The Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has unveiled proposals for radical changes to driver training in a bid to ‘reflect best practice around the world’ and instigate a ‘fundamental shift towards safer driving among young people’.
As well as improving safety, the plans are also designed to reduce the cost of insurance for young drivers.
The plans, announced by Alex Attwood, NI environment minister, include not allowing newly qualified drivers up to age of 24 years to carry young passengers aged 14 to 20 years (except immediate family members) during their first six months post-test. The ban does not apply if there is a supervising driver over 21 years, with three years full licence, in the passenger seat.
Other changes include:
• A lower provisional licence age of 16½ years.
• A mandatory minimum learning period of 12 months for provisional licence holders.
• Increasing the post-test period from one to two years.
• Removing the 45 mph speed restriction currently applied to learner and restricted drivers.
• Allowing learner drivers to take lessons on motorways, accompanied by an ADI in a dual-controlled car.
• N plates for ‘new’ drivers (to replace R plates) to be displayed for two years.
• Compulsory logbooks for learner drivers.
Alex Attwood said: “These proposals would create the most radical change in the driver training regime for a generation. I know that the proposals will challenge our thinking. But the objective of better road safety with the ambition of zero road deaths on one hand and reduced driver premiums on the other makes a bold and informed approach – the right approach. This is the core argument at the heart of the proposals.
“We should move towards a vision of zero road deaths. We need to take radical action and bold measures to achieve this, in turn reducing insurance premiums. I believe that we are leading the way and that others will follow.”
The car insurance industry has pledged to review premiums for young drivers if these changes are implemented.
Otto Thoresen, director general of The Association of British Insurers, said: “This is good news for all young drivers and their parents in Northern Ireland. Minister Alex Attwood is to be congratulated for proposing long overdue reform to Northern Ireland’s driver training system.
“The crash risk of a young driver carrying three passengers nearly triples compared to if they were driving alone, so reducing the number of passengers in cars driven by young people is critical.
“And by giving young learners a more controlled driving experience before obtaining a full driving licence, they will learn to drive rather than learning to pass the driving test.
“These measures should benefit young drivers on the road and in their pocket: by helping to make them safer drivers and reducing their crash risk, they will benefit from lower motor insurance premiums.
“The insurance industry has been calling for these reforms, and politicians in Westminster should consider following Northern Ireland’s lead in making the changes that are needed to ensure that the young drivers of today become the older drivers of tomorrow.”
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