Road Safety News

Public support GDL for young drivers: RAC Foundation

Thursday 31st July 2014

A “significant majority” of the British public back restrictions on newly qualified young drivers, according to a survey carried out for the RAC Foundation.

In the Ipsos MORI survey, 68% of adult respondents supported the introduction of graduated licensing for drivers aged 24 years and under, who have just passed their test.

The survey also indicates that even among young drivers, more support graduated licensing (41%) than oppose it (32%).

When questioned about specific aspects of graduated licensing, 66% of respondents supported limits on the number of passengers newly qualified young drivers could carry, and 61% supported driving restrictions between midnight and 5.00am. 64% of parents surveyed said they would ensure their children complied with a graduated licensing system.

A previous report for the RAC Foundation (by TRL) concluded that if GDL was introduced in Britain about 4,500 fewer people would be hurt in an average year.

The Ipsos MORI survey also showed that 71% of adults agreed that politicians should give more attention to road safety.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The evidence from overseas shows there is a way of cutting the amount of death and injury on the road this age-group is involved in. It is called graduated driver licensing.

“What’s more we now know there is a great deal of support for it amongst the British public.

“What we don’t know is why ministers have not acted. The current Government has repeatedly promised a green paper on young driver safety and repeatedly failed to produce it.

“If there were any other area of public health policy where this level of harm was taking place there would be an outcry, yet as a nation we seem to accept what is happening to many of our young people when they get behind the wheel.

“We can debate where the balance lies between imposing restrictions in the interests of safety and maintaining mobility, but graduated licensing should be seen for what it is: a method of preserving long term freedom and health, not curtailing it."


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Another reason why the young crash at night is because that is the time they are driving - after college, work etc and often the only time they can borrow their parents' car when THEY get home from work. Would those people in favour of restrictions be the same ones who passed their test years ago without any restrictions? Would they have agreed with the idea if it affected them?
Andy, Warwick

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One person killed in a crash that nobody learns from = hundreds more killed in the same type of crash.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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How's this for evidence: 4 people in car that crashes equals no more than 4 casualties. 1 person in car = no more than one casualty.
pete, liverpool

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Most of the 'evidence' for GDL comes from a number of jurisdictions in the USA where they started from a very low bar indeed. Driving licences at 14? Driving tests comprising of driving round the block and reversing in a car park? The results of the GDL research would only be valid if these starting conditions were accounted for. In the UK and Europe we already have quite a high test standard in comparison with these other jurisdictions so any 'improvements' they have found might already be included in our system.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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To answer Duncan MacKillops' question of how and why young drivers are crashing at night.

A lot of it is about social and group norms. Young people are more likely to drive at night for social reasons, such as going to a party or just hanging around, driving for the sake of it, getting stoned in car parks etc. This is typical behaviour for 17-19 age groups. Hence they are more likely to be involved in recreational drugs and alcohol, are more likely to have multiple friends of a similar age in the car, are more likely to drive fast because 'there is no one else about and are more likely to be fatigued'. There is little to no evidence suggesting that it is because it is dark in iteslf. Hence in my opinion a night ban or a night ban on passengers as a part of GDL would cut deaths as we would be removing the exposure to the highest risks. When young people become old enough to drive or carry passengers at night they may be 19 or so and at uni, old enough to go clubbing etc rather than hanging in cars on a Friday night, so you have removed that high risk period for a good proportion of young people, with no real detriment to their ability to drive in the dark (which they will do for 6 months of the year anyway).
Neil Snow Nottingham City Council

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The “experiments” have been done by other countries with favourable results. The culture of their new drivers may (or may not) be different, but the types of collision, casualties and reported behaviours are similar enough to lead academics to conclude that this measure would be effective here. What we have is a government who is reluctant to act in case it affects their popularity with the public and has tried the hallowed long grass technique again. However, polls like this indicate that introducing these changes would be unlikely to influence a general election and so may pave the way for some overdue action, even if it is just to cut the grass a bit!
Mark, Caerphilly

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One of the problems of this so called scientific research is that it may, and probably will, take longer than 3 years to complete and not come to a decisive solution that would be agreeable to all of the scientific community - and in the meantime how many people would be killed of injured on our roads?

If an intervention is needed - that is someone to say enough is enough - regulate as we have done in the past and hope or trust that this will at least in the short tern abate the death toll, then it has done its job. Nothing is lost in the meantime for studies and examinations to take place to come to an agreeable and acceptable conclusion for at least the majority of stakeholders.
bob craven Lancs

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The much quoted TRL and Cochrane reports on GDL are fantastic examples of back to front research. They start with the solution and hunt for evidence to support the idea rather than starting with the problem and making discoveries that help to solve it.

There is an assumption that if young drivers are dying at night then all you have to do is to stop them driving at night and the problem has been solved. This of course does not 'solve' the problem at all no more than taking an aspirin 'cures' the common cold. I would much rather know how and why young drivers are dying at night as that could be very useful knowledge for the wider driving population to know.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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I think that what it means though is that there would apparently be a consensus of opinion in favour of the introduction of GDL. Would that not be a bad thing?
bob craven Lancs

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The fact that the Public overwhelmingly support GDL doesn't make the idea any more valid.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (6) | Disagree (16)