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UK House of Commons
Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence
Memorandum submitted by the Department for Transport
19 July 2007
1.1 This evidence is submitted for the Transport
Committee inquiry into novice drivers. It provides an overview
of the issues that the Committee has indicated it would like to
investigate. The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has been fully
involved with the preparation of this Memorandum.
Young drivers are involved in too many road
casualty accidents. They present a complex challenge; but not
all young drivers are novices: many of those whose fatally bad
driving is reported in the news are old enough to have passed
the test some years previously. Most young people take a responsible
approach to learning to drive and gaining experience; others flout
basic safety rules, including a minority who drive unlicensed
and un-insured. Road safety issues also cannot be considered in
isolation, but are part of a wider social concern about anti-social
behaviour and its causes.
1.2 There has been a series of changes in
the driver training and testing regime in recent years. Changes
to the test are described in para 4.2 below. The Pass Plus scheme
was launched in 1995 (see para 6.4). The New Drivers Act was brought
into force in 1997 (see Section 8). DSA's Driver Record logbook
was launched in 2002 (see para 5.5).
The Government's Road Safety Strategy
1.3 The Government published a road safety
strategy in March 2000, Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for Everyone.
We are committed to review this strategy every three years. Young
drivers are a main focus of the second of these reviews, currently
in progress. This will also reflect a new strategy being developed
in parallel by the DSA, Driving Safety Forward, which has as a
main focus the continued improvement of the training and testing
system so as to improve further the safety of young drivers. This
work is in progress and a report will be published in the first
quarter of 2007. The Department will share conclusions from this
work with the Committee as soon as it is completed.
1.4 The Committee's predecessor, the Environment,
Transport and Rural Affairs Committee (ETRAC) conducted an inquiry
on Young and Newly-Qualified Drivers: Standards and Training in
ETRAC's 19th report includes the Government's written evidence
to that inquiry in May 1999; and the Government's response to
the report was published in March 2000.
ETRAC made a number of specific recommendations, including the
introduction of a Hazard Perception Test as part of the computerised
theory test, which have been implemented. In relation to after-test
monitoring of younger drivers, ETRAC rejected suggestions for
a probationary driver scheme, and a proposal that the Pass Plus
scheme be made mandatory.
1.5 The Committee has also recently published
a report on Roads Policing and Technology: Getting the Right
on which the Government will respond very shortly. The Committee
also touched upon the issue of younger drivers in its recent report
on the Driver and Vehicle Operator Group and The Highways Agency,
to which the Government responded on 6 November 2006.
A Structured Approach to Learning to Drive
1.6 Following the ETRAC report, the Government
published a wide-ranging consultation document, A Structured
Approach to Learning to Drive
in March 2002, which included a wide range of proposals for restricting
newly-qualified drivers. The Government's decision following this
consultation was published in April 2004.
The Government concluded that the focus should be on positive
improvements to the training and testing regime. It decided against
further statutory regulation of learners and newly-qualified drivers.
Road Safety Act 2006
1.7 The Road Safety Act
includes provisions which the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) will
use to overhaul the present system of approved driving instructor
There were several Parliamentary debates on newly-qualified and
other young drivers during the passage of the Bill, including
a debate at Committee Stage in the House of Commons on 23 April
Novice drivers and young drivers
1.8 The scope of the inquiry is assumed
to be limited to drivers and to exclude motorcyclists, on which
the Committee have a separate inquiry. Only one of the Committee's
questions relates to young drivers in general (see section 3 below).
Otherwise, its questions relate to learners, and novice drivers
who have held a car driving licence for less than two or perhaps
three years, irrespective of their age.
1.9 A minority of young drivers who could
be considered novice drivers are unlicensed—either because
they are not yet 17, or because they have chosen not to qualify
or have become disqualified from driving or who have had their
licences revoked. Others fail to comply with provisional licence
restrictions. These are a very high risk group, but would not
necessarily be touched by the specific proposals on which the
Committee has invited evidence.
