Government set to raise driving age to 18

12.00 | 11 October 2013 | | 9 comments

A new report by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has paved the way for a graduated driver licensing system under which teenagers could have to wait a year longer than at present before they can obtain a driving licence (BBC News).

The TRL report also recommends a one-year "learner stage" during which drivers would have to complete at least 100 hours of daytime and 20 hours of night-time practice under supervision. During this stage, drivers under the age of 30 would also be banned from carrying any passengers also aged under 30.

The BBC News report says that other proposals under consideration are a ban on all mobile phone use, including hands-free phones, and a lower alcohol limit.

Later this year the DfT will publish a Green Paper on the subject of young drivers, which is expected to include a proposal to issue a 12-month probationary licence at the age of 18. Newly qualified drivers are also likely to face a driving curfew between 22:00 and 05:00 unless a passenger aged over 30 was in the car.

A DfT spokesman said: “Young drivers drive around 5% of all the miles driven in Britain but are involved in about 20% of the crashes where someone is killed or seriously injured.

“We are committed to improving safety for young drivers and reducing their insurance costs – that is why we are publishing a Green Paper later in the year setting out our proposals. This will include a discussion about how people learn to drive.

"The research report has been produced by the TRL under commission by the DfT and it, amongst other things, has informed the Green Paper.”

Road Safety GB has welcomed the proposals. James Gibson, press and PR officer, said: "Road Safety GB welcomes this news and looks forward to the publication of the Green Paper which will spark debate on the subject and offer the chance to give our views to the Government on this important subject.

"We have been in favour of graduated driving licensing based on the positive outcomes from other countries. Experience plays a big part in the risk factor associated with driving and the idea of gaining a greater number of driving hours before being allowed to drive independently is something that we would agree with."

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, welcomed the proposals, saying: "Young people are four times more likely to die in a road accident than as a result of drink or drugs.

"Yet, as a society we seem to turn a blind eye to the carnage. If this was any other area of public health there would be an outcry. This is about ensuring their long-term safety and mobility. Not curtailing it.”

However, Edmund King, president of the AA, said the proposals address the problem of young drivers in the "wrong way".

Talking to BBC’s Breakfast, he said: "You should prepare young drivers to be safe when they get their licence rather than give them their licence and then restrict them.”

Mr King would like to see mandatory lessons on motorways, in rural areas and in bad weather, and warned of the problems of policing the restrictions such as carrying young passengers.

Currently drivers in England, Scotland and Wales need to pass a theory test, then a practical test before they can apply for a full driving licence. The minimum age to hold a full car licence is 17, or 16 for some people claiming mobility benefit.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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    It’s not the age of a driver that causes poor driving, it’s the low standard a learner driver has to reach before they get a pass which means now you can drive and have the freedom it allows you. It is a privilege to hold a licence not a right. You can drive any place night or day yet you’re not trained or tested on any of these disciplines. Back in the 80s in Germany you would have to achieve 3 hours rural, 3 hours urban driving plus night and motorway driving and it didn’t stop there, you would also have to do basic first aid and basic car maintenance. We should at least look at the levels set for a pass and road knowledge is far too easy these days.

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    I wonder how many of those commenting on this page would have expressed the same opinion at the age of seventeen? What about the thousands of teenagers that pass their test and do not crash? Seems just another example of everybody being punished for the mistakes of a very few. With government trying its very best to get everybody “walking and cycling” this just seems another tool in its arsenal. Why wait to driving age before before we start to educate about road safety? All those genuinely interested in road safety know you cannot start early enough.

    Terry Hudson
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    Just picking up briefly on David (Suffok)’s comment, ‘The fault lies with the test itself, and not ADIs’. Well yes and no. Clearly a more rigorous test might help but when I look at ADIs driving their own vehicles (i.e. when no one in the passenger seat), I feel many would actually fail the standard driving test. And it hasn’t helped with the DSA getting rid of good steering technique, which has a domino effect on driving position et al. I remember talking with a police driving instructor and we agreed that an instant look at driving position and steering was often a good indication of what you would see overall if you were in the passenger seat. Reminds me of the old cliche, ‘Take care of the detail and the big things take care of themselves’. As we often say, ‘It’s a matter of attitude’.

    Nigel Albright, TAUNTON
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    It is inevitable that ADIs teach to pass the test. Imagine an ADI telling his pupil that they are ready to take the test and pass it, but that they really need perhaps another dozen lessons at £25 each for them to be a safe young driver. They will go home, tell their parent, and then be told that they need to apply for their test and use that £300 to fund a car/insurance etc. Most people have no desire to learn to drive; all they want is a full driving licence, and the two are poles apart.

    The fault lies with the test itself, and not ADIs. The test needs to be much more rigourous, and the preparation for it needs to include commentary, bend assessment, rural roads, overtaking, etc.

    David, Suffolk
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    Free public transport for under 25s. Much fairer and possibly more effective than putting hurdles in their way to becoming drivers. By the time they are 25 a car may not be so attractive. Extra bus passengers will make rural routes economic.

    Penny Thorpe
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    The problem you are trying to solve is not the problem you’ve got.

    Youngsters crash in significant numbers on the way into, through and out of corners especially rural ones, yet there is very little in the way of training for them to learn and understand the art of safe and efficient cornering. Maybe the odd dedicated ADI will take it upon themselves to show their students how to corner in a car and maybe even show them how the cornering characteristics change when there are four people in the car, but these will probably be in the minority.

    All the graduated licences and increased starting ages in the world will not in any way solve this simple problem as if you don’t know how to corner when you’re 17 you sure as hell won’t know how to do it when you’re 18.

    I would imagine that if the fatalities as a result of cornering accidents were removed from the statistics quite a different picture would emerge. Fix cornering, fix the problem simple.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    Bring on the graduated licence and the need for a learning stage but perhaps all supervisory drivers, the mums and dads etc, should undergo training to ensure the trainees are practicing what they are taught not what they think is good practice. Maybe all on road practice should be under the supervision of ADIs or we need to create a sub ADI group of qualifies supervisor who charges? We forget that attitudes to driving start at a very young age when our small children watch from their child seats or booster cushions and learn it is OK to eat, read maps, coast and do all those bad habits we have picked up including the language etc. By retraining the parents/carers who will accompany the trainee we can hit 2 birds with one stone.

    Peter London
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    I suppose we have to face up to the fact that not every young person is interested enough in driving to want to always improve, and wrongly presume that having passed the test, then that is enough. Newly qualified drivers shoud be reminded – as I was by my instructor, when I passed – that passing the test is just the beginning…the learning shouldn’t stop there but unfortunately for a lot of people it does and bad habits can set in quickly.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    It’s an interesting proposal and I feel that Edmund King is on the right track, ‘get them safe BEFORE they go on the road’. Too many ADIs seem to feel they are training pupils for test rather than ensuring they have essential safety awareness and skills. Whilst the standard driving test is in essence designed to ensure a basic level of safety a lot depends on the ADI’s approach and too many, in my view, teach to pass a test. The two are not necessarily the same. The other important element is the imprint by parents which may be over ten years before the young person gets behind the wheel given that most people, if spot checked to day would fail their driving test.

    Nigel Albright, TAUNTON
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