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Government plans restrictions for new drivers: what does it mean for me?

The Department of Transport this week announced it is looking at introducing a graduated licence scheme, which would restrict what new drivers are allowed to do compared to more experienced drivers.

It is not the first time the idea has been talked about but previous suggestions have been rejected. There are various schemes like this around the world, all designed to reduce the number of accidents and deaths on the roads.

Here’s our roundup of what is being proposed this time and what could it mean for your lessons and life as a newly qualified driver.

What has the Department of Transport said?

The Government hasn’t made any official changes yet, but it has said it wants to explore the possibility of introducing a graduated driver licensing scheme, which means new drivers would have to follow different rules to people who have been driving for longer. Such schemes tend to target young drivers specifically, but the Government hasn’t said if age-restrictions would be introduced here.

What restrictions could new drivers face?

Possible restrictions mentioned by the Government include:

  • A minimum learning period before being allowed to take your test.
  • Not being allowed to drive at night.
  • Not being allowed to drive with passengers of a certain age in the car, i.e. other teenagers or young people.

Similar schemes already exist in countries around the world, including New Zealand, Sweden, and parts of Australia, USA and Canada.

The Government said a consultation will take place before any decisions are made. When similar schemes have been proposed previously, they were rejected because of the possible impact on new drivers’ ability to access work and education opportunities.

Could my lessons be affected?

Part of the Government’s plan is to give learner drivers more varied experiences before they take their test.

They said they would like to increase the number of learners who have spent two or more hours practising on country roads, increase the number of learners who have spent more than four hours practising driving independently, and increase the number of learner drivers who have spent some time practising in the dark.

Access to country roads shouldn’t be a problem in East Anglia, but if you are learning to drive in summer, it could be more difficult to get practice in after sunset.

Why is the Government thinking about this?

Statistics show that one in five new drivers crash during their first year on the road, and young men aged 17-24 are the highest risk group of all car drivers.

The Government said in its road safety action plan, also published this week, that it wants to ensure people don’t go from being in a car with an instructor, who can intervene if anything goes wrong, to being unsupervised before they are really ready.

Do new drivers currently face any restrictions?

New drivers are not currently restricted in when they are allowed to drive or who is in the car with them, but they can face disqualification if they get six points on their licence within two years of passing their test.

What does How-2-Drive think of the proposals?

Howard Floyd, founder of How-2-Drive, said schemes which aim to reduce the number of road casualties and deaths should always be welcomed, but he hoped it wouldn’t negatively affect safe and competent drivers.

Lessons are for life, not just for the test

“When people come to us for lessons, they of course want us to help them to pass their test so they can have the freedom to drive. But our aim as instructors is never to just get a pupil to scrape through their test before moving onto the next learner.

“Our primary aim is to give everyone we teach the skills, knowledge and experience they need to become safe drivers for life. Passing the test is their way of proving it, but it is by no means the end goal.

Dealing with different environments

“That may mean we are teaching pupils things they won’t necessarily have to call upon in the test, but we know that they will need when they are out and about on their own, and facing all of the different conditions and scenarios that you can come across.

“It’s also why we talk about driving as a lifelong skill – once you have passed your test, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be a safe and competent driver for the rest of your life.

Keeping your skills up to date

“We encourage our successful candidates to consider taking a Pass Plus course, to help ensure they are confident handling different scenarios and conditions, particularly in what could be a new car to them.

“We also encourage more experienced drivers to think about whether they would benefit from refresher driving lessons, especially if they have taken a break from driving or have moved here from a different part of the country and aren’t used to all our winding country roads.”