Numbers of novice drivers
1.10 DSA holds figures by age and gender
for those who take and pass the practical car driving test. This
table gives a summary of these:
1.11 The DSA figures show that some 700,000 people pass
the practical car driving test each year, of whom about 600,000
are under 25 years old, and nearly 400,000 are under 20. A significant
proportion of novice drivers are therefore not in the age range
(17-25 years) commonly used to cover young drivers; conversely,
many of those in that age range are likely not to be considered
novice drivers, since they will already have had several years'
experience of driving after passing the driving test.
1.12 The DSA figures also show that the total number
of young people taking the driving test has risen in recent years.
Numbers fluctuate from year to year according to the number in
the age group. However, the National Travel Survey suggests that
the proportion of people aged 17-20 holding a licence increased
from 27% in 2004 to 32% in 2005, after a steady downward trend
from the peak of 48% in 1992-94.
Casualty accidents involving young drivers
1.13 The Department's accident statistics are published
annually in Road Casualties in Great Britain—Annual Report.
Two further tables are annexed summarising casualty accidents
since 1992, for accidents involving a driver under 25, with separate
figures for accidents involving a driver aged 17 to 19. It should
be noted that the reports on which these are based do not record
how long any driver has held a licence.
1.14 In 2005, there were 1,077 fatalities in road traffic
accidents involving a driver between 17 and 25, of whom 377 were
drivers in that age group. For accidents involving a driver aged
17 to 19, there were 465 road fatalities (including riders), of
whom 149 were drivers in that age group. The reports on which
these figures are based do not attribute fault in the casualty
1.15 The tables below compare the rates of fatalities
per billion kilometres among car drivers (including taxi drivers)
over and under the age of 25. The former are very much higher,
and on average over the period 1996-2005 the fatality rate for
young car drivers has also increased. Between 1997 and 1999 the
rate decreased due to the number of fatalities falling faster
than vehicle kilometres (vkms). The rate then increased up until
2003. This was due to the number of fatalities increasing in every
year from 1999 to 2005 and vkms falling from 1999 until 2003.
The increase in vkms in both 2004 and 2005 then caused the rate
to fall in these years.
1.16 The Department for Transport publishes the Highways
Economic Note No.1
each year estimating the values for prevention of road casualties
and road accidents for use in the appraisal of road schemes. The
update for 2005 values was published on 12 January. The average
value of prevention per fatal casualty in Great Britain in 2005
prices is £1,428,180. The average costs per fatal accident
were £1,644,790. However, the Department does not attempt
to give estimates for particular age groups. Treasury guidance
states that differences in wealth should be ignored for equity
reasons and consequently national average valuations of preventing
fatalities should be used. The valuation of prevention of fatalities
is based on a consistent willingness to pay (WTP) approach, which
according to Treasury guidance should assume that "everyone
at risk from accidental death should be treated as if they were
of average income and wealth, producing average net output, of
average age and expressing an average level of risk aversion".
The estimates do not represent actual costs incurred as the result
of road accidents. They are the cost-benefit values and represent
the benefits which would be obtained by prevention of road accidents.
The value of prevention of a casualty consists of: loss of output;
ambulance and hospital costs; and human costs, based on WTP values,
which represent pain, grief and suffering to the casualty, relatives
and friends, and, for fatal casualties, the intrinsic loss of
enjoyment of life over and above the consumption of goods and
services. The higher costs for accidents are due to non-casualty
specific costs, such as damage to vehicles and property and costs
of police and insurance and administrative costs; and also because
on average more that one casualty is involved per accident—for
example in 2005, a fatal accident on average involved 1.10 fatalities,
0.36 serious casualties and 0.54 slight casualties.
1.17 Casualty rates associated with young and novice
drivers are a concern all over the world. OECD have recently published
an international review of this issue,
which gives comprehensive information including comparisons between
different countries. This shows that a number of countries including
the UK with advanced policies on road safety nevertheless have
cause for serious concern about young drivers. In European countries,
there are lower young driver casualty figures, but these are associated
mainly with young people having—as yet—less access
to, or use of vehicles.
2. To what extent novice drivers are more at risk of being
involved in a collision than other drivers, and whether this is
primarily a consequence of age, inexperience or a combination
2.1 The accident risk found among novice drivers is partly
attributable to both age and experience, but the following paragraphs
also show a strong association with high risk behaviour in general
and an associated low regard for basic road safety rules.
