passengers or road users other than the young driver, leading the TRL report to conclude that, “the over-representation of young novice drivers in road injury statistics is a public health risk in GB and worldwide”.

The TRL’s new framework for young drivers takes its inspiration from Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) schemes already used in several countries including New Zealand, Australia and Canada. TRL estimates the adoption of such a scheme would result in 4,471 fewer casualties and £224 million in cost savings annually.

The scheme proposes that 17-year-olds would be issued with a learner permit and red ‘L’ plates that they would have to retain for a minimum of 12 months.

During this time they would have to complete a minimum of 100 daytime hours and 20 nighttime hours of supervised practice, which would then have to be submitted in a mandatory log book when they go to do their driving test.

The hours would have to be verified by a parent/guardian, supervising driver or advanced driving instructor. Under the scheme, the restriction on learner drivers using the motorways would be lifted.

A ban on using hands-free mobile phones would be enforced, as would a drink-drive alcohol limit of 0.2g/l.

At the age of 18 drivers would be eligible to apply for a probationary licence, which would require theory, on-road and hazard perception tests to be passed. Successful drivers would be issued with green ‘P’ plates.


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They would face a 12-month restriction from driving between the hours of 10pm and 5am, unless accompanied by an adult over 30 years old.

Any probationary licence holder under the age of 30 would be banned from carrying passengers under 30 years old, unless an adult over 30 is also riding in the car.

After a full year as a probationary licence holder, drivers will be able to apply for a full licence, although the TRL study also recommends that periodic assessment of a licence holder by advanced driving instructors should be introduced for all drivers.

Brake, the road safety charity, said: “We wholeheartedly welcome this report, which is further recognition of the compelling case for graduated driver licensing. We urge the government to act swiftly and decisively by committing to a full system of graduated driver licensing, to help reduce the danger young drivers pose to themselves and others.”

The Department for Transport could launch a full consultation into the proposals during the winter.



Join the debate


11 October 2013

I think the Department of Transport has lost the plot!!! How on earth are they going to enforce all these rules, how much is it going to cost?

Why spend millions on research which is going to bring useless rules which cannot be enforced and frankly ridiculous, the government has no business dictating who should be riding in the car and how old they are, this is crazy, worse than USSR.

I bet non of these people who did this research or civil servants in the DoT actually drive, otherwise they would have recommended fixing potholes and surfaces which are frankly makes you think you are in a developing country, not the UK, visitors to the UK are laughing at the state of the roads, which are more dangerous and hazardous than a bunch of teenagers in a car. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!

11 October 2013

I fail to see how the DfT can possibly think that they would be able to enforce all these ideas - for a start where are the Traffic Police Officers to catch those flouting the rules, I don't do a huge annual mileage but can't remember the last time I saw a police car that was not using 'blues and twos' or was parked outside a property rather than just patrolling the highways or motorways.

I like the idea of more extensive pre-test driving experience and keeping a log but wonder how its veracity could be checked, particularly if parents/guardians are allowed to verify it. As for enforcing rules about the age of who is in the car, they've no hope.

This study strikes me as an academic report produced by people who have yet to emerge from their ivory towers, never mind get in a car and drive around in the real world. Better as 'carnut' says to spend the money on repairing our awful roads and leave these academics to do some proper work.

11 October 2013

Making learner drivers do a minimum set of hours is an idea that is worth pondering over. However, with only a need to get patents to sign it off, it becomes irrelevant. There are plenty of parents that will do anything for their wonder kid including signing off a little form.

I still think there is a need to tackle motorway driving. Learner drivers are not allowed on them, presumably because they are 'too dangerous', so why are they allowed on them the minute they pass their test?! Motorway driving must be put into the test. It might improve driver discipline, reducing tailgating and lane hogging. My glass must be half full today...

11 October 2013

Anything which seriously aims at tackling the level of young driver accidents and deaths is certainly worth consideration, and it sounds like there are good intentions behind these ideas. However, I'd agree that they are very difficult to enforce, and while motorway driving clearly needs to be included in the learning process I'm not sure letting young drivers on with L-plates is a good idea. More to the point, I'm not sure why 19 is considered a magically better age to have a full licence, considering the at-risk age bracket is 18-24, not 18-19.

The report also seems to overlook the main risk factor, which is that there's nothing in law to stop a very young driver getting into a quite powerful car as soon as they've passed their test (either as a named driver or on their own insurance if they or their parents can afford it). They won't have the skills to control the car if anything goes wrong, and I suspect that is behind a lot of the accidents. I'd be in favour of adopting something similar to the motorcycle licensing scheme, whereby you can only have a 125cc up to 21 - you could have a car-based equivalent of something like a 1.0 or 1.2 hatchback. May not be great for street cred, but it would certainly make it more within the skill set of the driver, and it would probably reduce both the cost of insurance claims and the cost of running a car overall as well. I've spent most of the last 8 years driving a 1.0 hatchback, and arguably I've learned a lot about car control and efficient driving because of the style of driving I've had to adapt to get the most out of it. It might offend some principles of freedom of choice, but it seems like a sensible solution to me.

