Government drops graduated driving licences plan

Plans to limit what new drivers can do on the road have been scrapped despite research suggesting it could save lives.

Roads minister Baroness Vere told MPs that the Department for Transport (DfT) is “not progressing work on graduated driving licences (GDLs)”, partly due to the potential impact of restrictions on young people’s employment.

Giving evidence to the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, she added that countries which use GDLs have “massively higher mortality rates than we do”.

GDLs place restrictions on drivers for a set time period after they pass their test, and are used by several nations including the US, Canada, Australia and Sweden.

They can involve banning the carriage of passengers, curfews, lower alcohol limits and mandatory “P” plates.

The DfT announced in July 2019 that it was considering introducing GDLs in England, but Baroness Vere said officials are now focused on the £2 million Driver2020 study being carried out by consultancy TRL.

Committee member and Labour MP Lilian Greenwood told Baroness Vere the Government’s decision not to go ahead with GDLs was “incredibly disappointing”.

Citing TRL research stating that GDLs could save 41 lives and £191 million each year, she asked the minister: “Isn’t there a strong case for taking action?”

Baroness Vere replied: “There are many different things you can do in order to reduce road traffic deaths.”

Committee chairman Huw Merriman previously said young people account for 21% of car drivers killed or seriously injured, despite making up just 7% of licence holders.

The only special treatment for new drivers is they lose their licence if they receive six penalty points within the first two years, rather than the standard 12 points.

Elizabeth Box, head of research at the RAC Foundation, said: “Graduated licensing in various forms has been tried and tested in many countries across the world.

“Its effectiveness in cutting death and injury associated with young drivers is not in dispute.

“So, it is hard to understand why ministers would turn their back on its use here.

“The Government appears to confuse the imposition of graduated licensing with a loss of freedom when in fact it is the opposite.

“Young people who pass their test still immediately get almost all the benefits driving brings, but with additional protection to gain experience in those critical first months after going solo when the risk is at its greatest.”