New changes to the driving test are being rolled out across test centres all over the UK. These measures are seen to make the test more up to date with common driving habits, such as being able to operate a satellite navigation and driving with one.

The Government are now looking to introduce further measures on top of existing regulations to reduce the amount of accidents by learner drivers. Because of these changes, are we going to see fewer novice drivers on UK roads than ever before?

Questions about novice drivers

A recent question at Prime Minister’s Questions queried the possibility of a graduated license system being brought in here in the UK. This came after new figures show that 25% of new drivers are involved in an accident in their first two years of driving. The report also showed that some 400 novice drivers are killed, or seriously injured, on the roads each year.

In response, the PM admitted that it highlighted an important issue and that the government would be considering it. Currently, there are regulations where if a driver gets six points on their license, within two years of passing their test, then they are banned from driving, versus 12 points for experienced drivers. However, the UK does not place restrictions on novice drivers in any way and is the only western country not to do this.

Graduated licenses proposed

The concept of graduated licenses is not a new one with previous research showing it could save up to 4,471 casualties a year and some £224 million in costs. Research conducted by the Department of Transport proposed a training regime could include 100 hours of supervised daytime driving and 20 hours of night-time driving before sitting any practical and theory tests.

Following this, the novice driver would be ‘on probation’ for 12 months. It would mean using a ‘P’ plate compulsorily and you would not be allowed to drive between 10 pm, and 5 am unless supervised by someone over the age of 30. It would also include a ban on carrying passengers that are under the age of 30, and even having lower or zero alcohol limits for novice drivers.

Restrictions around the world

Many other countries already use similar schemes. In New Zealand, restrictions are even tighter, and there is a three-stage system that drivers must go through. There’s a learner license, a novice license (where you must score 32 out of 35 on a theory test) and then supervised L plates.

Then the learner driver must learn for six months before sitting a 45-minute restricted driving test. Once passed, they can drive between 5 am and 10 pm or outside these times if supervised. They are not permitted to get behind the wheel with a trace of alcohol in their system until they are 20. Finally, there’s a 30-minute practical test, once you have held a restricted license for 3-18 months and taken the advanced drivers course.

Other examples of restrictions in New Zealand include lower speed limits, the engine size of the car they car drive and the power output of the vehicle.

Welcoming change

A RAC spokesperson, Pete Williams, said the group ‘welcomed’ the plans to look at the novice driver system having requested it themselves in past years. Studies also show that novice drivers themselves feel ill-equipped for life as a solo driver with 35% of them saying the driving test does not cover the skills to cope with everyday driving.

Many people do not learn to drive due to the rising cost of running your own vehicle– these additional restrictions may lower insurance premiums. The hope would be that the graduated license system could see insurance premiums drop, for that restricted period allowing novice drivers to build their no claim bonus before they are ‘fully qualified’ drivers.

Are fewer drivers a growing trend?

However, the fact is, with more restrictions in place to drive and the growth of self-driving cars, are fewer people even going to bother to learn to drive in future anyway? Public transport in the cities is improving, ride sharing is growing fast and delivery services mean almost anything can be delivered to your door. The urge to drive your own car could fade away the same as the urge to ride a horse. Moreover, although it could lead to less congested, quieter roads in the short term, it may be replaced by more autonomous vehicles so no real difference anyway.

© Copyright Phil Champion and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

What do you think of this proposed new system, is it long overdue? What would you suggest as a change to the law that strikes more of a balance between new and existing drivers to reduce accidents and congestion? Let us know in the comments below

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