In an attempt to lower accident rates and the rising costs of insurance, another proposal has been put together to have a minimum learning period and to lower the age of learners to just 16 1/2.
read the full article bellow.
Improving the Safety
of Young Drivers
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 3
Young drivers remain a major danger on the road, to themselves, their passengers
and other road users, with study after study showing that young people are far
more likely to be involved in a crash than older drivers.
Young drivers are grossly overrepresented in the official accident figures and each
statistic represents a tragic waste of life that could be prevented. Inexperience,
youthful bravado and sheer recklessness can all play a part in these accidents and
we need tough action and meaningful reform to better equip young drivers to
handle the dangers of driving.
The consequence of this is that the cost of insurance for young drivers has
continued to rise. High motor insurance premiums for young drivers are the
direct result of their poor safety record, and a result of the statistically higher risk
that they will cause themselves, their passengers, or other road users severe and
life-changing injuries which can require a lifetime of care to be paid for from the
In this paper, we detail the scale of the problem, analyse the factors behind young
drivers’ poor safety record, and set out a number of proposals which we strongly
believe will reduce the risk posed by young drivers.
We have always approached the young driver problem primarily from a road safety
perspective. The key objective is to improve the safety of young drivers. That their
insurance premiums will reduce as a result will be an added benefit to society.
However, we fully acknowledge that the Government has committed to reducing
premiums for young people. Yet, the only way to do this is to make real changes to
the way young people learn to drive. The key to lowering the cost of car insurance
for young people is to make them better, safer drivers which will reduce the
number of crashes they have.
Issues associated with young driver road safety are not unique to the UK and
many other countries have improved road safety outcomes for young drivers by
intervening and introducing meaningful reform. As such, the ABI has drawn on
international examples as a starting point for our proposals to improve the safety
of young drivers in the UK.
4 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Based on extensive analysis, the ABI recommends the following measures:
• A minimum 12 month learning period before the driving test can be taken,
enabling drivers to undertake supervised practice without an incentive to
rush to take the practical test.
• A ban on intensive driving courses.
• The lowering of the age at which young people can learn to drive to
16 ½ years.
• The introduction of graduated driver licensing to include a restriction on the
number of young passengers that can be carried by a young driver and a
restriction on their driving during night-time hours.
• A lowering of the blood alcohol concentration for drivers aged between
The ABI has long campaigned for safer roads. We have consistently argued that
unless radical reforms are made, the poor safety record of young drivers will
continue. If the number of crashes involving young drivers decreases, the financial
risk they pose to an insurer will decrease and insurance premiums for young drivers
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 5
Young drivers – a poor safety record
A recent review of the claims history of ABI members1 clearly showed that
young drivers (aged 17–24) were far more likely to have made a claim for more
than £500,000 than drivers in other age groups. Put simply, young drivers are
statistically more likely to be involved in major crashes. These crashes will often
have devastating consequences involving life-changing injuries.
Other key findings include:
• 17–24 year olds with two years or less driving experience are much more likely
to make a catastrophic claim involving life-changing injuries than newly qualified
37–44 year old drivers with the same driving experience.
• Young drivers are far more likely to make a catastrophic claim as opposed to a
claim for a minor collision involving few injuries.
• Young drivers are far more likely to make a catastrophic claim that includes
3–5 bodily injury claims, indicating that their crashes involve a greater number
Graph 1 below clearly demonstrates the sheer scale of the problem highlighting
that young drivers are much more likely to have made a catastrophic claim than
older, more experienced drivers.
Graph 1: Proportion of catastrophic claims by age
The figure of £500,000 is the benchmark for what is known as a ‘catastrophic
claim’. These claims are not ‘bumps and shunts’ but major crashes that will have
serious consequences for the driver, their passengers and other road users, often
involving lifetime care requirements for those injured in the accident.
1 In May 2012 the ABI undertook a widespread data collection on young driver claims. We asked our members to tell us
how many individual motor claims they have settled, or are expected to settle, between 2007 and 2011 which will be for
more than £500,000. Over 2,500 claims were analysed from data provided by all major motor insurers. The graph on this
page (and on the following pages) are taken from this data collection.
