Road Safety News

NI Government outlines "radical changes" to driver training

Wednesday 30th May 2012

The Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has unveiled proposals for radical changes to driver training in a bid to ‘reflect best practice around the world’ and instigate a ‘fundamental shift towards safer driving among young people’.

As well as improving safety, the plans are also designed to reduce the cost of insurance for young drivers.

The plans, announced by Alex Attwood, NI environment minister, include not allowing newly qualified drivers up to age of 24 years to carry young passengers aged 14 to 20 years (except immediate family members) during their first six months post-test. The ban does not apply if there is a supervising driver over 21 years, with three years full licence, in the passenger seat.

Other changes include:

• A lower provisional licence age of 16½ years.
• A mandatory minimum learning period of 12 months for provisional licence holders.
• Increasing the post-test period from one to two years.
• Removing the 45 mph speed restriction currently applied to learner and restricted drivers.
• Allowing learner drivers to take lessons on motorways, accompanied by an ADI in a dual-controlled car.
• N plates for ‘new’ drivers (to replace R plates) to be displayed for two years.
• Compulsory logbooks for learner drivers.

Alex Attwood said: “These proposals would create the most radical change in the driver training regime for a generation. 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.

“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.”

The car insurance industry has pledged to review premiums for young drivers if these changes are implemented.

Otto Thoresen, director general of The Association of British Insurers, said: “This is good news for all young drivers and their parents in Northern Ireland. Minister Alex Attwood is to be congratulated for proposing long overdue reform to Northern Ireland’s driver training system.

“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 insurance industry has been calling for these reforms, and politicians in Westminster should consider following Northern Ireland’s lead in making the changes that are needed to ensure that the young drivers of today become the older drivers of tomorrow.”

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Reg Oliver's comment that, 'Road policing is the most vital part of road safety', is right on the mark. Not only do they (traffic police) need to be back on the roads but the police, in my experience, need to re-establish the value of alway setting the best example in their driving for other road users. Unfortunately, in so many instances, their driving standards nowadays are so far removed from what they should be that they can no longer be considered as good role models. I would stress that these comments essentially relate to driving seen when not on a shout. Unfortunately poor general driving standards also seems to broadly apply to other emergency services drivers as well, in as much as I have seen them. There may be areas in the country where this is not so, and that is excellent where it exists and is to be encouraged.
Nigel Albright, TAUNTON

Agree (0) | Disagree (2)

I forgot to mention the ambition of zero deaths quoted. How on earth do they expect this to happen? Without draconian law enforcement or the banning of ALL vehicles from the highways it is a pipe dream and one of the reasons road safety is not as effective as it should be with politicians having such aspirations without the knowledge of the area(s) in which they control. Road policing is the most vital part of road safety and without it being enforced in the correct numbers there will always be many RTCs which could and should have been avoided.
Reg Oliver Derbyshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Here we go again. All learner drivers to have 12 months instruction. Just like cameras they classify everyone on the same level of competence. No two persons are alike in any field of life and it is not just learning how to drive but also how to control the vehicle and the mental capacity of young drivers. I feel that the instruction is not informative enough and more on the control and how vehicles perform would be beneficial. Speed is not a problem when used by competent drivers who are aware of their vehicle's handling. How many F1 drivers get into their vehicles and drive at the limit on the first lap? They have to become aware of how the vehicle performs and what speed can be achieved at each corner and bend in the circuit and build this into how they perform. I instructed my two children how to control the vehicle and what was happening within the vehicle and they both passed first time and are now very competent drivers. Please don't classify everyone on the same level of intelligence.
Reg Oliver Derbyshire

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I concur with Alasdair's comments and also wish the NI government all success in this venture. The 'insurance company' bit is also interesting because, going back to my previous point, if drivers were prosecuted for their vehicles going into the back of another vehicle and insurance companies also appropriately responded to this then the message sent out would be massive and the potential for reducing crashes would be around 30% in one stroke, without adding any further legistlation or spending a lot of money on promoting and implementing various schemes. 'Seemple', as the Meerkat said!
Nigel Albright, TAUNTON

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Very interesting. My view is that this is a positive and bold step. Instuctors/trainers will have to be careful when teaching learners on the motorways. Interesting step to lower the provisional to 16 and a half.I'm wondering which of these proposals will come to the rest of the UK and when. I wish Northern Ireland every success in this bold step. I hope the insurance companies do keep to their side of the deal and make road safety their MAIN priority also.
Alasdair Brooks, South Mimms

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Dave Finney's comment is interesting because you only have to look around to see a general apathy in the attitude to driving. Most drivers would fail their standard driving test if spot tested today. That means their standard of driving is below a basic stanard of safety for being on the roads. In my view, so many drive in ignorance that they really are like the next crash waiting to happen. And yet these very drivers are considered suitable to supervise learner drivers. So much young driver training is focused from the time they are eligible to sit behind the wheel, yet their actual training really starts from the time they can first see over the dashboard. So that might mean some 10 years of wrong imprinting before they ever get to their own driver training.
Nigel Albright, TAUNTON

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There are valid methods of monitoring and assessment that do not require the use of a control group. The periods of highest risk for young drivers are known to be the first 6 and 12 months and the first 1000 miles. New drivers' collision involvement during these periods can be measured and compared retrospectively to other new drivers during the same periods after passing their test and prior to the introduction of these new requirements. No doubt the NI government and insurance industries can collaborate to undertake this kind of monitoring. Far from being draconian, I think these measures are progressive and sensible, based on good evidence from elsewhere. If successful, I hope they will be introduced in the rest of the UK.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

It must be remembered that young drivers are generally trying to be safe and responsible. Draconian measures to impose severe restrictions on them may inhibit growth of a safe driving attitude and thereby contribute to more collisions. On initial reading, the proposed changes seem to have taken the above into consideration and could stand a good chance of achieving success. I would like to know how success or failure will be measured. For instance, how could a representative control group be found?
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Congratulations to Alex Attwood, NI environment minister for this bold step. RoadDriver hopes that this initiative will prompt Westminster to bring in similar measures to help protect our youth.
Charles Dunn

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)