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Placing restrictions on young drivers is not the way to improve road safety

Passing your driving test is a great moment, but new drivers are disproportionately represented in accident rates. Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

The government’s announcement that it is considering the introduction of Graduated Driving Licensing (GDL) in Great Britain has renewed the debate about how to keep new drivers safe on the roads.

One of the proposed plans is to prevent those who have recently passed their test from driving at night, while restrictions on the number and age of passengers have also been mooted.

Such a scheme would potentially mirror other forms of GDL operating in other countries, notably some parts of the USA, Canada and Australia, and across Sweden and New Zealand. GDL is already set to be introduced in Northern Ireland.

While young drivers are sadly over-represented in accident and casualty rates, placing restrictions on them after passing their test does not strike me as being a long-term solution to improving road safety. Rather, I believe the focus should be on raising driving standards before young people ever hit the road unsupervised.

This starts with driving tuition itself. As with a lot of things, it seems this is one area where the UK could learn from the example set by Finland, where it takes two years to acquire a full driving licence, during which time students learn how to control a car in difficult conditions and gain experience of night driving. Although Finland’s unpaved roads and snowy winters perhaps necessitate a more thorough approach to the process of learning to drive, ultimately this produces better drivers, something the UK should try to emulate.

Instead of taking away responsibility from new drivers, we should be equipping them with the skills to cope in all circumstances, be it driving with passengers or at night. Delaying their development by stopping them from gaining such experience does not seem conducive to producing the higher standards of driving that would improve road safety.

Better drivers will mean fewer accidents. GDL may achieve the same outcome by limiting what new drivers can do on the roads, but if we want new drivers to be competent as well as safe, thereby setting them up for a lifetime of good driving, then GDL is not the answer.

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