6 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Real life examples of crashes involving major injuries (and extremely high pay outs)
are outlined below:
The recently qualified driver (aged 19) lost control of the car on a country lane
while driving at night. The single passenger suffered significant injuries and is
now paraplegic requiring significant care and rehabilitation, the costs of which
will run into many millions of pounds over his lifetime.
The young driver, who was carrying two passengers, lost control and collided
with a parked vehicle. Due to the nature of the injuries sustained, the claim
ran into millions of pounds as one of the passengers is now blind and epileptic
and requires constant assistance.
When driving with two passengers, the young driver lost control of the car
and hit a tree. The main injury was to a 20 year old passenger who suffered a
severe brain injury. The nature of her injury means she now needs to live in an
adapted property with 24/7 care provided to her for the rest of her life. The
payout was in excess of £4 million.
These examples are not unique but are typical of serious young driver crashes.
Passengers are often involved and the reason for the crash is usually loss of control
of the car.
Graph 2: Claims frequency by age, 2010
Graph 2 below confirms that young drivers are overrepresented in catastrophic
claims. It shows that while they have a high overall claims rate, they have a
significantly higher frequency (claims per policy) of catastrophic claims.
Frequency (all claims)
Frequency (catastrophic claims)
All claims frequency
Catastrophic claims frequency
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 7
Graph 3: Proportion of catastrophic claims by years of driving experience,
17–24 year olds and 37–44 year olds
17–24 year olds with 2 years or less driving experience are much more likely
to make a catastrophic claim than 37–44 year old drivers with the same
This clearly demonstrates that it is the age of the driver – as opposed to their
experience – that is the key factor impacting upon the likelihood of suffering a
catastrophic injury in a crash.
Graph 4: Catastrophic claims with 1 or more bodily injury claims, by age of
driver at fault
Graphs 4 and 5 concern bodily injury claims associated with catastrophic claims.
The graphs demonstrate that young drivers are more likely to be involved in a
catastrophic claim that results in a bodily injury claim compared to older drivers.
Proportion of claims
2 years or less 3–5 years
By age of driver at fault
By age of driver at fault
8 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Graph 5: Catastrophic claims that include bodily injury claims
Young drivers are far more likely to make a catastrophic claim that includes 3–5
bodily injury claims, indicating that the crashes they are involved in are more severe
(causing multiple injuries) and that their crashes involve a greater number of people.
Graph 6: Reported drivers, killed or seriously injured by age
Taken from DfT accident statistics data from 2010 Graph 6 illustrates the scale
of the problem. It shows that young drivers are grossly overrepresented in the
statistics showing drivers who were killed or seriously injured in 2010.
Age of driver at fault
0 BI claims
1 BI claims 2 BI claims 3–5 BI claims
Age of driver at fault
Reported drivers, killed or seriously injured by age
Reported drivers, killed or seriously injured by age, 2010
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 9
When do these crashes occur and why
do they happen?
An understanding of how the number of young driver crashes might be reduced
begins with an understanding of when and how they happen. In this section a
number of factors are considered which contribute to young driver road crashes
and further analysis is undertaken looking at why young drivers are more likely to
be involved in a crash than older drivers, specifically focusing on their attitude to
the road. There are usually a combination of factors which lead to a crash and it
is often difficult to determine the exact cause. However, crashes involving young
drivers are generally the result of one or more of the following:
• Driving at night
• Sharp bends and/or excessive speed
• Adverse driving conditions (principally driving in wet conditions)
• The increased chance of having a crash when carrying passengers
• The attitude of the driver
Driving at night
Driving in the dark requires different skills from driving during daylight hours. Young
drivers travelling late at night are more likely to crash for a variety of reasons:
• driving at night is more difficult;
• many newly licensed drivers will have had less practice of driving at night;
• fatigue – thought to be a problem for teenagers at all times of the day – may be
more of a factor at night;
• recreational driving that is considered to be high risk, sometimes involving
alcohol use, is more likely to take place at night.2
Graph 7 taken from DfT data3 clearly shows that over 50% of crashes involving
17–19 year-old male drivers that result in a serious injury or death occur at night.