2.2 Many reports
highlight a higher risk of casualties involving young male drivers
than more experienced drivers. The picture for young female drivers
is significantly different. It also does not follow from the high
figures that all young drivers (males in particular) are an equally
high risk. Several studies
have assessed the relative importance of experience and age. The
risk of accident involvement decreases substantially during the
first year of driving for new drivers of any age; the initial
accident risk, while still considerable, is less the older the
novice driver is.
2.3 The Government's Memorandum for ETRAC in May 1999
cited a major long-running research study undertaken by TRL Ltd,
the Cohort Study of learner and novice drivers (Cohort I).
This study has been repeated (Cohort II) and results are planned
to be published in the Summer of 2007. These studies have examined
the methods used and experience gained by a sample of learner
drivers and related this to their performance in the practical
driving test, and to their experiences during the first 3 years
as a novice driver, including any accidents in which they have
been involved and offences they have committed.
2.4 Preliminary analysis of the Cohort II data suggests
that, for drivers of all ages at the time of passing the L-test,
the reduction in accident liability which they enjoy between their
first and second year of driving post-test may be as high as 42.5%
as a result of the gaining of experience alone. Age itself may
be much less significant. The accident liability for a driver
passing the test at age 17.6 (the average age of a 17-year old
test passer) is only 5.5% more than for drivers passing the test
a year older. This age-effect reduces as age increases, so that
for 20-year olds, the reduction in accident liability for drivers
passing a year later is 4.3% and by age 25 this has fallen to
2.5 In 2005, for the first time, the Department collected
data on contributory factors to road traffic accidents. Several
of these factors are attributed to drivers up to the age of 25
in much higher proportions of cases than for older drivers. These
factors were reported for the following proportion of drivers
in casualty accidents—
2.6 Accident statistics collected by the Department include
the age of vehicles involved. The following average figures show
that novices tend to have been in older cars, which are likely
to have fewer safety features—
2.7 The accident figures show that young drivers' vehicles
tend to have smaller engines. The average engine capacity for
drivers aged 17 to 19 was 1,366 cc; for drivers aged 17 to 25
was 1,479 cc, and for drivers aged 26 and above was 1758 cc.
3. Do young people's attitudes to driving have a significant
impact on the collision rates of young and novice drivers?
3.1 A proper attitude to the responsibilities of driving
is crucial. It will be reflected in a considered approach to learning
not only the practical skills driving requires but the development
of safe behaviour, and a regard for road traffic laws. Attitudes
to driving, and road traffic law and the law more generally, are
formed before young people are old enough to drive. Many young
people see the freedom to drive as a means of gaining respect
and some see it as a means of relieving boredom.
3.2 In 2002, TRL Ltd published a report for the Department,
In-depth Accident Causation Study of Young Drivers,
which considered 3437 injury accident cases reported by the police,
including 1296 in detail, involving drivers aged 17-25 years.
A central theme of this study is the extent to which young driver
accidents of all types can be said to be the result of "attitudinal"
factors as opposed to "skill deficit" factors. A large
percentage of their accidents are purely the result of two or
three "failures of attitude", rather than skill deficits.
3.3 In 2004, the Department commissioned a more detailed
investigation of the change in the trend for fatal car accidents
since the late 1990s. Preliminary analysis suggests that young
drivers in fatal accidents, especially those under 20 years, were
nearly 12 times more likely than those aged 35-65 years to have
been at fault. Males were found to be more liable to deliberate
risk taking actions than females, with males more likely to exceed
the speed limit or drive too fast for the conditions. Females
were more likely to have been ignorant of the correct speed limit
or to be travelling too fast for the conditions rather than deliberately
3.4 Over three quarters of fatal accidents involving
drivers under 20 were judged to be speed related. For the 20-24
year age group it was about two thirds, dropping to below half
by the age of 30 years. These accidents show high levels of speeding,
alcohol involvement and recklessness. 68% of occupant fatalities
in the 16-20 year age group were with drivers who were slightly
older (mean age 21 years), who were speeding or who were being
deliberately reckless and racing (36%).
