Learner Drivers – Should We Change The Rules

The car insurance industry has come in for a lot of criticism over the last 12 months, due to rising premiums across the board, and the high costs of insuring younger drivers.

Possibly as a riposte to this, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has recently published a number of proposals it would like to see in order to improve road safety and lower insurance costs.

Naturally these suggestions are almost entirely driven by risk assessment, which is what premiums are based on, but will they work, and how will they be policed?

Firstly, the proposed changes the ABI wants to see are as follows:

  • More rigorous driver training: The ABI wants to see a ban on intensive crash(!) courses designed to get people through their test in as little as a week. It also suggests learner drivers should able to start learning six months earlier, although they still couldn’t take their test until at least 17.
  • A new graduated licence for the first six months after passing where certain restrictions would be in place, such as a limit on the number of young passengers allowed.
  • New drivers would also be banned from the roads between the hours of 11pm and 4am again for the first six months after passing their test.
  • A zero blood alcohol limit.

There seem to be some mixed ideas here, with the main focus on a graduated licence, but then allowing driver training to start at an earlier age. Surely it would make more sense to keep the age at which someone can learn to drive to 17, or possibly even raise that as it has always been somewhat incongruous that at 17 a person can be trusted with over a ton of metal easily capable of killing someone, but can’t have a pint until they’re 18. And it must be said, the difference in maturity between the ages of 16 and 18 is huge.

The idea of limiting passengers or the hours a vehicle may be used by a new driver, looks open to legal challenge, like the recent case involving gender discrimination. Besides which, how would such legislation be enforced?

The blood alcohol limit needs looking at too. Not only for the same reason that it discriminates against younger drivers, but also due to the much longer length of time it takes the body to return to a level of absolute zero alcohol after a drink.

Perhaps, as is often suggested, more driver education is the way forward, certainly the AA think so. Taking this idea and possibly combining it with a horsepower limit as is currently the case with motorbikes.

Speaking from experience, having attended a Driver Awareness day after being caught speeding, the author found that their attitude to speed changed significantly, and on a permanent basis too. The course did not purely focus on the dangers of excessive speed however, but also impressed upon attendees the significance of moving at, and stopping from, various speeds in differing circumstances.

Added to this, the course was presented by qualified, advanced drivers who also took the opportunity to pass on some of their driving wisdom during the day. All in all, not only did the attendees all leave the course fully aware of the potential consequences of speeding, but also as better drivers than when they first arrived.

It is the author’s opinion that further driver training for newer drivers is the way to go. Extra training would not result in any legal shenanigans, it doesn’t need policing in any way, and it’s not discriminatory – other older drivers who fall short of required driving standards already have to do it too. It’s also something that would have significant benefits for all other road users, pedestrians included, but what do you think?