'Radical changes' for NI learner drivers

Published Tuesday, 15 May 2012
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Teenagers in Northern Ireland could be allowed to drive before the age of 17, under radical new plans proposed by Environment Minister Alex Attwood - which would also allow learners to drive at 70mph and on motorways.

'Radical changes' for NI learner drivers
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?
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.

© UTV News
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22 Comments
Jason in NI wrote (901 days ago):
I think this is a fairly decent idea. It means new drivers will be more experienced when they have just passed their test. As my instructor said while i was learning to drive it is ridiculous that you can pass a test after 8 hours of driving. You don't know how to drive in that amount of time. Also with talks of possibly lowering insurance costs it means those sensible young drivers dont get completely crucified by extortionist insurance prices. A year of lessons should provide the required experience to deal with the road. Not to mention I have heard that you will not be allowed anyone under the age of 24 in your car, apart from immediate family, in your car within the first 6 months of driving. That will ensure that young drivers cannot show off when they first get their car. Besides with 12 months before your allowed to do a test, most drivers will be older after passing their test than at present.
Jonathan in Londonderry wrote (905 days ago):
These changes are broadly a good thing. The current 'R' system is ridiculous, and actually vastly unsafe in it's present form. Attwood's suggestion of displaying an "N" is a good idea, so that new drivers can be recognised, without dangerously obstructing traffic flow. 16 and a half is a little low in my opinion, but apparently there is a 12 month minimum period before a full licence can be obtained.
Mesakaro in North Down wrote (914 days ago):
I personally think if the age limit is to change at all it should be increased and not decreased and just as it is when a learner passes a motorbike test, they can get a big bike but have to be restricted to 33bhp for the first two years, I think that for cars R plate drivers should be restricted to 1.0 - 1.2 cars just as people restricted on motorbikes have such a restriction to prevent them from excess speed. Alot of restricted drivers get away with bigger engined cars by going through their parents insurance which makes it alot cheaper for them to get behind the wheel of the likes of VW Passats etc.
kell in tyrone wrote (918 days ago):
Attwood is trying to get attention. He cares little for those who have lost loved ones on the road. Just look at recent events. The driving age should be increased; R plates should stay on for longer and much harsher sentences for those who fail to adhere to the rules. Ridiculous
G in Belfast wrote (921 days ago):
Just another daft decision in recent times by mr Atwood who is so far away from public opinion he must live on Jupiter just look at the attached poll unfortunately it's us the public who have to pick up the pieces
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