The Government has confirmed its intention to launch a Green Paper in a bid to improve the safety of young drivers.
The proposals were unveiled last week (25 March) at a summit for the motor insurance industry, hosted by the DfT. Representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Department for Health and consumer organisation uSwitch were also present. The Government is expecting the changes to result in a reduction in the high cost of vehicle insurance currently facing motorists, especially young drivers.
The Green Paper will look at a range of options for improving the safety of newly-qualified drivers and will be published later in the spring. Among the proposals being considered are:
• A minimum learning period before candidates are permitted to sit their test.
• Enabling learner drivers to take lessons on motorways, and perhaps during adverse weather conditions or during darkness to encourage greater practice prior to taking a test.
• Increasing the existing probationary period from two to three years for a new driver’s licence to be revoked if they receive six or more penalty points.
• Making the driving test more rigorous to better prepare learners to drive unsupervised.
• Incentives for young drivers to take up additional training after passing their test.
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: "It is alarming that a fifth of people killed or seriously injured on our roads in 2011 were involved in a collision where at least one driver was aged 17-24. Improving the safety of our young drivers is therefore a real priority and will not only reduce casualties but should also mean a reduction in the sky-high insurance premiums they pay.
"I have been clear that I want to see insurance premiums reflecting conditions, performance and risks on the road. We have already done much as a Government to address the concerns around motor insurance but more still needs to be done before young drivers feel satisfied they are getting value for money.
"I look forward to working with the industry and hearing from them how these proposals will help reduce premiums."
In addition to the measures outlined above, the Government is also considering improving the training of driving instructors. Information would also be made available to parents and young drivers on what to look for when choosing an instructor, as we well as evidence on the most risky behaviours and how to avoid them.
The IAM has described the Green Paper as a "once in a generation opportunity", but warns that the focus must be on safety and not insurance premiums.
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The Green Paper is a once in a generation opportunity to help new drivers survive the crucial first six months of driving. The IAM want to see a system that embeds continuous learning for all new drivers so that once basic skills are learned under supervision they can gain the solo driving experience they need as safely as possible.
“It makes no sense that the current system abandons new drivers after the test to learn by their often fatal mistakes, but any new approach must be based on saving lives and not reducing insurance premiums.
"The IAM support post test help for new drivers but we are worried that curfews and restrictions will merely restrict their ability to gain the real world knowledge that will save their lives.
"For example, young drivers are most likely to die on rural roads but these are often missing from test routes. We have no objection to learners on motorways as they are our safest roads and a minimum learning period may also be useful providing the time can be put to good use. We look forward with great interest to seeing exactly what the government has planned.”