The figures are also high for the 20–24 age group with over 48% of crashes
involving a serious injury or death occurring at night. Although not as pronounced
as for males, Graph 8 clearly shows that the risk of a female being involved in
a crash at night resulting in death or serious injury is higher for young drivers.
Noteworthy is the fact that 40% of 17–19 year-old female drivers were involved in
a crash resulting in death or serious injury compared to only 18% of female drivers
aged between 60 – 79.
2 Teenage Drivers: Patterns of risk, A Williams, Journal of Safety Research, 2003
3 Department of Transport accident data for the seven years from 2000 to 2006
10 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Bends and speed
For the overview of road accidents involving young drivers in 2009, the Department
for Transport published details of factors contributing to road accidents.4 These
factors clearly show that young drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash
as a result of excessive speed, sudden braking and loss of control. Graph 9 shows
that young drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a crash as a result
of excessive speed and loss of control of the vehicle. Sudden braking is also a
significant contributing factor with young drivers more likely to have a crash
undertaking this manoeuvre than drivers aged over 25.
4 Reported road accidents involving young car drivers: Great Britain 2009, Department for Transport, 2009
Graph 9: Bends and speed
Exceeding the speed limit Sudden braking
Loss of control
Percentage of crashes
Graph 7: Driving at night, age of driver, male
Age of driver (male)
20–24 25–29 60–79
Percentage of crashes
Graph 8: Driving at night, age of driver,
Age of driver (female)
20–24 25–29 60–79
Percentage of crashes
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 11
Adverse driving conditions
Wet roads require a different driving style from dry, clear conditions and statistics
from the same DfT survey represented in Graph 10 clearly show that young drivers
are twice as likely to have a crash on slippery roads than a driver aged over 25.
Research has shown that the presence of friends can both distract young drivers
and encourage them to drive in a more risky way. A study released in early 2012
highlights the strong association between the number of passengers in cars and the
risk of a teenage driver dying in a crash. The report, ‘Teen Driver Risk in Relation
to Age and Number of Passengers,’ was conducted by the American Automobile
Association Foundation for Traffic Safety.5 Relying on crash data from 2007 to
2010, the study’s authors found that the likelihood that a 16 or 17 year-old driver
would be killed in a crash increased with each additional passenger in the vehicle.
The report reaffirms the findings originally reported in the 2000 study by Chen
et al.6 which was the first study to categorically highlight that the risk of a crash
increases relative to the amount of passengers in a vehicle. That report found that
having one, two or three passengers increased the per-trip risk of driver death by
39%, 86% and 182% respectively, for 16-year old drivers.
The updated report found that the likelihood of a 16- or 17-year-old driver being
killed in a crash, per mile driven, increased 44% when carrying one passenger, 98%
when carrying two passengers and roughly 300% when carrying three or more
passengers younger than 21.
Graph 11 shows that young drivers carrying two young passengers are twice as
likely to be killed as those driving alone; and they are four times more likely to die if
they have three young passengers.
5 Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers, American Automobile Association Foundation, 2012
Graph 10: Adverse driving conditions – Slippery road (wet conditions)
12 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Attitude of driver
The attitude of a young driver plays a significant role in road accidents. In its 2008
analysis of the on the spot (OTS) road accident database7, the Department for
Transport identified a number of ‘contributing factors’ leading to a crash, two of
which relate to the attitude of the driver.
Graph 12 clearly shows that young drivers are far more likely to be involved in a
crash due to being careless, reckless or in a hurry than drivers aged over 25.
