Published Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Drivers in Northern Ireland could be getting younger under new plans. (© Pacemaker)
UTV NEWS POLL
Do you think the driving age should be lower than 17?
The SDLP's Mr Attwood has told the Assembly that better training should be provided before drivers are fully qualified, which could in turn improve road safety and work towards reducing car insurance costs.
He told MLAs that when they passed their driving tests, "we could have been on a motorway within five minutes, having never been on a motorway before".
He added: "That does not seem to be a very sensible way to proceed."
The minister further told the Assembly that he hopes to table legislation to reduce the permitted blood alcohol limit by the autumn.
Mr Attwood said that young drivers should have the opportunity to learn to drive in conditions they would be expected to cope with on passing their test and should therefore drive, under the supervision of an instructor, on motorways and at the normal speed limit.
The current limit in Northern Ireland is 80mg/100ml, but it is set to be reduced to 50mg/100ml - bringing the limit into line with the law in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Attwood's department is also monitoring the progress of trials in England, aimed at allowing roadside saliva tests for drivers who may be under the influence of drugs, but said it was still a work-in-progress.
"How, for example, will you differentiate between people who legitimately have prescription drugs in their system and those who have taken illegal drugs," he said.
"What drugs will be covered and what further tests will be carried out when someone is brought back to a police station? Those are issues of science."
It's understood such testing could be introduced within the next three years.