DfT confirms young driver Green Paper

12.00 | 25 March 2013 | | 15 comments

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.”


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    Lots of good ideas but no one yet has come up with a workable, effective and cost effective solution. In some cases restricting car performance for a period of time after the test might work, but in some cases it is not the solution. I would like to see compulsory professional training and a minimum period of training before Test. The introduction of compulsory “classroom” training where students are taught what they actually do when operating a control and the cause and effect principles. Some ADIs need to clean up their act and teach the youngsters to drive instead of how to pass the test. I hear ADIs crowing about their pass rates. Let’s have a table of ADIs showing pass rates against their students who have collisions in the first 12 months. Finally, parents need to accept more ownership of the issue. They should have more influence than any one else and should use it.

    Lee Brown ADI Fleet – Newcastle upon Tyne
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    But how would the Graduated licence work? Just because someone has held a licence for two years does not mean they can suddenly drive safely – at night, or with more alcohol in the system, or cope with passengers. If they were not allowed to drive under those conditions before how have they had the experience to do it after the ‘probation’ period?

    Andy, Warwick
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    In my “spare time” I am a RoSPA volunteer tutor (cars and motorcycles). Almost all of my past students have been as old as me (and that’s old!). But recently I’ve been working with an 18 year old driver and it’s been a real revelation to me.

    His grandfather paid for him to do the training and he wasn’t very keen at the start. Once I’d persuaded him that I wasn’t going to force him to drive slowly, he began to take greater interest. His car control skills were excellent, right from the start, but his attitude was such that he considered driving to be a type of warfare. Other drivers who made mistakes were reacted to angrily.

    By chatting I managed to persuade him to accept that other drivers will make mistakes, and to plan accordingly, and keep his temper. He’s now a super little driver who will soon be taking his RoSPA test. Sadly, whatever level of test pass he may get will be unlikely to reduce his £1000+ insurance cost!

    Martin, Suffolk
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    How on earth can 4 people disagree with my statement of simple arithmetic, that the more divers involved in a crash the higher the probability that at least one driver from any particular group? Take it to its logical extreme, in a 100 vehicle crash like the one reported the other day – in that case the probability of any one group out of 5 being represented would be North of 99%.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    “It will never happen” is a statement that does ring true in some cases and changing how young people drive can be one of them. A sweeping statement such as no driving after 9 at night or keep below 50mph just could not be enforced, a bit like the use of mobile phones. Some young people work after 9, just look at the age of some of the shop assistants in the out of town shopping centres, and they are open till 10, then the 24hr supermarkets who employ young staff or care assistants on shift. The list goes on.

    Work is being done by a large number of teams in local councils working with pupils and students trying to educate, trying to “plant seeds” re: how to stay safe, how to deal with peer pressure etc. Some people stand on the Frontal Lobe side of the argument and that it’s the last part of the brain to develop, as it deals with choice and risk, no matter what education is out there, young drivers will always measure high in the crash stats.

    I have always found it strange that driving seems to be the one subject you learn, then as soon as you qualify and get a licence, all the rules go out of the window? If an answer to that could be found maybe it would go a long way to reducing the number of young drivers involved in crashes and injury.

    Stuart Rochdale
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    I would bet that the Driving Standards Agency will instead of using commensense to improve the requirements for persons taking the driving test, come up with something like the theory test that will do nothing to help reduce accidents but will add another revenue stream. There has been no improvement in accidents since the introduction of the theory test, proving what most instructors said at the beginning, it won’t work.

    Nothing will improve until there is some incentive to go beyond the basic test. In my experience people are not interested in, for example, the Pass Plus as there is in reality no improvement in insurance quotes. Also, why bother with the, IAM there is no incentive there either.

    There should be a graduated licence ie: pass the test then take additional training to open up the basic licence issued, no use of motorways, no speeds over 50mph, no driving after 2100hrs, no passengers until skill levels have proceded beyond the basic, then we might get somwhere.

    It will never happen.

    Peter Clayton, ADI car , Tamworth
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    “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”.

    “young drivers ..represent about 8% of licence holders, they are most definitely over-represented in the stats”.

    Does no one understand numbers work?

