Skip to main content

Young and novice drivers: Department for Transport on ‘L’ plates

2 March 2021

The Transport Committee has published its report on young and novice drivers. It welcomes the work underway at the Department for Transport (DfT) as evidence that the Government is committed to tackling safety for drivers aged 17–24. However the Committee’s report recommends dates for the DfT to report progress on these key projects and sets out priorities for further work.

Key recommendations

A body of work is underway by the Department for Transport. The Committee expects to be kept informed of progress on:

  • The Driver 2020 research project is exploring several technological and educational based measures and calls for a progress update by July 2021. This should include the progress and preliminary findings of its research into the effectiveness of telematic technology to improve road safety.
  • The commitment to pilot a system of 'modular' learning with compulsory driver training in different driving conditions. The Committee calls for an outline of criteria which will measure the effectiveness of this pilot to be set out in the Response to its Report and an update on progress by October 2021.
  • Should Northern Ireland proceed with plans to introduce Graduated Driver Licensing, the Committee recommends that the DfT liaise with the NI Executive and provide interim findings with the DfT’s conclusions by October 2021.

The Committee’s report recommends the Department undertake further work in these areas:

  • A study of crash rates for older novice drivers, those aged over 25 but relatively new to driving. Research conducted by the insurance industry shows that a significant number of these drivers are involved in crashes but the details are not recorded.
  • Research to investigate whether drivers who learn though intensive driving courses are at increased danger during their first two years of driving.
  • The DfT should resume the study into the social and economic consequences of Graduated Driving Licensing schemes promised in its 2019 Road Safety Statement. This will provide evidence on the impacts of restrictions on the social and economic opportunities available to young and novice drivers.
  • Meanwhile, the theory part of the driving test should be developed to include adequate questioning on driving at night and while carrying passengers.

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:

"The tally of young people who lose their lives on our roads is a sobering reason to review the Department for Transport’s work in this area.

"Eighty-eight young car drivers died in 2019; a further 287 people including passengers and pedestrians, were killed in crashes which involved young drivers.

"Fully equipping learner drivers for driving in different situations will be essential to the Department for Transport’s success in this area.

"The Department is exploring different ways to extend the learning experience and we acknowledge the work in progress. We expect to be kept informed.

"We have not recommended Graduated Drivers Licensing be introduced.  The Committee balanced the current work of the Department with the lack of evidence demonstrating the impact of GDL on the economic and social prospects of young people at this time, particularly in rural areas.

"The committee also took into account the need for young people to be given the freedom to drive without further restrictions being imposed upon them.

"However, we are asking the Department to resume its research in this area. With GDL likely to be piloted in Northern Ireland, we encourage work with the NI Executive on sharing the learning which emerges.

"Various factors are at play in this debate. Our road vehicles are safer; technology is helping through traffic management tools and telematics devices and the driving test has been improved.

"Fewer young people are choosing to learn how to drive but we must strive to ensure that we keep young and novice drivers safe on our roads."

Background

Between 2005 and 2019 the number of young drivers killed or seriously injured on UK roads reduced by 52 percent.

Figures for fatalities and serious injuries among car drivers aged 17–24 dropped year-on-year until 2012 when progress steadied for several years.

Today young car drivers remain over-represented in the statistics for involvement in fatal road traffic collisions.

In 2019, young drivers made up seven percent of all licence holders but were involved in 16 percent of fatal and serious crashes.

The sad impact of this is felt by their families and all of those involved.

Further information

Image: Chuttersnap, unsplash