Social Justice

New drivers under 25 could be banned from giving their mates a lift

Similar measures in other parts of the world have seen great success in reducing road deaths

Young guy driving on the right hand side of the car to illustrate the impact of the graduate driving licences

One in five drivers crash within a year of passing their test. (Image: Art Markiv/Unsplash)

Are you under 25 and recently passed your driving test? There won’t be any late-night drives to McDonald’s or road trips to the beach with your friends under new plans being considered by the government.

The proposal suggests banning new drivers under the age of 25 from carrying any passengers also under 25 in their vehicles for up to a year after passing their test, as part of a new “graduated driving licence” scheme in an effort to improve road safety.

Transport minister Richard Holden will be considering the idea on May 16. It has already been approved by Support for Victims of Road Crashes, an advisory committee to the Department for Transport (DfT), as well as the road safety charity Brake.

​​Ross Moorlock, interim CEO at Brake, told The Big Issue: “Evidence shows that when graduated driver licensing (GDL) has been introduced in other countries, it has effectively reduced road crashes involving 17- to 24-year-olds.”

“We need a licensing system that creates equity for young drivers because currently they are disproportionately at risk on the UK’s roads in comparison to other drivers. The introduction of a graduated driver licence puts us on the right path to achieving that. We look forward to hearing how the government is going to address this.” 

Moorlock also said young drivers were more likely to “indulge in impulsive behaviour… and engage in dangerous driving”.

In New Zealand, young drivers cannot drive alone at night and have limits on the number of passengers they can carry, as well as lower limits for alcohol consumption, which led to a 23 per cent reduction in crash injuries for 15- to 19-year-olds and a 12 per cent reduction for 20- to 24-year-olds.

A similar scheme in Ontario, Canada, led to a 42 per cent reduction in crashes among 20 to 24-year-olds.

“The research, and experience in other countries around the globe, suggest that the scheme will reduce collisions and casualties, particularly among young people,” Sonya Hurt, chief executive of the Road Safety Trust, said.

Hurt added the scheme “has broad support among the road safety community”.

One in five drivers crash within a year of getting their licence and over 1,500 young drivers are killed or injured in the UK every year, according to Brake.

The charity found new drivers with passengers of a similar age are actually four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than if they were driving alone.

The proposals come after Sharron Huddleston, who lost her 18-year-old daughter Caitlin in a fatal car crash, lobbied for the changes.

Caitlin’s friend Skye, also 18, was driving after passing her test four months earlier and both died as a result. Another passenger was severely injured in the crash.

“There is nothing I can do to bring Caitlin back but I am determined, in her memory, to ensure that no other family goes through the pain and agony that we go through every day,” Huddleston told The Times.

The graduate driving licences scheme was recommended by the coroner during Caitlin’s inquest but the idea is not new – graduate driving licences were previously considered by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018.

Young women driving a jeep to illustrate the type of person the graduate driving licence will affect
Young drivers are four times more likely to crash if they’re with passengers of a similar age. Image: Element 5 Digital/Unsplash

The Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act of 1995 already imposes a probationary period on new drivers for two years after they pass their driving test. During this period, the driver will have their licence revoked if they received six or more penalty points. 

The new plans have caused a stir on Twitter, with people concerned that such measures would restrict young people’s movement and would disproportionately impact people under 25 who are parents or have caring responsibilities for their siblings.

One person on Twitter wrote: “I had my first child at 20, this would mean I wouldn’t have been able to drive a car with him in. Get a grip!”

Others said it was an “attack” on young people and their ability to get around.

It could also increase the number of cars on the road at one time if young people are not allowed to share journeys, therefore increasing pollution levels too.

Jonathan White, legal and compliance director at the National Accident Helpline, told The Big Issue that the scheme “could be an effective measure” but that it was also “important to strike a balance with the crucial role driving plays in enabling young people to access employment and other opportunities”.

White also warned that road safety should be targeted at all drivers, not just young people: “Accidents can occur with any demographic, and it is vital for all drivers to exercise caution and remain vigilant on the roads.”

This vigilance includes “taking regular breaks”, “minimising distractions”,” and being extra careful in “challenging” conditions.

A DfT spokesperson said: “Every death or serious injury on our roads is a tragedy and we continue to work tirelessly to improve road safety for all users.

“Our broad approach to improving safety for new and novice drivers is through new technology and improving education, while reinforcing vital road safety messages through our THINK! campaign.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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