7 Analysis of the On the Spot (OTS) Road Accident Database, Department for Transport, 2008
Graph 11: Relative risks of driver death per mile driven in
relation to combination of passengers in the vehicle
Number of passengers less than 21 years old
1 passenger 2 passengers 3 passengers
Graph 12: Attitude of driver, contributing factor – reckless or in a hurry
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 13
Graph 13 looks at speed/aggressive driving as a contributing factor and
demonstrates that young drivers are significantly more likely to have crashes that
involve ‘speed/aggressive driving’.
Graph 13: Attitude of driver, contributing factor – speed/aggressive driving
14 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Why are young drivers over-represented
in accident statistics?
From academic papers and from feedback from young drivers themselves, it is clear
that the attitude of young drivers is a major contributing factor which helps explain
why they are prone to more accidents than older more experienced drivers.
Below, we set out a number of quotes from young drivers which are taken from
the Cohort II Study of Learner and Novice Drivers. This study was carried out in
2007 and, in a series of surveys, samples of novice drivers were asked to provide
information on their driving, attitudes to driving, and accident experiences from the
initial period of learning to drive to the end of their third year of driving.
The quotes clearly show that the majority of young drivers are overconfident in
their ability and express an immature attitude to driving8 (see left).
On driving experiences after the test, respondents commented:
‘I’ve got better now I don’t have to concentrate so much on driving properly – so
I can drive with one hand on the wheel. You can steer faster with one hand going
round a corner rather than going 10-to-2.’ [M, 17]
‘After the test I drove like a bit of a prat really. I passed first time, was a bit
arrogant and thought I was a very good driver. I then had a crash. I thought I was
excellent until I had the crash.’ [M, 21]
‘You learn from your mistakes, don’t you?’ [M, 21]
Research on the perception of risk by young people builds on the feedback quoted
above and has demonstrated that many young drivers sustain perceptual biases,
most notably an optimistic bias whereby they assume that their risk of a crash or
injury is lower than it actually is.9 In their study Young Driver Attitudes, Stradling
and Meadows report that 17–20 year-olds in particular derive personal identity
and empowerment from driving. Young males enjoy driving more, and are more
inclined to drive for pleasure or thrill-seeking. They are more likely to assess their
driving as decisive and are more confident than women, who view their own
road behaviour as considerate and responsible. In contrast to older drivers, both
male and female young drivers consider themselves to be relatively intolerant,
inconsiderate, and impatient drivers. Younger drivers even view breaking the speed
limit as a much less important factor in causing road accidents than older drivers.10
Ultimately, the indication is that, although young drivers may have been taught
to drive safely, they frequently over-estimate their abilities and underestimate
dangers which, coupled with a desire to show off, leads to some young drivers
driving in dangerous and high risk ways.
8 The Good, the Bad and the Talented: Young Drivers’ Perspectives on Good Driving and Learning to Drive, Department for
9 Road Safety Research Report No. 70, Department for Transport, Strecher et al, 2007
10 Young Driver Attitudes, S. Stradling, M. Meadows, Department for Transport, 2001
‘When you pass your test
you go a bit wild. You
think: I can do what I
want now. Well, I did
anyway.’ [F, 19]
‘If you actually did drive like
they taught, you would be
a hazard.’ [M, 20]
‘The first time you’re
on your own you feel
really alone. You sit there
thinking I can do what
the hell I want now!
That’s when you get your
accidents.’ [M, 20]
‘Around two years ago
I passed my test and I
started driving stupidly,
speeding and stuff. And
then the novelty wore off
of being a driver, not just
a learner. When you’re a
driver, you feel like you
have a right to drive at the
speed you want because
you passed your test. I
knew I was speeding but I
didn’t think anything of it.’
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 15
What can be done to improve road
safety for young drivers? – Lessons
The danger of young drivers to themselves and others is a problem across the
world. As a result, a number of governments and jurisdictions worldwide have
introduced measures aimed at countering the problem, the most significant and
successful reform being the introduction of graduated driver licensing.
