Phased driving licences: what changes can drivers expect?

If phased driving licences are introduced what will change for learners and...

Phased driving licences

A minimum learner period is likely to be introduced, because the evidence suggests that new drivers who have had between 80 and 120 hours of training before taking their test have fewer accidents than those who do the 65 hours of instruction that’s more typical in the UK. Gaining as wide a variety of experience as possible while learning to drive is also important, because drivers will be safer during this period than at any other time in their life behind the wheel.

Learners could be issued with logbooks in which they’ll need to record driving they’ve done in various situations, including driving on rural roads and on motorways, in different weather conditions and at night. The logbook would need to be signed off by a driving instructor or guardian.

Once they’ve passed their test, a probationary period, most likely of 12 months, could be imposed on new drivers. During this time, they could face a driving curfew from midnight to 5am, because the chances of an accident are greater at this time of day.

“During this time, they will encounter circumstances of heightened risk,” says Kinnear. “For example, the risk of a young driver being involved in a collision is eight times higher between 2am and 4am.”

Phased driving licences

In this first year, 17 to 24-year-old drivers could also be banned from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 25, because police accident data shows that cars carrying lots of young people of the same
age are involved in more serious accidents in which more people are injured. This is backed up by Kinnear, who says: “Young drivers are exponentially more likely to be involved in a collision with the addition of every similar- aged passenger in their car.”

Conversely, having an older person in the car reduces the risk of the driver being involved in an accident, so this is likely to be encouraged.

In order for the police to monitor new drivers, P-plates could become compulsory for the first year of driving. Telematics or black box systems that are fitted as part of some car insurance policies could also be used to keep tabs on when cars are being driven.

What are the main issues to overcome?

The most commonly cited issue raised when the introduction of graduated licences is discussed is the negative impact they could have on the mobility and employment of young people. However, Kinnear says there’s no evidence from any region with phased licensing that young people have been affected to a significant degree.

“Analysis done in 2014 showed that imposing a midnight to 5am curfew on young drivers only had an impact on a small percentage of them,” he says. Meanwhile, analysis of the UK’s National Travel Survey data shows that only 2.6% of all 17 to 19-year-old full licence holders drive to or from work between midnight and 5am, and just 0.5% needed to drive as part of their job during these hours.

In general, phased licences could bring benefits for young drivers; for example, their car insurance premiums are likely to fall if they’re involved in fewer accidents.

When will we get graduated licences?

The next step for the UK is likely to be a feasibility study into graduated licences to assess the optimal trade-off between improving safety and letting young drivers maintain their independence on the road. That means the process of learning to drive and the first year behind the wheel for new drivers could change markedly from next year.

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