3.5 The Department's accident statistics (see para 1.14)
show that the highest rate of breath test failures at accidents
is 5.6% for male drivers aged 20-24 years. The equivalent figure
for females is 1.6%.
3.6 30% of fatally injured occupants (of all ages) were
not wearing a seat belt. Wearing rates are particularly low among
young drivers (17-29 years) with 40% of those killed not wearing
a seat belt. The proportion of fatally injured drivers wearing
a seat belt increases with age from about 29 years. Seat belt
wearing is lower, especially among young males, at night. Over
a third of those killed at night were not wearing a seatbelt compared
with under one quarter of those of the same age killed during
3.7 There is also some evidence that if a driver has
been drinking or not wearing a seatbelt, it was likely the passengers
were doing the same. The younger the passenger the less likely
they were to be wearing a seatbelt. In 2005 there were 188 passenger
deaths under the age of 18 years. In the rear seat about half
the young males and females killed had been wearing a seatbelt
during the day but this dropped to 11% for males at night and
33% for young females. In the front seat, the proportions for
both were about 80% during the day but dropped to 75% for males
and 65% for females at night (Broughton and Sexton).
Offending by young drivers
3.8 A key measure of attitudes is compliance with relevant
regulations, in this case road traffic laws. The following paragraphs
demonstrate the possible extent to which accidents are linked
to serious driving offences. The strong connection is important
for any proposals linked to additional legal regulation of learners
and novice drivers. Bad driving by young people cannot be considered
or tackled in isolation from the wider social context.
3.9 The Home Office published a research study (No 206)
in October 2000 on The Criminal Histories of Serious Traffic Offenders,
which looked at how far those who commit serious traffic offences
are normally law-abiding members of the public or are likely to
be involved in other types of crime, by examining the extent to
which anti-social behaviour on the road is linked to other criminal
activity, and how any such links might be exploited.
3.10 The study of three types of serious traffic offender
(the drink driver, the disqualified driver and the dangerous driver)
revealed that many offenders from each group had committed mainstream
offences (violence against the person, burglary, robbery, theft
and handling, criminal damage, drug offences). Serious traffic
offending was found to be predominantly a male activity, and relatively
few females are involved.
3.11 The Cohort I study found a relationship between
novice drivers who commit driving offences and those who have
road traffic accidents.
Overall, in the first year from passing the test, 42% of those
who had received a fixed penalty notice or summons had also been
involved in an accident, compared with 18% of those who had not.
In the second year, the proportions were 26% and 12% respectively,
and these figures dropped to 21% and 11% in the third year.
3.12 The most recent Home Office statistics for road
traffic offences are for 2004. The Supplementary Tables
include (at Table 17) an analysis by age for findings of guilt
at Court which separates drivers by gender and age. This Table
shows that 88% of these cases involved men, with much higher proportions
of men for some of the most serious offences, such as causing
death or bodily harm; dangerous driving; theft and fraud; and
a range of offences including for example driving unsafe vehicles
3.13 The proportions of convictions involving drivers
under 21 are also given in this Table. The following table shows
for selected offences the numbers of those convicted who were
21 and under and percentage in each case of the totals convicted
for the offence—
3.14 Drivers under 21 (not all novices) are over-represented
for all of these offences (which do not of course include those
killed by their own dangerous driving). The Department's accident
statistics (see para 1.14) show that young drivers (under 25)
are heavily over represented in drink drive accidents per one
hundred thousand licence holders and per one hundred million miles
Young people driving unlicensed and un-insured
3.15 Table 17 in the Supplementary Tables also gives
figures for driver licensing, and insurance offences, with the
following proportions of convicted drivers under 21—
3.16 Again, persons under 21 are heavily over-represented.
Persons under 21 are also responsible for just over two thirds
of convictions for theft of motor vehicles.
3.17 Young male drivers (17-29, by no means all novices)
are about three times more likely to be involved in a crash than
all drivers, but unlicensed young male drivers are between 3.25
and 11.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than all
drivers. For all unlicensed drivers the increased risk is between
2.7% and 8.9%. There is some indication that unlicensed driving
may be increasing amongst young males. There are indications from
several sources, although little firm evidence, that at least
100,000 young people, predominantly male, may be driving without
3.18 Those who gain a criminal record for driving while
disqualified, unlicensed or un-insured are likely to have life-long
difficulty obtaining insurance; and may therefore be permanently
excluded from the legal driving population. Many have become high-risk
serial road traffic offenders.
