'Radical' changes to driver training

Published Tuesday, 29 May 2012
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The provisional driving licence age could be lowered as part of "radical" changes to driver training laws proposed by the Environment Minister.

'Radical' changes to driver training
The minister’s aim is to improve road safety and reduce premiums. (© Pacemaker)

Alex Attwood wants to bring the age down from 17 to 16-and-a-half - and enforce a new, mandatory 12 month learning period for provisional licence holders.

It means the earliest age at which someone will be able to hold a full licence in Northern Ireland will now be 17-and-a-half.

The post-test period would also be increased to two years instead of one. During that period, newly-qualified drivers would display N plates, for 'new drivers', in place of R plates.

New drivers up to age 24 would not be allowed to carry passengers aged 14 to 24 - except immediate family members - during the first six months, unless they have supervision.

Meanwhile learners would be allowed to take lessons on motorways when accompanied by an instructor, and the current 45 mph speed restriction for them would be removed.

Mr Attwood said the car insurance industry has pledged to review premiums for young drivers if these changes are enacted.

"These proposals would create the most radical change in the driver training regime for a generation," the SDLP minister explained.

"I know that the proposals will challenge our thinking.

"But the objective of better road safety with the ambition of zero road deaths on one hand and reduced driver premiums on the other makes a bold and informed approach the right approach. This is the core argument at the heart of the proposals."

Mr Attwood said the latest statistics show road deaths are now at their lowest level since records began.

He continued: "Car drivers under 25 are responsible for 44% of road fatalities but hold only 11% of full car licences.

"We should move towards a vision of zero road deaths. We need to take radical action and bold measures to achieve this, in turn reducing insurance premiums.

"I believe that we are leading the way and that others will follow."

Otto Thoresen from the Association of British Insurers, welcomed the move as "good news for young drivers and their parents" in NI.

He said: "The crash risk of a young driver carrying three passengers nearly triples compared to if they were driving alone, so reducing the number of passengers in cars driven by young people is critical.

"And by giving young learners a more controlled driving experience before obtaining a full driving licence, they will learn to drive rather than learning to pass the driving test.

"These measures should benefit young drivers on the road and in their pocket: by helping to make them safer drivers and reducing their crash risk, they will benefit from lower motor insurance premiums."

The changes are expected to come into effect by the end of the year.

© UTV News
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3 Comments
Mark in Belfast wrote (877 days ago):
I've been driving a car for 15 years ( and a motorcycle for 5 yrs ) ... I stuck to my 45mph retriction , except on the motorway .. where i increased it to 55mph as i found , with experience that 45 was dangerous when coming onto M2 from the M3 . If you want to continue up M2 towards Antirm , then you have to move across an overtaking lane, with vehicles traveling at 70+ . Is tricky enough at 70mph doing this .. So i feel that an increase in speed on motorways/dual carraige ways is a good idea , as long as training has been given. Really don't think the idea of not carrying passengers between 14 to 24 is gong to make a big difference .. Will be potentially increasing the number of young drivers and vehicles on the road ... i.e; if you a 3 friends are 19-23 ,goto same college, live in same town and you usaully take it in turns with lifts .. then when this new law comes into effect it means Four cars on the road for same journey .. Increasing road congestion and pollution .. Could also lead to them showing off to each other and racing to get home first... Also , if you are a couple aged 18-24 ,in a relationship and have kids but not married , does this mean that neither of you can be in the same car unless supervised by a third person ? Not really practicle if the mother is doing a school run dropping off kids and leaving boyfriend(father of kids) off at work too ... Really think all parties involved have to have a rethink !!!
Insanity in Coleraine wrote (878 days ago):
When politicians defy logic by trying to draw attention to themselves, you begin to worry. Letting inexperienced drivers go faster will do what? Improve safety? This is against normal reason. It certainly "challenges" my thinking but then again, I, like most other people live on the planet Earth. Does anyone else think that this makes us a laughing stock, having people in Stormont who think like this?
Tomc in Belfast wrote (878 days ago):
Attwood and the rest truely are idiots. How to reform driving? Mmmmmm I know, make it complicated! Not simple, just complicated. Hows about this; leave the age for a provisional as is, keep the R plates, but have them for a 2 year period. Remove the motorway restriction (45mph is more dangerous now than at any previous time, and make part of the learning process have mandatory post pass motorway lessons which need signed off prior to the full licence being granted. And if you want to satisfy the insurers, then have a strict no modification of vehicles to the policy.
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