I'd also say the way that people learn to drive needs to be completely overhauled, and rather than focus on a theory and a practical test there should be an emphasis on ongoing assessment and review. Set out something like a series of 10 (for the sake of argument) stages that a driver has to complete, with an assessor sitting in on a lesson to sign off each one and a set number of hours of driving between completing each stage, and once you complete all 10 stages you're granted your licence. It would give a more complete picture of someone's standard of driving than a 45-minute snapshot, I would argue, and if you structure it appropriately it need not be more expensive.

11 October 2013

The cliche about a driving licence being 'a privilege and not a right' is a hackneyed one. Nevertheless, like most cliches, it's based on common sense. It's widely acknowledged that Finland - alongside Germany - currently set the highest standards for new driver competence. If the UK government is considering setting their bar higher then it is to these two countries they should look first. Why reinvent the wheel when someone has already done that for you? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say.

11 October 2013

I agree that, instead of taking inspiration from the Australian system, they should be modeled of those of the countries you mentioned. Australia still has one of the worst records for young driver casualties despite having most of these precautions...

11 October 2013

I'm an 18 year old that has just finished the mandatory 100 hours of supervised driving and will be going for my driving test soon to go onto my P plates. I can personally say that I think this scheme, however irritating and tedious, is probably a good thing. That nonsense about never being able to give lifts to people under the age of thirty, and never being able to drive at night etc is simply ridiculous and impractical. In Australia we are allowed 1 passenger after 11pm and even that is unproven to actually have any effect on deaths at night. I also have an issue with raising the age to 18 to start learning. I think you should be instilling good habits in younger drivers so that they will carry them on in later life. Also, how many 18 year olds are living away from home? Who will "supervise" them? /end rant

12 October 2013

One of the issues here is when I started driving you would save up money to buy a car and it was usually a fairly old underpowered car. Now youngsters can get loans through most car manufacturers so they can drive away in a brand new car. In many situations parents buy their children cars along with other things. Psychologically this has an effect on younger people which then takes away the value and importance of caring for something they have not invested in themselves. This has a huge knock on effect endowing younger people with a selfish attitude - lack of responsibility and authority. Many parents give their children unlimited boundaries and find it hard to criticise their children. They become too protective as well when they hear criticism of their children from other people in authority.
Unfortunately this translates into 'I won't be told what to do' mentality. It is unlikely that our society is going to change so it is necessary for these powers to be brought in. I personally believe they should go further - like they do with motorcycles - limit the power available when someone passes their test. You should be driving for 5 years - have a clean licence before being able to drive anything more powerful than a 1.2/1.4 litre car. This would surely encourage youngsters to drive better if they knew that if they have any points on their licence during the first 5 years they wouldn't be able to drive anything more than a small car.

12 October 2013

They need to start smaller, because their current plans are never going to work properly. I did the Pass Plus course, and found it really helped me. They should incorporate Pass Plus into the regular driving curriculum; I know it would be really helpful to the majority of young drivers.

12 October 2013

i started driving on my 17th birthday, took my test at 18.5 (i'm 34 now). during that time i drove my parent's car whenever i was in it, which was most days, irrespective of the weather or time of day. i passed my test first time with no faults after 12 lessons, during which my instructor said that other that a few tweaks here'n'there i was basically just getting used to his car. in my first few years of driving i still had a few daft bumps - nothing worse than cracking a numberplate or indicator lens, and only 3 in 3 years - but the events still took place.

i've always said that you shouldn't be allowed to take your test until you've been assessed as "competent" on a skid pan, that you should have to get your eyes tested every 2 years, that the highway code should be taught in school so that everyone knows it properly, and whilst you're told to drive at a speed which allows you to "stop safely in the distance you can see", it's wrong that you're never taught to judge it.

the thing is this; when you start a new job you have your few weeks of training and induction, and then you're left on your own to get on with it. new things come up and people show you how to do other stuff. eventually you do something wrong or incorrectly, as you'd expect of someone who's only been there for a month or so, it gets sorted out, people say to try and not do it again. it's exactly the same with driving, but because it's driving you're made out to be worse than the devil.

statistics are an easily warped poor representation. 22% may involve newbys, why isn't more fuss being made about the 88% they have nothing to do with? also, 18 to 24 year olds aren't automatically dangerous, what percentage of them are actually causing the problem? and, of that 22%, how many of the collisions were actually by fault of the 18 - 24 year old? all it states is that they were involved.

if these rules are brought in, and people abide by them, will insurance become actually affordable? thought not...

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