3.19 The Department published a report in November 2003,
Research into Unlicensed Driving.
This estimated that there are around 6,300 casualties annually
as a result of crashes involving an unlicensed driver and around
900 of these are killed or seriously injured. Not all crashes
involving unlicensed drivers are detected and not all are prosecuted,
so it is possible that the numbers represent an underestimate.
The report found, by comparing crashes involving unlicensed drivers
with all crashes, that—
3.20 As for the unlicensed drivers involved in these
crashes, the report found that—
DRIVER EDUCATION AND TESTING
4. How effective are the existing practical and theory
driving tests at identifying safe driving skills and behaviour?
Has the hazard perception test achieved its objectives?
4.1 The Government's strategy aims for—
4.2 The regime for learners and novice drivers has been
made more rigorous in recent years. A theory test was introduced
in 1996, which is now screen-based. Changes were made to the practical
test in May 1999 so that there is more time for driving rather
than set manoeuvres. The extra time means that, where practicable,
candidates are taken on to a high speed road and are expected
to drive up to the limit, subject to road conditions. Hazard perception
testing was introduced in November 2002.
4.3 The UK driving test is widely accepted to be among
the most demanding of any country. The OECD report on young drivers
(para 2.2) has detailed information about the approach to driver
training and testing in other countries. As part of DSA's work
described in para 4.10, they have commissioned a study on the
driving test, which will include additional information on international
4.4 In 2005, TRL published a report for the Department
entitled Novice Driver Safety and the British Practical Driving
Test. The authors
discuss evidence about the way learners prepare for the test,
and the reasons for the present pass rate (then—and now—about
43%). The report notes that candidates choose when they come for
test, and that many appear to do so at a time when their own level
of competence is such that they have only a moderate probability
of passing; and their performance is inconsistent.
4.5 The European Commission's DG TREN financed what is
known as the TEST project, which was managed by CIECA, the international
driver testing authority. The final report was produced in 2005.
The project covered six countries: Austria, France, Netherlands,
Spain, Sweden and Great Britain. The main aims of the project
The findings confirm that the driving test in Great Britain
compares favourably with those of other countries studied, and
already incorporates many of the specific recommendations. The
report does find, however, that current driving tests are not
yet incorporating the results of research conducted in recent
years, which recommend introducing more behavioural elements into
the driving test and focussing less on only vehicle control.
Theory and Hazard Perception Test
4.6 The following table shows the pass rates for the
theory test and hazard perception test. The pass rates are high,
and much higher than for the practical test pass rate.
4.7 At 3 December 2006, there were nearly 200,000 provisional
licence holders who had held a theory test certificate for more
than a year. 47% of these had taken and failed at least one practical
test, and 15% had a first test booked. 38% had neither booked
nor taken a practical test. Approximately 3,000 theory test certificates
expire each month before the holders have taken a practical test.
4.8 The Department does not yet have an analysis of the
effectiveness of these new elements in the test, although research
carried out prior to implementation indicated the potential of
hazard perception testing for improving novice driver safety.
One of the objectives of the Cohort II study is to evaluate the
impact which the introduction of the hazard perception test has
had, and these findings will also be available in the summer of
4.9 These additional elements of the driving test are
intended to encourage people to incorporate theory and hazard
perception in their driving training and the Cohort II study seeks
to establish the extent to which this is happening. It would seem
that many learners treat them as separate, preliminary items and
practise for them mainly on computer products which they can use
at home rather than in association with their driving instructor.
Driving Safety Forward
4.10 Ministers have asked DSA to become more involved
with drivers throughout their driving career rather than simply
at the driving test. As part of its new strategy, Driving Safety
Forward, DSA intends to look at—
Para 1.3 above explains that this work is linked to the current
review of the Government's road safety strategy, on which a report
will be published in the first quarter of 2007.