Graduated Driver Licensing
Graduated driver licensing is designed to delay full licence issue, allowing beginners
to obtain their initial driving experience under lower risk conditions. It is divided
into three stages: a minimum supervised learning period, an intermediate licence
period that places restrictions on the newly qualified driver, and the acquisition
of a full, unrestricted, driving licence available after completion of the first two
stages. Restrictions during the intermediate stage (sometimes referred to as the
restricted stage) include limits on the numbers of passengers that can be carried,
due to the statistically higher chance of being involved in a crash while carrying
passengers, and a ban on driving at certain times during the night due to the
higher risk of a road accident during night-time hours.
Graduated driver licensing has been introduced in the United States, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand, and Ministers in Northern Ireland have also indicated
their intention to introduce a graduated licensing scheme. Although programmes
differ from country to country (and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a
particular country), they all adhere to a fundamental philosophy of providing a
phased approach to full driver licensing with clearly defined stages that gradually
expose drivers to the risks they will face after obtaining a full driving licence. The
schemes have received the support of key stakeholders including law enforcement
agencies and the parent of young drivers. Surveys have been produced which
have assessed the success of graduated driver licence schemes and these are
As in the United Kingdom, young drivers in the United States are overrepresented
in car crashes, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reporting
that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among adolescents.11
The high rate of road deaths amongst young drivers prompted many State
policymakers to develop graduated licensing systems in the early 1990s and
today all 50 US States and the District of Columbia have implemented a form of
graduated driver licensing. In common with most graduated licensing schemes,
during the restricted stage there are two restrictions: across all States there is a
curfew, after which night driving is not permitted without an adult present.
11 Graduated Driver Licensing – Questions and Answers, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2010
16 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Exemptions apply to this rule on a State-level basis with some States allowing
young drivers to drive to/from work and to medical appointments. In addition,
across all States there are restrictions on the number of passengers that can be
carried during the intermediate stage, with exemptions applied on a State by
Success rates vary by State but, overall, the introduction of graduated driver
licensing has been deemed a success and there are many studies to support this.
One of the most noteworthy and high profile study was conducted by the John
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Centre for Injury Research and Policy.12
The researchers used data from 1994–2004 collected by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Association’s Fatality Reporting System and the U.S. Census Bureau to
examine various graduated driver licensing programs and fatal crash statistics in 36
U.S. states with graduated licensing schemes and seven States that had, at the time,
not implemented a graduated licensing scheme.
Comparing States which had the core elements of a graduated driver licensing
programme to States without a graduated scheme, the study reported an 18
percent difference in fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. The study also
found a 21 percent reduction in fatal crashes when programmes included an age
requirement in addition to night-time driving restrictions and either 30 hours of
supervised driving or passenger restrictions.
Experience of individual States in the U.S.
To support the above data, a number of important statistics/figures can be shown by
examining studies which have focussed on graduated driver licensing on a state by
state basis. In North Carolina for instance, Foss et al. reported a 19% decline in crash
rates per 16-year-old driver and a 23% decline in crashes per 100,000 population
following graduated licensing implementation.13 More recently, a 2004 study
evaluated Michigan’s graduated licensing programme and found a 19% reduction in
crashes involving 16-year-old drivers.14 In California, the number of fatal and at-fault
injury crashes among 16 year-old drivers declined by 23% following implementation
of the graduated licensing programme in 1998 and, in addition, teenage passenger
deaths and injuries in vehicles driven by 16 year-old drivers also declined by 40%.15
In Connecticut, following the introduction of a graduated licensing scheme, vehicle
crash rates decreased by 40% for 16-year-old drivers and 30% for 17-year-old
drivers between 1999 and 2008. Furthermore, during night-time restricted driving
times, vehicle crash rates decreased by 54% among 16-year-old and 49% among
17-year-old drivers and vehicle crash rates with passengers decreased by 65% for
16-year-old and 53% for 17-year-old drivers.16
12 Graduated Driver Licensing Programs and Fatal Crashes of 16-year-old Drivers: A National Evaluation, Susan P. Baker,
MPH, LiHui Chen, PhD, and Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2006
13 Initial Effects of Graduated Driver Licensing on 16-Year-Old Driver Crashes in North Carolina, Robert D. Foss, John R.
