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.