The subject of young drivers is back on the agenda with a vengeance this week, largely because the government was due to deliver its green paper on the proposed changes to improve standards and safety. Sadly, that deadline has slipped to a date this autumn, but thankfully that hasn’t taken the subject off the agenda.
Proposals include introducing a minimum learning period before candidates are permitted to sit their test, and enforcing motorway and night-time driver training. In addition, new drivers may get an extended probationary period under which they will lose their licence if they accrue six penalty points.
Part of the reason for the deal, you suspect, is that it’s no easy job delivering something meaningful. A curfew, for instance, has been proposed, to keep young drivers off the road late at night. Or a restriction on how many young people can be in a car at one time. Both sound good in theory, but more pratically minded observers point out that the police can’t even enforce insurance, with more than a million uninsured cars said to be on our roads. How, then, could such new legislation work?
Encouragingly, however, a set of luminaries at a talk organized by black box insurance provider Ingenie on Monday could agree on some basic principles. Among the speakers were NCAP chief Max Mosley, motoring campaigner Quentin Wilson, driving school boss Ian McIntosh, RoadSafe boss Adrian Walsh, Cranfield University’s Lisa Dorn and Andy Watson, boss of insurer Ageas UK.
A more diverse bunch you couldn’t expect to hear from, but the message was clear: new drivers need a minimum level of tuition before taking the test, plus a higher standard of training, they need monitoring once they have passed their test, and they need ongoing tuition after their test.
Sensible stuff, and I’m delighted to say, achievable stuff. I know this because tomorrow (Wednesday) Autocar will be revealing the full details of a new scheme called Autocar Start. It’s been put together with the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, Smart and Carrot Insurance, with the single goal of trialling a scheme that does something practical about addressing the problems young drivers face.
Visit autocar.co.uk/autocarstart for more information
Without giving too much away, for a small deposit and set monthly fee, new drivers will lease a fully insured Smart car, and be instructed by the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy both before and after their test. If they drive well the Carrot telematics box will record the fact, and they will get a discount on their premiums.
Above all, though, it demonstrates that with the right partnerships practical answers to the issues facing young drivers are possible. Everyone agrees that the time for action has arrived; the legislators and opinion-formers are united in their calls for action, but have yet to do something about it. Autocar Start won’t change the world or suit everyone, but it is a piece of positive action among a lot of chit-chat about needing to get things done.