As learner drivers take to the motorways for the first time in England, Scotland and Wales, road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist says some fundamental changes in the whole learning process are necessary to bring down casualties.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Driving on the motorway for the first time can be a daunting experience, so although we welcome the opportunity for learners to drive on the motorway while accompanied by a qualified driving instructor, we believe few will bother because they won’t be tested on it. However the new scheme makes accompanied driving available for learners an option. It’s not a requirement and will not be assessed in the driving test, so we see few, if any, safety benefits.
“We believe motorway driving should be mandatory for all learners, as experience should show that optional learning opportunities simply don’t work. Take Pass Plus, for example. It’s a great idea to offer an additional programme of post-test experience building for newly-qualified drivers. But the average uptake today is just three per cent.
“The Government should learn from experience and take steps to mandate a new learning system that’s fit for purpose.”
Figures from the Department for Transport show that 20 per cent of all fatalities on Britain’s roads in 2016 involved a driver aged between 17 and 24, although they make up just seven per cent of licence holders.
GEM has long supported the introduction of graduated driving licensing (‘GDL’), which provides an important intermediate element between learner and full licence holder, and allows new drivers to build up their skills and experience over a period of time, using clearly-marked stages.
Where versions of GDL are already in place, the reduction in young and novice driver collisions has been remarkable,” according to Neil Worth. “Research from TRL in 2013 shows that 16-year-old drivers in the USA who learnt to drive through GDL systems 15 years ago had 37 per cent fewer crashes than those who followed other systems. Elsewhere, following the introduction of GDL in New Zealand, injuries from road traffic collisions reduced by almost a quarter for 15- to 19-year olds.”
In 2017, more than 90 per cent of drivers in a GEM survey (A total of 1,072 GEM members completed the survey during January 2017) gave their support to a graduated driver licensing system. This, they said, should include:
- a minimum learning period of 12 months before taking a practical test
- drivers should hold ‘novice’ status for two years after passing the test
- a ban on novice drivers carrying passengers aged under 25
- a night-time driving curfew, unless driving to or from work
- automatic disqualification for any driving offence