Young people's perceptions
4.11 As part of the work described in para 1.3, the Department
commissioned a study of young drivers' perceptions of good driving
and the practical driving test.
This study finds that young people are making a distinction between
learning to pass the test and learning to drive, and between the
law and "lore" of the road. Evidence of this sort suggests
that extensive work is needed on pre-driver education and other
early influences, as well as on driver training prior to the driving
test, so that more young people develop a safe attitude to driving
as well as the practical skills on which driver training currently
5. Could changes to driver education and testing help to
make novice drivers safer?
Such changes might include:
5.1 Changes to driver, and pre-driver, education and
driver testing could make novice drivers safer, and the programme
of DSA work summarized in para 4.10 has that aim. Each of the
specific proposals identified by the Committee were discussed
in A Structured Approach to Learning to Drive (see para
Minimum learning periods and compulsory professional tuition
5.2 The Cohort I study found that the mean age for participants
who passed the test was 22.4 years. The mean time to learn and
pass the test was 10.6 months. Getting practice as well as having
formal lessons has added value. This may be because it offers
experience in a wider range of vehicles and driving conditions.
Where family cars are used, experience may include carrying passengers
which might not typically arise in driving lessons. Participants
in the Cohort I study who failed the test had had a significantly
lower mean figure for hours of practice than those who had passed.
5.3 The Cohort I study found as many as 98% of respondents
took at least some professional instruction. A preliminary analysis
for Cohort II has an even higher figure of 99.5%. The mean time
spent on formal lessons among participants who had passed the
test was 43.8 hours, and their mean hours of practice were 17.9
hours (including those who had no practice). This means that an
average learner may have had over 60 hours' driving experience
when they reach their practical test.
5.4 The OECD report cited at para 1.17 above includes
information about other countries where there is compulsory tuition
and a minimum learning period. Some other European countries only
allow learners to drive with a professional instructor. It is
common in the United States to specify minimum hours of practice,
although it is not always clear how this is supervised. Many of
these regimes do not appear to require more practice than the
average learner in Great Britain already chooses to have.
Driver Record Logbook
5.5 DSA promotes a Driver Record, a logbook used by learner
drivers and their instructors. Some instructors have their own
versions. The aim is to ensure that the learner and instructor
take a structured approach to learning and gaining experience
in each of the competencies which are assessed in the practical
driving test. A research project (due to report at the end of
2007) is investigating the extent of use of the Driver Record,
and the influence it has on the level and nature of pre-test driver
training and experience, and on driving test performance.
5.6 The Government does not agree that newly-qualified
drivers should be excluded from driving on motorways, although
some learners are clearly not yet sufficiently competent to be
allowed to use these roads. The need for learner drivers to be
prepared for driving on motorways has been addressed by increasing
the length of the practical driving test among other things to
ensure that more test routes include dual carriageways and other
higher-speed roads. Learners should therefore practise on such
roads before they take the test. A Structured Approach to Learning
to Drive cited research indicating that novices do not have
a higher proportion of their accidents on a motorway, leading
to the conclusion that motorways do not present a particular problem
for them. All-purpose roads, where the risks are higher, are of
more concern for novices. Any new driver seeking accompanied motorway
experience can undertake specific training such as the Pass Plus
5.7 Learner drivers should practise in the dark, and
the Driver Record (para 5.5) makes express provision for this.
Accident numbers are especially high for 17-19 year olds between
9pm and midnight. This may be related to exposure. There is likely
to be a strong connection with the kind of behaviour and risk
taking likely to be associated with their other activities at
those times. Factors such as alcohol, fatigue, speed and peer-pressure
contribute to young driver accidents at these times. These are
bigger risks than those associated simply with driving in the
6. GRADUATED LICENSING
Graduated licensing schemes involve the phasing-in of driving
privileges. Typically, a gradated licensing scheme imposes additional
restrictions on new drivers either for a fixed period of time
after passing their test or until a second test is passed. Restrictions
in a graduated licensing programme might include:
6.1 Each of the specific proposals identified by the
Committee were discussed in A Structured Approach to Learning
to Drive (see para 1.8 above). The Government has not proposed
additional legal restrictions on newly-qualified drivers. Experience
is a matter of development, but it cannot be right for the passing
of the test to leave substantive questions about readiness to
drive. The provisional licence is there to provide a secure environment
in which learners can reach the right standard.
