Bring in graduated licences for new drivers sooner, say safety campaigners

The government should accelerate the introduction of graduated driving licences for learner drivers to reduce the number of road deaths, say safety campaigners.

IAM RoadSmart has accused the government of ‘brushing the issue under the carpet’ because the number of road deaths has stayed largely the same in recent years.

The DfT says the UK is now in “a period when the fatality numbers are stable and most of the changes relate to random variation”, with certain “one-off causes” and “natural variation” occasionally having an effect.

Figures released by the Department for Transport this week indicate that there were 1,782 reported road deaths in 2018, which “is similar to the level seen since 2012, which followed a period of substantial reduction in fatalities from 2006 to 2010”.

They also show that there was a total of 160,378 people killed or injured in reported road traffic accidents in 2018, which is six per cent lower than 2017’s figure. However, it is just a one per cent reduction in the number of fatalities per billion vehicle miles.

Young drivers in the 17-24 age bracket account for seven per cent of the UK’s driving licence holders, but are involved in 20 per cent of incidents.

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Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “These figures underline the critical need to accelerate delivery of policies such a Graduated Driving Licences. The government road safety statement issued last Friday highlights many of the issues but was very short on actions.”

The charity has called for a 12-month minimum learning period for learner drivers before they can take their practical test, as well as secondary tests to take place after a driver has passed their practical test. It also suggests putting limitations on new drivers, such as how many passengers they can carry and lower blood alcohol limits.

The Transport Select Committee announced yesterday that it is launching an inquiry into what action the government can take to reduce the number of young and novice drivers being involved in road traffic collisions.

It will look into Graduated Driving Licensing and similar schemes to determine their benefit.

Responding to the road death figures, Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: “These latest road safety statistics make for stark reading. In short, precious little progress has been made in reducing the number of fatalities on our roads for nearly a decade.

“While it’s difficult to know if the removal of road casualty reduction targets and spending cuts in road safety advertising which occurred around this time have played a role here or not, we must now look to the future and hope the government’s latest road safety proposals go some way towards improving things.

“It should now be a priority for the new transport secretary to get these figures back on the right track and prevent more lives being needlessly lost on our roads.”

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