Feaganes, Eric A. Rodgman, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002
14 Driver education and training: future research needs. J Shope, and C Bingham, Chronicle of the American Driver and
Traffic Safety Education Association, 2004
15 Evaluation of California’s graduated licensing system, T Zwicker, A Williams, N Chaudhary and C Farmer, Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety, 2006
16 Impact of Connecticut’s graduated driver licensing system on teenage motor vehicle crash rates, S Rogers, C Bentley, B
Campbell, K Borrup, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, 2011
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 17
In Canada, driver licences are issued by the government of the province or territory
in which the driver resides. As a result (and much like the United States), specific
regulations relating to driving licenses vary from province to province, although
overall they are quite similar in that they apply the key elements of graduated
driver licensing; a three stage licensing system which includes a restricted license.
Graduated driver licensing began in Canada in 1994 and since then nearly every
province has implemented some form of graduated licensing programme. No
national survey has been undertaken and as such, to evaluate the schemes in
Canada, individual provinces must be looked at.
In April 1994, the Ministry of Transportation for the province of Ontario introduced
the first graduated driver licensing scheme in Canada. The initial province sponsored
study carried out in 1998 found that upon the introduction of a graduated driver
licensing programme, there was a 31% reduction in vehicle crashes among those
aged 16–19 years old and a 42% reduction among those aged 20–24 years old.17
A graduated driver licensing scheme was introduced in Nova Scotia in 1994.
Results from research carried out evaluating Nova Scotia’s scheme confirm the
effectiveness of the programme. A 2001 study looking at 16 year olds using before
and after comparisons (1993 versus 1995; the first full year of the programme)
showed there was a 24% reduction in crash rates. Furthermore, crashes in 1996
were 36% lower than in 1993, showing that the initial reduction was sustained.18
A more recent follow-up evaluation of the specific and long-term effects of the
Nova Scotia programme confirmed the results described above.19 Nova Scotia plan
to further strengthen their existing graduated licensing programme by introducing
an exit test which must be passed after the restricted phase in order to obtain a
In British Columbia, the graduated driver licensing scheme was introduced in 1998.
A 2004 study conducted an evaluation of the scheme by examining differences in
per-driver crash rates and violations before (August 1996 to July 1997) and after
(August 1998 to July 1999) the programme was implemented. They found a 13%
reduction in the overall crash rate of young drivers participating in the scheme and
a 16% reduction after adjusting the data for age, gender and driver time.21
17 Graduated licensing system evaluation, P Boase and L Tasca, Ontario Ministry of Transportation, 1998
18 The safety value of driver education and training. Mayhew et al, Injury Prevention, 2001
19 Specific and Long-Term Effects of Nova Scotia’s Graduated Licensing Program, Mayhew et al, Traffic Injury Research
20 Correspondence with Road Safety Manager, Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal,
21 Graduated licensing program: Interim evaluation, S Wiggins, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2004
18 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Along with the United States, Canada and many other developed countries, road
traffic accidents in New Zealand are one of the major causes of death amongst
young people. Figures from 1985 show that young drivers aged between 15 and
19 drove only 8% of the annual mileage but comprised 27% of all drivers in motor
vehicle traffic injury crashes.22 In response to the overrepresentation of young
drivers in traffic crashes, the New Zealand Parliamentary Select Committee on
Road Safety proposed a graduated driver licensing system and the amended driver
licensing system was introduced in 1987.
The three stage scheme applies to all new drivers aged 15–24 and the essential
elements comprise a 6-month learner license (supervised and instructional driving)
and an 18 month restricted license stage, with restrictions on night-time driving
and the number of passengers than can be carried. During the restricted phase, the
night time driving restriction applies between 2200 and 0500 and no passengers
under the age of 20 years are allowed to be carried unless they are dependents, a
spouse or qualify as a supervisory driver. In addition, a blood alcohol limit of 0.03
mg% applies at learner licence and restricted licence stage. To graduate to the full
licence, an on-road exit test focussing on higher-order skills must be passed.