6.2 Three main arguments are advanced for graduating
licensing schemes such as those described by the Committee. They
are said to reduce the exposure of novice drivers; they may moderate
the behaviour of bad young drivers; and they are used in some
other countries for one or both of these purposes.
6.3 It is important that all drivers gain experience
of the full range of conditions for which they have been licensed,
and that the process should only be delayed or restricted if this
is necessary or proportionate. The function of the practical test
must be to see if candidates are ready to drive unrestricted.
There are risks associated with driving at the prevailing speed
limits, or with passengers, and at night; but these activities
are not inherently dangerous and it is desirable that novice drivers
continue to gain such experience. Some people learn to drive specifically
because they need to carry people (including children) about,
or to drive at night—for example to get work. It would be
difficult to justify penalising such to control bad driving by
6.4 Pass Plus is a training scheme for new drivers designed
by the DSA, with assistance from the instruction and insurance
industries, which encourages new drivers to take additional training
in areas where they may need experience such as on motorways and
at night-time. It was introduced in November 1995. In 2005-06,
107,122 took part in the scheme; that is 13.2% of new drivers.
Training is delivered by registered Approved Driving Instructors
(ADIs). Some insurance companies offer premium discounts to newly-qualified
drivers who have certificates for completing a Pass Plus course.
The Department let a research project in January 2006 to explore
how the Pass Plus scheme, and its take up by newly qualified drivers,
might be improved. This project is due to be completed in December
2007. It is seeking ways of influencing the attitudes and behaviour
of novices and getting them to evaluate their driving, and think
about their own safety and that of others for whom they are responsible
Enforcement of Additional Controls
6.5 Restrictions of any kind on any particular class
of driver have to be enforced to be effective. They cannot be
left to self-enforcement, even if it is thought that this would
be effective to a degree for safer drivers who are most likely
to comply. The drivers for whom this sort of control is conceived
as a restraint are the most likely to behave badly and to infringe
road traffic—and indeed other—laws. Their bad driving
behaviour is by no means confined to the first two or three years
from passing the test, assuming they even have—or have retained—a
driving licence. Such controls do not touch high-risk, including
unlicensed, drivers. The Government believes that enforcement
effort should focus on those who disregard the rules already in
6.6 Graduated licensing schemes with the kind of restrictions
identified by the Committee are not generally found in European
Union countries, but are widely adopted in North America, and
also in Australia and New Zealand. Information on this is available
in the recent OECD report on young drivers (see para 1.17). It
is evident from this report that, whatever benefit may have accrued
from such controls in these countries, they still have a problem
with novice drivers at least as serious as in this country, even
when the controls are at their most restrictive. These countries
also have a minimum age for learning to drive, and holding a full
licence, is lower than 17 years. In some instances, it is as low
Lower Alcohol Limits
6.7 A European Commission recommendation on road safety
measures includes a 20 mg alcohol limit for young drivers. Some
countries, such as Sweden already have such a limit. It is evident
that a minority of young drivers drive in excess of the present
limit, and that serious crashes result. The Government does not
see that lowering the limit just for novice drivers will tackle
that problem; or accept that new drivers should have a lower limit
than other people. It might help form good habits, but it would
be wrong to create a perception that young people may increase
their alcohol consumption as they become more experienced drivers.
7. CHANGES TO THE DRIVING AGE
Would there be any benefit in changing the minimum age at which
a provisional or full licence may be obtained?
7.1 The minimum age for acquiring both a provisional
licence and a full licence is at present 17. The OECD report cited
at para 1.17 includes information about driving ages in other
countries. There are a number of other European countries in which
the minimum age for learning to drive is higher than 17.
7.2 A Structured Approach to Learning to Drive
(see para 1.8 above) included discussion of the driving age and
the Government decided not to change it. It considers that improvements
to the driver training and testing regime are a more constructive
way to achieve the benefits which a change to the driving age
7.3 A Structured Approach to Learning to Drive
noted that only about 25,000 drivers a year, some 4% of the total,
pass the test less than six months after obtaining a provisional
licence, and that about 29% of the total pass before they are
18. The figures for 2005-06 show an even lower 24.2%. In other
words, the great majority are at least 18 when they pass the test.
