Motoring News

UK safety group advocates graduated licences for learners

STILL TOO MANY: Road deaths in the UK, while nowhere near the terrible toll in SA, needs a new type of driving licence. Image: Supplied

LONDON, England – British road-safety organisation IAM RoadSmart believes graduated driving licences should head a comprehensive series of changes to protect young drivers thanks to another set of disappointing statistics were published today (July 25 2019).

The Department for Transport reported 1782 road deaths through 2018 (reference 1). It says: “This is similar to the numbers seen since 2012 which followed a period of substantial reductions in fatalities from 2006-10.”


There were 1770 road deaths in the year June 2017-June 2018 – a figure similar to data since 2012. There were also 25 484 serious injuries through 2018 which compares to the 26 610 people killed or seriously injured reported to the police in the year June 2017-June 2018 and 26 664 June 2016-June 2017.

June 2019’s data lists 160 378 (reported) crash casualties of all severities during 2018, six percent fewer than in 2017. Weighted for traffic changes, the death rate per billion vehicle miles (1.6bn km) was down by one percent from 5.43 in 2017 to 5.38 in 2018.

Despite some encouraging trends, IAM RoadSmart maintains that a succession of governments chose to brush the issue under the carpet.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research, told The Corner in a media release: “These figures underline the critical need to accelerate the delivery of policies such graduated driving licences. The government road safety statement issued last Friday highlights many of the issues but was very short on actions.”

READ MORE road safety data for South Africa here

So, here’s what IAM RoadSmart would recommend:

  • A minimum 12-month learning period with an online log for learner drivers to complete before taking the practical test. Low-speed parking and turning manoeuvres could be assessed as part of this process. There’s evidence that about 120 hours of driving experience in various conditions would produce safer new drivers – but not all of that had to be with a paid instructor.
  • IAM RoadSmart strongly supports a ‘post-‘ or ‘second-‘ phase test as part of a refreshed licensing system. Refresher and eco driving lessons must be taken after passing the practical test  before full licence status can be granted. IAM RoadSmart wants to work with stakeholders to develop the best solution using the resources currently available in the UK.

Alongside these interventions IAM RoadSmart supports some graduated licence controls through the first year/six months of driving, for example to limit the number of peer passengers (but no limit on older passengers) and a lower blood-alcohol limit.

The organisation does, however, welcome a new inquiry to explore road safety for young and novice drivers announced today (reference 2).

Drivers aged 17-24 account for seven percent of UK’s licence-holders but, alarmingly, are involved in 20% of fatal and serious collisions.

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