MPs U-turn on plans to restrict novice drivers at the wheel

Happy drivers, happy motorists, young drivers, learner
7 Jul, 2014 10:30am Nick Gibbs

The Government has axed planned restrictions on young drivers, despite research showing the move could save lives

The Government has abandoned the idea of placing safety restrictions on newly qualified young drivers, Auto Express has learned. 

The move comes despite a new RAC Foundation poll showing strong public support, as well as Government-funded research revealing how such restrictions could save 430 lives a year.

Instead, it’s been decided so-called graduated licensing would “restrict freedoms”. David Davies, head of the parliamentary road safety lobby PACTS, told Auto Express: “I’ve spoken to officials who’ve said it’s not going to happen. We’re obviously disappointed.” 

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Under the original proposals, newly qualified drivers under 24 years of age faced a night-time driving curfew, a cut in the number of young passengers they could carry and lower alcohol limits. Nearly one in eight road casualties involves a driver aged 17-19, while a new RAC Foundation poll shows two-thirds of adult drivers supported the changes.

But despite strong support from MPs and road safety groups, the Government has backed down from publishing the ‘green paper’, originally promised for last spring, which kicks off the process for the changes to become law. 

“The current Government has repeatedly promised a green paper on young driver safety and repeatedly failed to produce it,” said Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation. “If this was any other area of public health policy, there would be an outcry.” 

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According to Davies, the graduated scheme would have cut young drivers’ insurance premiums by “10-15 per cent”, too. He said that while there was lots of evidence of the scheme’s benefits, there was little to support a negative view, adding: “The Government has said it would limit young drivers’ access to jobs or education, but has done no detailed work assessing that.” 

The Department for Transport denied Davies’ claim that the Government had scrapped the plans, with a spokesman telling us: “We have decided we need more time to better understand the issues. It is vital we strike a balance between safety and not unduly restricting the freedom of young drivers.”

Comment: Another big idea falls by the wayside

By Chris Ebbs - Auto Express consumer editor

I’d like to say I was surprised to hear the Government had ditched its graduated driving licence plan, but it’s exactly what I’d expected.

As soon as the original green paper was delayed for the third time until after winter 2013, it had the feeling of a proposal that was falling down the list of priorities.

But it’s also another example of those in power promising to do something, and realising it’s not in their interest and scrapping it.

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The excuses may be that they’re doing more research, or that the plans would be too nannying, but numerous motoring body insiders have told me it’s because the Government is scared that bringing these controls in would put off young voters.

What’s worrying about this is that the powers that be are willing to drop the proposals despite overwhelming evidence that they could not only save young drivers’ lives, but also cut their bills.

Do you think the graduated driving licence plan was a good idea? Is greater regulation of new drivers needed at all? Let us know in the comments section below...