WEEKENDER: Tighten up on young drivers, but cut costs
11:25am Saturday 12th October 2013 in News
IT IS not often Weekender feels the urge to laud government proposals– but those unveiled this week concerning learner and recently qualified drivers are by and large difficult to argue with.
Included in a Department of Transport-commissioned study are such ideas as a minimum age limit of 18 before a driving test can be taken, and a requirement to log 120 hours of pre-test driving, including 20 at night.
Restrictions for the first year after passing a test – such as a ban from carrying passengers under the age of 30 or not being allowed to drive between 10pm and 5am – are also suggested.
Inevitably, there will a goodly number of people, probably at the younger end of the age spectrum, who will see these ideas as a draconian limiting of their freedom.
But the toll of death and injury on our roads must be arrested somehow.
Perhaps the most sobering statistic around road casualties is this: Young drivers, classified as those under 24, while only comprising 8 per cent of driving licence-holders, account for nearly a quarter of motorists killed on Britain’s roads. The latest figures are 133 under-24s out of 542 deaths.
This, of course, does not mean young drivers have been responsible for all the accidents that have brought about this toll.
But inexperience and irresponsibility will have been factors. So too will have been an inability to deal with driving situations caused by other, older motorists that drivers with more experience might have been able to deal with successfully.
Of course, there will be countless teenage drivers who pass their test after fewer than 20 lessons, in effect less than 20 hours’ driving time, with no experience of motorways, windy country roads, and little of driving at night, who go on to be successful, responsible motorists with no difficulty.
But there will be plenty of others, too, who might think they can cope, but cannot.
I did not learn to drive until I was 23.
I had 23 lessons. Twenty-three hours of driving experience, with an admittedly excellent and patient tutor, followed by a driving test for the hour of which I achieved levels of concentration I have rarely, if ever, attained since.
And when it came to sitting behind the wheel of a car on my own I felt utterly unprepared.
So tighter regulation would probably be a good thing, but there must be safeguards upfront, particularly financial ones.
If learner drivers are to be required to log 120 hours of driving pre-test, then the cost of lessons must be reduced, with regulation if necessary.
It is expensive enough forking out for 20 or 25 lessons without quadrupling the bill.
And then there is the vexed question of insurance. It is ridiculously expensive to insure a newly qualified driver these days, particularly a teenage one.
According to a widely quoted spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, imposing tighter controls on learner and recently qualified young drivers could cut their premiums by up to 20 per cent.
Hooray for that! And like I stressed before, upfront, please. If we are going to more tightly regulate our young drivers, we need to offer them a carrot to go with the stick.
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