Government to trial graduated driver licensing?

10.35 | 10 April 2018 | | 13 comments

Image: RAC

A graduated driving licence scheme which is being piloted in Northern Ireland could potentially be rolled out across the rest of the UK, it has been reported in the Scottish media.

According to the Press and Journal, the move was confirmed by the roads minister Jesse Norman in a letter to David Stewart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Stewart has long campaigned for the introduction of graduated driving licensing (GDL) and has expressed his delight that a pilot of the system is set to go ahead.

Mr Steward said: “In response to my most recent correspondence, Jesse Norman MP wrote to advise me that the Government have now decided to introduce a form of GDL in Northern Ireland as a pilot with the potential to roll out across the rest of the UK.”

“This is excellent news and just rewards for all the hard efforts of my team.”

According to the Press and Journal, the package of measures includes restricting newly qualified drivers, under 24 years of age, to carrying just one young passenger (aged 14-20 years) for the first six months post-test, during certain times.

It also includes a six-month mandatory minimum learning period for car drivers and a requirement to display a distinguishing plate on the vehicle for two years after receiving a full licence.

In February, the prime minister asked the DfT to explore the introduction of graduated licensing for newly-qualified drivers. Speaking in Parliament, Theresa May said ‘too many people suffer loss and tragedy at the hands of learner drivers’.

A spokesman for the Government told the Press and Journal: “GDL will establish a revised training and testing regime for car drivers and motorcyclists, and will introduce some post-test restrictions for drivers/riders to reduce the over-representation of new – mainly young – drivers/riders in fatal and serious road collisions.”


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    You are quite right David, we should not be encouraging unnecessary overtakes like the Police and Advanced Riders of motorcycles used to do. They no longer encourage any overtake that exceeds the legal sped limit so that’s a good thing as before overtaking and being in excess of the limit was to some degree tolerated by some instructors or assessors rather. With fewer overtakes being encouraged then perhaps we will see fewer deaths and injuries as a result of riders behaving themselves and getting the right advice. All we need now is a new book on how to take bends and then we may reduce the carnage on that manoeuvre.

    Bob Craven
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    You’re probably right David, but I would imagine some young drivers post-test will also be itching to race away from the lights and see how fast they can take corners. I take your point, but perhaps instead of ‘teaching’ dubious maneuvers, we should instead be shaping attitudes and encouraging self-discipline, so that such behaviour is not as appealing in the first place? Easier said than done I know.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (4)

    The comments about how it is unnecessary to teach new drivers how to overtake emphasise just how badly the whole business of driver training needs to be reformed. I can assure you that the majority of new drivers will try it themselves post-test, and teaching yourself to overtake is hardly an easy task.

    David, Suffolk
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    I hope the training package, supporting this welcome move, will not focus on traditional car handling but will aim to develop the new driver’s abilities to reflect on their own driving and the development of their wider hazard perception skills.

    Ian Edwards, Doncaster
    Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

    Following on from David’s (Weston) comment and my earlier one, ‘teaching’ how to overtake (exceptionally slow-moving vehicles excepted) would be akin to teaching how to be the first away from the traffic lights, or how to take a bend with the maximum amount of tyre squeal. They’re all risky and unnecessary.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (5)

    Why should learner drivers be taught how to overtake?

    Depending on what sort of vehicle is being overtaken (I will of course, exclude horses from this example), it may be necessary to (safely) exceed the speed limit to reduce the amount of time on the opposite side of the road.

    But of course, it’s illegal to exceed the speed limit, even when overtaking.

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (0) | Disagree (8)

    This is NOT new news… its just a shame that NI can consider running a pilot [which I wrote about in my Undergrad on Driver Education AND provided copies of the executive summary to the then Minister and the DSA] but the current UK government has chosen not to even consider it as they [DSA] felt it was UNWORKABLE!! I wrote about it again for my Masters including NI efforts to get it through parliament and into a trial which has taken just over EIGHT years to come to fruition… Hooray for NI!!

    I have worked in the driver education area since 2002 teaching all levels of clients from learners to advanced driving (and as an examiner for RoSPA from 2004 to 31/01/18) using the defensive driving method from ROADCRAFT which the DVSA is moving towards with the training of their new examiners. GDL has a good track record globally, [in the main] which we need to bespoke in the UK putting basic education BACK into schools, something else I presented to government but that costs money, so its NOT just the ‘crash course jockeys’ that put other interests before Road Safety.. Is England & Wales going to be the last parts of the UK to introduce processes that can and do save lives? That remains to be seen…

    Barry KENWARD, Fareham
    Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

    On the subject of overtaking, rather than concentrating on how to do it, perhaps we should be getting the drivers to ask themselves ‘do I need to overtake anyway?’. Personally, I can’t recall ever having overtaken another vehicle on a single c/way road which was already travelling at a reasonable speed. Perhaps we should be encouraging new drivers to leave their competitive streak at home when driving – same applies to some older drivers as well.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

    I agree with Bob’s comments about cornering: rural bends are often a real problem for new drivers, especially at night. They are simply not taught how to judge the correct, safe speed required to negotiate a corner.

    Most new drivers also receive little, or no instruction on how to overtake safely. This is again a problem that causes many to come unstuck.

    Current driver training does very little to prepare new drivers for the real world and systemic reforms are required.

    David, Suffolk
    Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

    It’s one thing taking up to 60 lessons to drive around traffic within an urban environment in order to pass the DVSA test but its quite another to gauge a corner or bend or curve on a country road at speed. That is where specific training comes in and that distance and speed are related to give safer space. Space sufficient enough to slow in, and to be in the correct gear at the correct speed and in the correct position to take a sharp bend and especially a sharp blind bend with any degree of safety.

    When it comes to more minor but more frequent collisions in an urban environment we must stop teaching new drivers to be only the closer Thinking Distance apart, and that it is sufficient in town traffic queues as it’s by far not the safest position to be in. It’s actually the most dangerous of positions that any road user can find themselves in as road safety is basically thrown out of the window. Just like litter! Only when we teach correct safe space will we be able to alter a taught behavioural mistake and reduce accidents as a result. Is that no what we want? I sometimes question it.

    Bob Craven
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    Exactly right, Hugh. Both are real challenges for novice drivers.

    Jan James, London
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    Jan: Is that because of distractions from the other passengers, or the extra resultant weight which the inexperienced driver might not be prepared for – especially in a small hatchback – when braking and general control at speed? Possibly both? A young driver, used to driving his usually small car on his own, may not appreciate how much more difficult the car may be to control with two, three or four extra passengers.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

    This is indeed excellent news.

    We know from Dr Neale Kinnear’s research that the more passengers there are in a novice drivers car, the more likely they are to be involved in a collision. The risk increases exponentially with each additional passenger.

    Having a mandatory six-month learning period is also critical; it eradicates the outrageous ‘crash course’ brigade of driving schools who place profit ahead of safety.

    Professor Stradling has oft repeated the importance of a ‘1000 mile driving experience’ to reduce the likelihood of crashes by increasing experience. The longer it takes learner drivers to learn, the greater their experience and confidence.

    Insisting on P plates for newly qualified drivers helps alert other drivers to their inexperience and should encourage them to make allowances for that when sharing the roads with them.

    It’s a highly encouraging move and David Stewart MSP and Jesse Norman are to be congratulated for it.

    Jan James CEO Good Egg Safety, London
    Agree (8) | Disagree (9)

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