At the Association of British Insurers’ Motor Conference last week its Director General highlighted an urgent need to reduce young driver deaths and serious injuries as one of a number of key priorities to enable the motor insurance industry to deliver better deals for its customers. By this it means being able to keep premiums affordable. They are already very high for new drivers.
In 1995 the last Government introduced the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act which was designed to deal with the increasing number of new and inexperienced drivers committing road traffic offences. It created a “probationary period” of two years and if during that period a new driver acquired 6 points or more his driving licence was automatically revoked. The only way to get back on the road was to obtain a fresh provisional licence and pass a new driving test. It was designed to be a deterrent.
The New Drivers Act is not widely known or understood despite having been around since June 1997 when it came into force. My experience with many young drivers is that they are unaware of its effect. The consequences such as job loss can be serious. Once DVLA is notified of the 6 points (2 modest fixed penalty notices will do that) the licence is revoked automatically and any subsequent driving becomes unlawful.
The legislation was designed as a road safety measure to influence the driving behaviour of the newly qualified. According to the Association 18 young drivers are killed or seriously injured each day. The lack of awareness of the revocation law suggests more may be needed.
Kent has a very high number of motorway miles, quite apart from its wide range of country and A roads, and safety is an issue not just for young new drivers but for more experienced ones as well. A poll this week by the International Longevity Centre (UK ) and an insurance company (Rias) found that more than 3 in 5 drivers thought older motorists should give up their licences at some stage on grounds of age. Many support re testing in later life. The issue becomes even more contentious with another survey apparently finding that company car drivers take greater risks than others because they are driving someone else’s car.
Other measures suggested by the Association include a zero drink-drive limit for drivers under 25, graduated licencing, and restrictions on driving at night and in the early hours. The sins of the significant few will affect the well behaved majority. How is a young person to get to work or to college in Winter, or to work night shifts at any time of year. Blanket curfews are probably not the answer. I find that many young people have a high level of awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and schools make positive attempts to educate students. If there is to be a zero level for under 25s there is no logical reason not to have that for all drivers. Those who want to drink and drive will continue to do so, whatever their age. It is much more a matter of education and peer pressure. Drinking establishments can provide cheap soft drinks for drivers; the prices in most for soft drinks is ridiculous. What often gets overlooked is the high incidence of older drivers convicted of drinking and driving, many being over 30.
The Government says it has no plans to make testing more difficult or to place obstacles in front of young drivers but it will continue to be a difficult issue.