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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Government to raise driving age?

The government is concerned by the number of young, novice drivers who are involved in fatal road accidents. It seems the majority of novice drivers who cause such accidents, are males who have recently passed their driving tests. An article in today's Guardian cites a report by the transport select committee, which says that young male drivers are now the UK's biggest killers of young women. They are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash, than similarly aged female drivers.

One proposal the government is considering, to try to reduce road deaths caused by young, male drivers, is raising the age at which a person can be issued with a driving licence. I expected this age to be 21. But no, the government wants to raise this age from seventeen to eighteen. What good will this do? Is an eighteen year old driver likely to be any safer and more responsible than a driver aged seventeen years and ten months? I don't think so.

I think a better solution would be to restrict the type and speed of vehicle that any new driver can drive, for a probationary period of at least two years. New holders of a full motorcycle licence, who are under 21, are restricted to machines with a power output of 25 kW, for two years after gaining their licence. Generally, this means they can't ride anything bigger than a 400 cc machine. If they reach 21 during this two year period, they can apply for a licence that lets them ride bigger machines. But they have to revert to learner status and undertake additional training.

So why not have a similar scheme for car drivers? It would make sense to restrict all new drivers to cars with small engines for the first two years after passing their tests, e.g somewhere in the 1.0-1.2 litre range. It should also be compulsory for speed-limiting devices to be installed in all cars driven by novice drivers. And any young, novice driver involved in an accident that was their fault, even if no-one was hurt, should immediately have their licence revoked, and be forced to re-sit their test. If they continue to cause accidents, they should have their car confiscated and crushed. Maybe with such harsh penalties, the boy racers would finally realise that the law applies to them as well, however dense and impenetrable their skulls appear to be. Something needs to be done, but as usual, I think government advisers are talking through their backsides. When will legislators in this country realise that cars are lethal weapons, in the wrong hands?


jams o donnell said...

All good ideas in my view. Perhaps I was fortunate not to pass my test until my mid 20s.

What I would like to see is a drastically reduced blood alcohol limit. I wouldn't suggest a zero limit but I think Sweden has the right idea. 20mg means that there is no way you can have a drink and not be over the limit.

Siani said...

I agree with you on that, Shaunie. Too many people think it's okay to take the wheel of a car after a few pints. I've seen how my typing suffers if I've had a couple of drinks, even when I feel totally sober. So I dread to think what kind of driver I'd make, in similar circumstances.