    If all drivers were equally skilled but in 5 different equal age groups, then in single vehicle crashes 20% of drivers would be from any one group. But in collisions involving 2 drivers, out of the 25 possible combinations, 9 would include at least one driver of any given group, that’s 36% involvement of the 20%, due to more than 1 driver per accident.

    Younger drivers are more at risk per mile, but “one-fifth” is not out of line, probably because younger drivers drive less.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    Like James, I try to ensure that all my students experience as much as possible in terms of traffic, night and weather conditions that come up (including fog on the odd occasion). Not only that but to coach them to understand why they need to drive with a responsible attitude. If driving is a skill for life it needs to be a skill that develops over a lifetime, so pre and post test training are as (maybe more) important than that forty minute test. I also favour reassessment at licence renewal.

    David Midmer Grade 6 ADI and Fleet Trainer
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    I would like to see mandatory pre-driver training delivered in schools. A shared experience is the best way to shape correct attitudes. I would hope the insurance industry would meet the challenge by offering packages of vastly reduced pre-post training. This may help stop the young driver from seeing the driving test as a target, but more a skilled base activity for life. With compulsory road safety education in Scotland, DSA in our schools talking to young drivers. A need to improve safety for the young driver has been recognised.

    Gareth, Surrey
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    Good to see an ADI taking his pupils out on the snow and ice. I don’t know if this is a requirement and most of the year it’s not possible anyway, but the fact is a lot of motorists – old and young – simply do not know how to cope with snow and ice and would benefit from some instruction on the subject, but unless they get it at the beginning, most will not seek it out once they are licensed to be on the road. Over the last few days I’ve seen many stationary vehicles with their driven wheels spinning furiously away, not going anywhere and vehicles simply abandoned in just a few inches of snow where the drivers had apparently just presumed they were ‘stuck’ and didn’t bother trying to drive out of it.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    The years of conditioning and attitudes picked up from society regarding driving that young people have will take a long time to change, if ever. The majority of my pupils say they will have a Pass Plus course or a motorway lesson after they pass. Sometimes they will even book them but invariably cancel them. It’s a good thing my income does not depend on post-test training!

    I am in favour of ADIs taking learners onto motorways as this way I will be able to ensure they receive some training. As for night driving and adverse weather conditions – a decent instructor should already been covering this – I’ve been out in the snow lately will all my pupils and they have gained some valuable techniques.

    Dr James Whalen, DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton
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    Thanks for some extra context Tanya and for doeing a bit of research and looking at some stats before commenting.

    Dave, Leeds
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    Yes, it is correct that young drivers are only involved in one fifth of KSI collisions but as they only represent about 8% of licence holders, they are most definitely over-represented in the stats.

    Furthermore, the Association of British Insurers have been suggesting initiatives such as these for quite some time. This recent publication by the ABI sets out the stats from their point of view and provides recommendations to address the issue.

    Tanya, Suffolk
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    Learner drivers on motorways makes some sense, but large parts of the UK are nowhere near one. And apparently rural roads are missing from test routes. That will be because test centres are in towns!

    More rigorous training is needed, but the test itself examines little more than the ability to manoeuvre the car. Candidates should have a minimum number of certified hours on all types of roads in varying conditions (more on dual carriageways if no motorway within reasonable distance); with a minimum proportion accompanied by an instructor, not Dad. The 3 year probationary period should be supervised (not physically) and end with a second test which could be simulator based and focus on hazard avoidance and behaviour. The candidate having to demonstrate skills development.

    If this seems OTT, let’s remember that we have lifetime licensing so perhaps the hurdles to jump to get the license should be much higher.

    Andrew, Cambridge
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    “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”

    That rather suggests that four fifths of KSIs were caused by somewhat older drivers, so the bigger part of the problem is drivers over 24 and not those under it.

    Mind you “Ordinary middle-aged bloke killed on way home from work” is a much less attention-grabbing headline than “Sensation-seeking youths killed on the way to the pub”, so you can see why this initiative has come about.

    The insurance industry are not mugs and they know full well that all these initiatives will make not one jot of difference to the accident rate, let alone reduce insurance premiums. If they thought for one minute that they could make a substantial dent in their payouts by some new initiative then they would be shouting it out from the rooftops, but the silence from that quarter is somewhat deafening.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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