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UK drivers OK probation licence

2013-05-23 13:23

EARLY START: The UK and South African driving public are in favour of probation licences for younger drivers in a bid to reduce road crashes. Image: Wheels24

LONDON, England - The driving public in the UK - including under-25s - has come out in favour of a minimum "learning to drive" period to reduce the number of crashes involving young drivers.

It's a plan mooted by the UK government.

Similar concerns have been voiced in South Africa, along with tougher regulation of driving schools and instructors and roadworthy testing of vehicles older than 10 years, in a bid to reduce the number of crashes. It also proposed a probation system for new drivers.

Western Cape transport and public works and the Automobile Association of SA supported the idea but nothing has come of it even though public-comment participation closed on July 6 2012.

Wheels24 has tried to get hold of the Western Cape transport and public works department to follow up on the intended plans but has yet to receive a response (May 23 2013) but the Automobile Association of SA's Gary Ronald says the idea of a probation licence and more stringent roadworthy tests is still being reviewed.

Ronald said: "There has been such an overwhelming response from the public that the proposed amendments have been sent back to the department of transport. The committee now has to sift through all the objectives and see what makes sense. The general consensus seems to be concerns over administration."

Hopefully an agreement can be found soon.


Since then a UK survey by road-safety charity Brake with the assistance of Direct Line insurance has shown 84% of drivers there agree a minimum learning period is needed; even 69% of drivers younger than 25 - the ones involved in the UK - are in favour.

Brake is also calling for post-test restrictions on novice drivers:

• Zero tolerance on alcohol.
• No late-night driving.
• No carrying of mates.
(See evidence under FACTS)

The survey of 1000 drivers by Brake and Direct Line also found:

• Widespread support for a range of post-test restrictions, including 70% support for a zero alcohol limit for novice drivers and 63% support for this from drivers under 25.

• Nearly nine in 10 (88%) thought there should be a minimum number of hours of supervised driving for learners, with six in 10 (58%) thinking this should be at least 35 hours.

• Nine in 10 (90%) want mandatory lessons on motorways and in difficult conditions for all learners.


Brake's deputy chief executive Julie Townsend said: "The government has an opportunity to make a real difference to road safety and save a lot of young lives through reforming our driver licensing system. Death and serious injury on the roads is devastating, especially so when it involves someone young.

"Evidence on how to reduce young-driver crashes is very clear; introducing graduated licensing will make real inroads into ending the devastation."

Townsend added: "We're calling on the (UK) government to take bold steps by introducing all elements of graduated licensing - including a minimum learning period and post-test licence restrictions - but without compromising safety by simultaneously introducing changes that would increase risk, such as a younger driving age."


Direct Line's commercial director Gus Park said: "Young drivers make up only one in eight licence-holders but are involved in the one in five crashes that result in deaths and/or serious injury. We believe these statistics can be changed substantially through the implementation of graduated driver licensing.

"It would have a positive effect on the driving behaviour and habits of young people, particularly in the critical period just after passing a driving test. More importantly, it would reduce the frequency of catastrophic crashes and save lives."

• Traffic is the biggest killer of people aged 15-24 in Britain.
• Young drivers are in a disproportionately high number of crashes that kill and injure road users of all ages.
• Young drivers aged 17-24 are involved in crashes that result in one in five road deaths and serious injuries despite making up only one in eight licence-holders.
• Young drivers are more likely to crash because a combination of age and inexperience.
• The younger they are, the more likely they are to take risks.

Brake says graduated licensing in other countries has been followed by a reduction of road casualties. Research has shown that in the UK it will  prevent 200 deaths and thousands of injuries each year.

Reducing the age at which you can get a provisional licence, however, would negatively affect safety gains from introducing a learning-to-drive period.

"The younger you are when you can drive independently, the greater your risk of crashing," says Brake.
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