25 May 2016

Should newly qualified drivers be restricted?

Passing their driving test and peering over the steering wheel at the road to freedom that lies ahead is an exciting moment in a person’s life, no matter how old or young they are. The ability to go anywhere at any time without getting drenched with rain or delayed because of public transport is, after all, a liberating prospect.

In recent years, various organisations, including Carrot, have put plenty of effort into educating young and newly qualified drivers over road safety. However, Brake, a leading national road safety charity, has pulled together some updated statistics, and the numbers are still worrying. Department for Transport stats reveal that over 2,000 young drivers aged 17-24 were seriously injured or lost their lives in a single year, with almost 10% of fatal crashes involving the 17-19 age group, according to the DVLA.

Age and experience

After considering a study from the Transport Research Laboratory, Brake concludes that “the combination of youth and inexperience puts younger drivers at high risk. Their inexperience means they have less ability to spot hazards, and their youth means they are particularly likely to take risks. In this way, crash risk not only reduces over time with experience but is also higher for those who start driving at a younger age.” This comes at a time when manufacturers and other organisations have been encouraging children as young as 11 to build practice behind the wheel of a car, including a posh Bentley.

Brake reckons that if Department for Transport figures are anything to go by, introducing restrictions and a graduated driving licence (GDL for short) system for newly qualified drivers aged 17 to 19 would result in an annual saving of £224 million pounds and, more importantly, a reduction of 4,471 in the casualty rate.

Carrot Insurance telematics young drivers blog - restricting newly qualified GDL graduated licence - Europe


The charity conducted a survey, asking 1,000 drivers what they think about new drivers and opinions seem fairly in tune with each other:

  • 47% say learners should be made to take at least six months of tuition before taking their practical driving test, while 16% say the minimum duration should be at least a year
  • 35% feel that learner drivers should be required to have a minimum of 25 hours’ professional driving tuition before they’re able to book their practical test, with 25% thinking at least 50 hours are needed
  • 63% believe that there should be a zero-tolerance policy regarding drink-driving for new, young drivers
  • Half of the drivers surveyed say there should be a maximum engine size that can be driven by such drivers
  • 38% would like to see night-driving barred for drivers in this category
  • 35% feel that a newly qualified, young driver’s licence should be taken away if they brake traffic laws during a minimum initial period

Graduated driving licences

In a nutshell, a graduated driving licence system typically involves a ‘learner’ period of at least 12 months, followed by another set time-frame classified as an ‘intermediate’ or ‘novice’ driver, which means sticking to curfews, not being able to carry certain passengers, and other restrictions.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that currently 89% of young UK learners take fewer than 40 hours of driving tuition before taking their practical tests and learning isn’t always done in cars with dual controls.

Carrot Insurance telematics young drivers blog - restricting newly qualified GDL graduated licence UK

Which countries have a GDL system?

  • New Zealand, where injuries from car crashes involving young drivers aged 15-24 have fallen by upto 23%
  • North America, which has seen a 37% drop in accidents involving 16-year-old drivers
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • South Africa

In Europe, various countries have nibbled at the idea of GDL but not fully turned it into law. A report from the RAC Foundation explained how France, which Christian Scholly from France’s Automobile Club Association admitted was often labelled ‘The bad boy of Europe’, introduced a slightly reduced speed limit for young drivers. Over in Norway and Sweden, students typically learn for longer, these countries placing much emphasis on experience, but an official GDL system isn’t in place.

Voices against GDL

Graduated driving licences have been under discussion for quite a few years and even back in 2014 it was clear that the subject was proving controversial, with Tavish Scott from the Scottish parliament saying “social life for young drivers in rural areas would be greatly restricted”, while Edinburgh University Liberal Democrats’ president, Hannah Bettsworth, said GDL is based on a “discriminatory assumption that young people are generally bad drivers”, adding that car-sharing would be prohibited and youngsters working night-shifts would face real difficulties.

With Mike Frisby, chief examiner at DIA, describing telematics (AKA ‘black box’) as “a strong part of the solution” and a2om international’s CEO, Nicholas Rowley, previously saying that “education is better than restriction, reward better than punishment”, it could well be that telematics will continue helping keep young and newly qualified drivers safer on the roads without the need for a graduated driving licence system to be introduced in the UK. Of course, Carrot Insurance’s New Driver and Better Driver products are founded on safer driving, rewarding drivers in return.

Have your say by contacting us on Twitter or Facebook or posting a comment below to let us know what you think about graduated driving licences and whether you think they might be a good idea for the UK.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.