7.4 Raising the minimum age just for a full licence would
allow learner drivers more time to practise with an instructor
or accompanying driver before driving on their own. Extending
the period in which only a provisional licence is available would
allow more time for learners to practice, but they would not necessarily
do so. It is not a general rule that learners practise and take
lessons throughout their learning period, and there are many reasons
for them not to do so.
7.5 Making young people wait to get a licence would reduce
the number of accidents involving licensed drivers because the
youngest would be excluded from driving legally. It would have
a significant adverse impact on those who are prepared to drive
responsibly and need their own transport for access to work and
education. It would have no impact on the most dangerous minority
who choose to drive unlicensed.
8. DIFFERENT TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS
Drivers face disqualification and re-testing if they acquire
six penalty points during the first two years after taking their
test. Could further, similar provisions for the different treatment
of novice drivers who offend be introduced?
8.1 The New Drivers Act 1995,
brought into force in 1997, requires the Secretary of State to
revoke a full driving licence if the holder reaches six penalty
points within two years of it being issued. The object was to
provide a new sanction especially for drivers while they are within
two years of passing a driving test to deter them from behaviour
likely to lead to offence-related accidents. Points earned as
a learner count, but only when more are awarded against a full
licence. This is simply because the sanction bites on a full licence
and can therefore only be activated by a penalty awarded once
the driver has one. Revocations can be triggered by action at
a Court or by a Fixed Penalty Notice Office (FPNO).
8.2 About 15,000 licences are revoked each year under
this Act. DVLA records suggest that half of all revocations are
linked to driving un-insured (for which the penalty includes six
points), and about a quarter to speeding offences. The balance
is made up of assorted road traffic and vehicle defect offences.
There is quite an age range among those who lose licences in this
way but the great majority are young men. Figures for June 2005
to May 2006 show that, out of a total of 14,988 revocations, 77%
were males 25 and under; and 35% were males under 20.
8.3 A recent review of the records of revoked licences
suggests that only about half of the drivers concerned have recovered
their full licence by passing another practical driving test.
This suggests that a substantial proportion of those caught by
the Act may be driving unlicensed. If these continue to drive,
they are all also un-insured.
8.4 Novice drivers are eligible for speed awareness and
driver improvement courses, where available in the same way as
others convicted of the same offences. Courses are conditionally
offered as an alternative to fines and penalty points. They have
to be alternative disposals to provide an incentive to take the
course. It is not police policy to offer a course to anybody who
would otherwise be awarded points which trigger a disqualification
or revocation: a course might be offered to a novice driver caught
speeding who has no points, but not to one who has three already—they
will be offered three more points, which will trigger a revocation.
Courses would not be offered to novice drivers caught driving
un-insured, as the penalty for this offence includes six penalty
8.5 The Act aims to incentivise novice drivers to obey
road traffic legislation, by making it easy for them to lose a
licence. Steering those at risk of revocation towards training
courses might have the benefit of keeping them within the licensing
system, provided they did not re-offend and breach the six point
15 January 2007
1 available on-line from the DfT website- Back
see especially Estimating the Effects of Age and Experience
on Accident Liability Using Stats 19 Data (Maycock 2002) published
by the Department for Transport in Behavioural Research in
Road Safety XII. Back
Cohort study of learner and novice drivers: reports are available
on TRL-Part 1: Learning to drive and performance in the driving
test (1992) (TRL Report RR 338); Part 2: Attitudes, opinions and
the development of driving skills in the first 2 years (1992)
(RR372); Part 3: Accidents, offences and driving experience in
the first three years of driving (1995)(PR111); Part 4: Novice
driver accidents in relation to methods of learning to drive,
performance in the driving test and self assessed driving ability
and behaviour (1997) (TRL Report TRL275). Back
Council Directive 91/439/EEC of 29 July 1991 on driving licences
sets a minimum age of 18 for cars drivers, but Article 6(2) allows
a derogation for countries such as the UK which have a lower limit. Back
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