New drivers could be banned from driving at night

The government is considering introducing a graduated driving licence scheme in a bid to boost road safety for new drivers...

New driver with Toyota Aygo

New drivers could face restrictions on how long they must learn for before taking their driving test and when they can drive after passing it.

That's according to proposals due to be unveiled later this week by the Government as part of a renewed focus on road safety. Currently, one in five new drivers has a crash in the first year after passing their test.

Among the plans due to be proposed are restrictions on the ages of passengers who can be carried in a new driver's car, as well as a ban on driving at night and a minimum learning period before taking the driving test. It is unclear how long any restrictions placed on drivers after passing their tests would be in place.

The Government has said it will consult on any changes to new driver legislation before they happen, but the end result could be the introduction of a graduated driving licence.

Such licences already exist in other countries, including parts of New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the US. The New Zealand driving test is one of the toughest around, with drivers facing three stages of graduation before being awarded a full licence.

Learner driver

Currently, new drivers in the UK can have their licences revoked if they amass six penalty points during their first two years of driving – the equivalent to being caught using a mobile phone while driving or two speeding offences.

Announcing the plans, road safety minister Michael Ellis said: "Getting a driving licence is exciting for young people, but it can also be daunting, as you’re allowed to drive on your own for the first time.

"We want to explore in greater detail how graduated driver licensing, or aspects of it, can help new drivers to stay safe and reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads."

Previously, the Government has been wary of introducing restrictions on new drivers over fears that they could limit the ability of drivers to carry out work such as shift jobs.

In 2013, a Department for Transport research document into graduated driving licenses concluded that such measures would be effective in reducing accidents among new drivers. It was estimated at the time that a graduated driving license scheme save 4471 casualties and £224 million annually. Since that report only took into account drivers aged 17 to 19, it concluded that "a system that applied to all new drivers would be expected to achieve even greater casualty and cost savings".

Industry reaction

Several motoring organisations have supported the Government's plans, with director of the IAM Roadsmart charity Neil Greig saying: "We strongly support many of the key components of a successful graduated driving licence scheme, in particular the 12-month minimum learning period, which will ensure a much wider range of driving experience, but we still need to be convinced that night-time curfews will work and support a pilot scheme first."

Meanwhile, the RAC's head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: "Graduated driver licensing has the benefit of providing a more controlled environment when learning how to drive. However, this must be balanced so it does not disadvantage young drivers who need to use vehicles for night work."

AA president Edmund King said: "We have long supported the idea of a mandatory logbook for learner drivers to ensure they gain a wide range of experience driving on different roads and in different conditions, including motorways where possible, before they are behind the wheel on their own.

"Besides looking at graduated drivers licences, we believe that other measures, such as putting road safety on the national curriculum, would be beneficial to the safety of new and young drivers."

However, not everyone is for the proposed measures. Telematics-based insurance provider Insurethebox has called the proposals "ineffective and punitive," saying: "We remain certain that a curfew on young drivers is ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. We have clear evidence that engaging with young drivers to help them understand the risks of poor driving, such as speeding, has a direct influence on driving behaviour."

If you're looking to buy your first car, read on for our advice and to see our picks for the best cars to choose from.

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The best cars for new drivers

Buying your first car is an exciting experience, and the good news is that there are some excellent new cars on sale today that fit the bill for new and young drivers.

Finding the right first car is still a challenge, though. The options may be plentiful, but there are a lot of things that could make a big difference in how much it will cost to own.

Insuring your first car

Crucially, a first car has to be cheap to insure. Drivers with little or no experience behind the wheel are much more likely to be involved in an accident than older motorists who have racked up miles.

Insurance costs can be crippling, which is why it makes sense to go for a first car in one of the lowest insurance groups possible. UK insurance groups range from 1 (lowest) to 50 (highest), and a first car should be in single figures, ideally in group 5 or lower.

Small hatchbacks make the best first cars; they don't need a big engine, so are generally much cheaper to buy, run and insure than larger models, such as SUVs.

In addition, younger drivers looking to buy their first car typically do not need the space of a large family hatchback, so smaller cars make more sense. They’re easier to park and manoeuvre, which makes all the difference when you’re learning to drive or have recently passed your test.

First car fuel economy

Most modern small cars that have petrol engines with capacities of 1.6 litres or less have official fuel economy figures in the region of 60mpg, which is handy for young drivers. The exact figures vary depending on the car, but even so, don’t expect to match the manufacturer’s official figure. What Car?’s True MPG tests can give you a better idea of what to expect in real-world driving conditions.

If you're on a tight budget for your first car, the temptation is often to go for the cheapest used example you can find. While these may be inexpensive to buy, bangers will almost certainly be more expensive to run and many won't have the safety features of modern cars, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), which is a concern.

First car leasing options

Buying or leasing your first car via a finance package is generally a much better method. It depends on your individual circumstances and eligibility for credit, but there are some excellent deals to be had and it’s possible to arrange monthly payments of around £200 per month for some of the cars on our list – and even less in some cases.

If you're looking for the cheapest leasing deals, visit What Car? leasing to find a range of affordable finance packages.

Below and over the next few pages, we'll reveal our picks for the best cars for new or young drivers.

10. Kia Rio

Kia Rio

The Rio isn't the best small car to drive, but it's comes with a lot of equipment, making it good value for money, and it's roomy enough inside for four adults to travel in comfort and stow their baggage in the boot.

Read our full Kia Rio review >