Young motorists could be forced to adhere to a zero-alcohol limit in the first months after passing their driving test as part of measures being considered by ministers to reduce the number of accidents on Britain’s roads.
MPs have this year been discussing the introduction of graduated licences for new motorists under the age of 25, which could see them stung with night-driving curfews, only allowed to give lifts to certain passengers and face speed restrictions for the first few months on the road.
A consultation has been opened this week into the possible introduction of a zero tolerance drink drive limit for newly-qualified motorists following a recent study that suggested young people would support the move.
Zero tolerance for novice drivers? The Transport Committee has launched a consultation to understand if young people would support a zero-alcohol limit for recently qualified motorists
Road casualty figures confirmed by the Department for Transport this week said that 1,752 people were killed on Britain’s roads in 2019 – numbers that are consistent with annual road fatality rates for the last decade.
The Transport Committee has been tasked to ramp up efforts to kickstart a decline in road casualties involving novice drivers, despite stats showing that Britain’s roads are statistically among the safest in Europe.
A measure being considered to reduce the death count is for the Government to introduce graduated licences, which could restrict young people who have passed their test to vehicles with limited power outputs along with a raft of other constraints.
The latest of these is for a zero-tolerance alcohol limit alongside limitations on the number of passengers they’re allowed to carry in a car for the first months of holding a full licence.
Drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are limited to 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, the highest limit in Europe, while drivers in Scotland are limited to 22mcg.
The Transport Committee has today launched a consultation to explore zero limit for novice motorists.
MPs has put out a survey to Twitter to ask young drivers aged 17 to 25 for their views on potential measures to reduce road traffic collisions among their age group.
Drivers in this age bracket make up only seven per cent of total licence holders yet represent 16 per cent of all car drivers killed and seriously injured, figures show.
Early consultations suggest young people would support a move to zero-alcohol limits for new drivers, but would resist being told they cannot carry a full car of passengers.
In a focus group held ahead of the consultation, 40 per cent of students polled in Devon, Essex, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire thought the zero-alcohol limit should apply to all drivers.
Just four per cent thought the limit should not apply to new drivers.
Drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are limited to 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, the highest limit in Europe, while drivers in Scotland are limited to 22mcg
According to the latest data, young drivers were involved in 16% of fatal and serious collisions but make up just 7% of all licence holders
If you’re 17-25 and have 5 minutes spare we’d love to hear your thoughts on how we could reduce collision rates, fill out our survey below
— Transport Committee (@CommonsTrans) September 29, 2020
Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said: ‘We’re interested in the risks that young drivers face, the fact that they are more likely to be involved in collisions and also the cost to you with regard to insurance.
‘Another aspect is the social mobility … if you haven’t got a car, or use of car, does that hold you back in terms of your ability to interact, to get work experience, to earn money and then how does that impact on your life chances?
‘That’s a particular focus for us, not least because the bus service is not as it was when I was your age.’
The Transport Committee will decide whether to adopt the recommendations, before presenting them to the Government in a report.
Driving instructors and motoring groups have warned ministers against the introduction of a graduated driving licence scheme to cut road casualties
‘Graduated licences are not the answer’, say industry insiders
Ian McIntosh, chief executive of RED Driving School has warned that restricting young drivers with any measures as part of a graduated licence scheme is not the answer to improving road safety.
He told told This is Money: ‘Restricting driving licences may deter youngsters from learning to drive. This would impact social mobility, employment prospects and hamper local economies.
‘The timing of this proposal couldn’t be worse. The younger generations have been hit the hardest by the economic impact of the pandemic and have already suffered the most from a constricted job market.
‘With the UK in another recession, one which some commentators see as particularly deep and long-lasting, we need to ensure youngsters have every opportunity to find and keep jobs in this new world, rather than thinking about how we can clip their wings.’
Graduated licences could also see novice young licence holders restricted to the number of passengers they can carry
Edmund King, AA president, welcomed the inquiry into the safety of young and novice drivers but has also highlighted that the graduated licence scheme fails to achieve the ‘right balance that will truly improve the safety of these drivers without impinging unnecessarily on their freedoms’.
He told us in August: ‘Young and novice drivers do face a disproportionate risk on our roads and it is an issue that certainly needs greater focus from government.
‘However, we believe it needs to be looked at in conjunction with the reduction in dedicated roads policing to ensure enforcement of any new measures is practical, as well as improvements to drivers’ education pre-test in order to gain the maximum safety benefits without being overly restrictive.’
Mr King added that the AA would support some measures in-line with graduated licences, such as imposing a minimum learning period and a mandatory logbook during lessons to prove learners had experienced a range of on-road situations such as dual carriageways or motorways.
‘Placing restrictions on passengers and night time curfews is problematic though as it would penalise those driving for shift work.
‘It is also very hard, especially for an already stretched police force, to enforce passenger restrictions,’ he added.
‘More widespread use of telematic insurance products could help resolve this as it would encourage positive behaviour without banning new drivers from using their cars at certain times of day.’
Britain’s roads are among the safest in Europe
While MPs have been tasked to curb the number of deaths, Britain does have the second safest roads in Europe, with only Sweden recording fewer deaths per million inhabitants, according to recent statistics.
There are 28 deaths a year on the road per million people in Britain, while in Sweden the figure is a slightly smaller 25, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Eastern regions of Europe have the worst fatality rates on the road per million people, with Romania propping up the charts with 99 deaths.
ACEA says the EU average deaths per million inhabitants is 49. In the UK, the figure is almost half that at 28 – the second lowest rate across the entire continent (behind Sweden)
Who has the safest roads in Europe? Road deaths per million inhabitants
1. Sweden: 25
2. UK: 28
3. Denmark: 30
4. Netherlands: 31
5. Ireland: 33
6. Estonia: 36
=7. Germany: 39
=7. Spain: 39
9. Malta: 41
10. Luxembourg: 42
11. Finland: 43
12. Austria: 47
13. Slovenia: 50
=14. France: 51
=14. Slovakia: 51
16. Belgium: 54
17. Czech Republic: 55
18. Italy: 56
19. Portugal: 58
20. Cyprus: 62
21. Hungary: 64
22. Lithuania: 67
23. Greece: 68
24. Latvia: 70
25. Poland: 75
26. Croatia: 80
27. Bulgaria: 96
28. Romania: 99
‘UK roads are already some of the safest among developed countries,’ RED Driving School’s Ian McIntosh explained.
‘In 2019, there were a total of 153,315 casualties in reported road traffic accidents, five per cent lower than the previous year.
‘Accounting for change in traffic, the rate of fatalities per billion vehicle miles has fallen by 2 per cent from 5.38 (2018) to 5.25 (2019) fatalities per billion vehicle miles.
‘In countries such as Australia or New Zealand, where graduated driving licences are already in force, this figure is at least four times higher. ‘
Despite this impressive comparison, road safety charity RoSPA has says it remains ‘deeply concerned about the lack of progress made towards reducing the number of road accidents and deaths since 2010′.
And it highlighted the rise in the number of over-60s killed on Britain’s roads last year, with DfT records showing casualty rates among this age group had jumped to 638, from 588 in 2018 – an increase of nine per cent.
Michelle Harrington, road safety manager at the campaign group said: ‘We know that 196 of the over-60s killed in Britain’s road last year were behind the wheel at the time of the collision.
‘If you are starting to notice any changes in your driving or are concerned about someone else then we would encourage you to seek support.’