Young Drivers to Face Tougher Restrictions

The Department of Transport has this week announced the introduction of a graduated driving licence (GDL) in Northern Ireland. The scheme will introduce tough new restrictions on young drivers, limiting the amount of passengers they can carry and requiring them to display a P plate. If successful in Northern Ireland, the government plans to introduce the scheme to the rest of the UK.

The scheme, which will be introduced in 2019/20, will place a number of restrictions on young new drivers in Northern Ireland:

  • It will be mandatory to have driving lessons for at least six months.
  • Once they have a full licence, young drivers will be required to display a P plate on their vehicle for two years.
  • A curfew will be imposed on passenger numbers for the first six months. Between 11pm and 6am young drivers will be allowed no more than one passenger at a time.

Similar schemes have been introduced in New Zealand, Australia and the US, where newly-qualified drivers are restricted to driving in daylight only, and are not allowed to carry passengers under the age of 25 without supervision.

Young drivers three times more likely to die

Official figures suggest that drivers aged 16-19 are three times more likely to die in a car accident than drivers in the 40-49 age bracket. The AA’s figures show that a quarter of 18-24 year olds are involved in a crash within the first two years of passing their test.

David Stewart, a member of the Scottish parliament and a road safety campaigner, has long campaigned for the pilot scheme - as have road safety charity, Brake. Following the death of two teenagers in Inverness eight years ago, Stewart has called for the introduction of a scheme such as this to improve safety rates among young drivers.

Road safety minister Jesse Norman announced the scheme itself in a letter to David Stewart. His letter sets out the details of the pilot, and confirms that it will be introduced across the UK, if successful in Northern Ireland. This follows comments from Prime Minister Theresa May earlier in the year that the government would ‘look at’ the idea of introducing a GDL system.

A study in 2013 by the Department for Transport found ‘indisputable’ evidence that a tiered system, especially for younger drivers, would help cut accident rates. The study estimated that if implemented in Great Britain, it would result in 4,471 fewer casualties, and a saving of £224 million.

Brake calls for stricter restrictions

Road charity, Brake, have previously called for stricter restrictions than those implemented. They suggested that new drivers should not be able to carry passengers under the age of 25 unless supervised. They also argued that they shouldn’t be able to drive between 11pm-6am without supervision unless driving to work, school or their home.

In addition they also wanted:

  • novice drivers to be restricted from driving on the motorway without compulsory further lessons,
  • A limit to the engine size for the cars of new drivers.

Positive response from campaigners

The Northern Ireland scheme may not be as strict as Brake’s suggestions, but it has so far seen a positive response from campaigners, including David Stewart.

Stewart called the scheme’s introduction ‘excellent news’ after his many years of campaigning. He added: “More satisfying is the knowledge that many grieving parents who have worked on this issue with us, or have contacted us regarding tragic road deaths related to this issue, will now see that their efforts were not in vain.”

First4Lawyers welcome the introduction of this scheme. It will be interesting to see its impact on fatalities and accidents among young drivers. Whether it has the desired impact or not, it is great to see that the government is taking a step to resolve these statistics, and improve road safety for all.


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