11 min read

A new study by Brake, the road safety charity, has revealed 92% of people back some kind of restriction for newly qualified drivers.

The latest figures show 2,088 young drivers and passengers aged between 17 and 24 were killed and seriously injured in just one year[i]. Drivers aged between 17 and 19 make up just 1.5% of those holding a UK licence[ii], but are involved in 9% of fatal crashes.

Because of these shocking figures, Brake was keen to find out what the public thinks about the idea of extending the time it takes young people to learn to drive, and of putting some restrictions in place when people first pass their test. The idea of a graduated driving licencing system, which is now in place in a number of countries around the world, is to make sure young people are as skilled and as safe as possible when they go out on the roads unsupervised.

When asked what restrictions should be in place for the first year after someone is given a driving licence, two thirds (66%) of people questioned said they support the use of a “P” plate to show a driver in on probation. A similar number back a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit for novice drivers.

Half of those questioned said they think there should be a restriction on car engine sizes for new drivers, and more than a third of people think that a newly qualified driver should lose their licence if they break any traffic laws during their first year on the road.

Almost eight in 10 people (79%) said they think there should be a minimum time frame for learning to drive, and almost two thirds (62%) think that should be at least six months.

Three quarters of people (75%) said they think there should be a requirement for a minimum number of taught hours before learner drivers are allowed to take their practical test. Half of those questioned (50%) said they think people should have at least 35 hours of driving lessons before taking their on-the-road test.

Research shows that the combination of youth and inexperience puts younger drivers at high risk. Their inexperience means they have less ability to spot hazards, and their youth means they are particularly likely to take risks. In this way, crash risk not only reduces over time with experience but is also higher for those who start driving at a younger age [iii].

There is clear evidence that shows changes to how people learn to drive and restrictions on newly qualified drivers can have a huge impact on road safety.  Research for the Department for Transport[iv] describes the large number of young drivers involved in crashes as a public health risk, with analysis of DfT figures [v] suggesting 4,471 casualties and £224 million pounds could be saved in Great Britain each year if restrictions were brought in for novice drivers aged 17 to 19 in the shape a graduated driver licencing system.

Communications and campaigns adviser for Brake, the road safety charity, Alice Bailey said: “Our first years behind the wheel are among the most dangerous of our lives, with one in five new drivers crashing in their first six months on the road. We must do more to help keep young people safe behind the wheel. Countries and states that have introduced restrictions for newly qualified drivers have seen big drops in crash rates. We’re pleased to hear the government has announced plans for a full review into the current driving test this year, with a view to making it more like “real life driving” but the introduction of graduated driving licencing would make young and novice drivers much safer and save lives.”

Case study

17-year-old Rhodri Miller crashed his car near Brecon in Wales in 2015, just two days after getting his licence. Four people died in total: Rhodri, his girlfriend and another teenage friend, and a 68-year-old woman who was in another car. There was no evidence Rhodri had exceeded the 60mph limit, but at his inquest the coroner said speed, peer pressure and inexperience all played a part in causing the fatal crash.

Rhodri’s mum Joanne Miller said: “Roads and attitudes have changed but, apart from the theory test, the way our children are taught to drive hasn’t. We need restrictions on the number of passengers young drivers can carry; driving lessons on motorways, at night time and in bad weather conditions; as well as warnings about speed and convoy driving. Other countries have adopted stricter policies, so why not here in the UK? The amount of grief this tragedy has caused four families is, and always will be, devastating. Rhodri was the bright light in our lives. Imagine having to look down at the body you have loved and cherished, now battered, bruised, and broken. Looking at a body without his soul, never being able to touch, kiss or talk to your baby, no longer looking at the bright future ahead, nothing in life ever being the same – now close your eyes and imagine this was you.”

Full survey results

Q1: Do you think learner drivers should have to undertake a minimum period of learning to drive before taking their practical test?

  • Yes, less than six months           12%
  • Yes, six months                          47%
  • Yes, a year                                 16%
  • Yes, more than a year                4%
  • No                                               21%

Q2: Do you think learner drivers should have to undertake a minimum number of hours of supervised driving before taking their practical test?

  • Yes, at least 25 hours             35%
  • Yes, at least 35 hours             25%
  • Yes, at least 50 hours             25%
  • No                                           15%

Q3: Do you think new drivers should have to abide by any of the following restrictions for a year after passing their test? 

  • Displaying “P” plates, to show driver is “on probation”                                   66%
  • Zero-tolerance drink-drive limit                                                                       63%
  • Maximum engine size                                                                                     50%
  • Restrictions on carrying young passengers, unless family/dependants        44%
  • Restrictions on night driving (midnight-4am), unless for work/education      38%
  • Revocation of licence if traffic laws broken during this period                      35%
  • None of the above                                                                                          8%


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