The first study to examine the impact of graduated driving licensing on traffic
crashes involving young people was conducted in 1992. This study focused on the
15- to 19-year age group and compared the crash rates of drivers in this age group
with those aged 25 years and older. The results showed that immediately following
the introduction of graduated driver licensing, there was a marked decrease in the
rate of 15- to 19-year-old drivers involved in crashes compared with drivers 25
years old and older. While the effect partially dissipated after two years, by 1992,
research confirmed that there was a continuing 8% reduction in the proportion of
crashes involving drivers aged 15–19 years.23
A further study was conducted in 1996 which took into account traffic-related
hospital admissions for the period 1978–1992. The results showed that after
graduated driver licensing was implemented, there was a 23% reduction in
hospitalised injuries among the 15 to 19 year-old age group. Demonstrating the
effectiveness of the scheme, the analyses of hospital admissions for the other injury
groups showed no consistent trend (for example, sports injuries decreased 12%
while assaults increased 10%).24
From the results of these evaluations, the major impact of New Zealand’s
graduated driver licensing scheme was a marked decrease in the number of crashes
involving young drivers. The scheme can therefore be viewed as a success given the
fact that road safety outcomes for young drivers were improved significantly.
22 A graduated driver licensing system, Ministry of Transport, 1985
23 The New Zealand graduated driver licensing system, Road Traffic Safety Research Council, A Firth and W Perkins, 1992
24 An evaluation of the New Zealand graduated driver licensing system accident. J Langley, A Wagenaar, and J Begg,
Accident Analysis and Prevention, 1996
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 19
In February 2010, the New Zealand Government approved Safer Journeys: New
Zealand’s Road Safety Strategy 2010 to 2020. The document contains a number
of recommendations relating to the licensing scheme. It acknowledged that
improvements could be made to further reduce the crash risk of young drivers
by aligning New Zealand’s current graduated licensing scheme with more recent
schemes such as those in the United States, Canada and Australia. The major
change is the increased age at which young drivers can apply for a learner licence.
The age has increased from 15 to 16, with the age at which a young driver can
obtain a restricted licence changing to 16.5.
Driver licensing laws vary between the States and Territories of Australia but the
laws are all very similar, with each jurisdiction operating a graduated driver licensing
scheme. Graduated driver licensing first commenced in Australia in the mid-1960s
with New South Wales introducing a provisional licences for a 3 year period in
1966. Today, all Australian states, have introduced a form of graduated driver
licensing with the most recent jurisdiction, Victoria, introducing a scheme in 2010.
Compared with the United States, New Zealand and Canada, relatively few detailed
surveys have been conducted analysing the effectiveness of graduated driver
licensing in Australia.25 However, as Australian jurisdictions continue to develop
their graduated licensing programmes, studies are beginning to emerge. The most
wide-ranging study focuses on Victoria and examines the crash involvement of
first and second year probationary drivers before and after the introduction of the
graduated licensing scheme, compared to other drivers.
The scheme implemented by Victoria consists of a minimum 12 month learner
period followed by an on-road driving test and a probationary period of four years
for those aged under 21 years. During this restricted period young drivers are
limited to carrying one passenger.
The research confirms the effectiveness of graduated driver licensing with key
results showing that after one year there was a reduction of 23% of first-year
drivers (18–20 years) involved in casualty crashes compared with a control group
of full licence-holders aged 26–38 years. Furthermore, looking specifically at
the passenger restriction, the survey showed that there was a 57% reduction in
first year drivers involved in casualty crashes while carrying two or more peer
passengers, with a corresponding 58% reduction for involvements in fatal and
serious injury crashes, when compared with the control group of drivers.26
25 Correspondence with Road User Behaviour Manager, ‘VicRoads’ – the Stae and Road Traffic Authority of Victoria,
Australia, June 2012
26 Victoria’s Graduated Licensing System Evaluation Interim Report, D Healey, J Catchpole, W Harrison, VicRoads, 2012
20 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
The evidence from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia clearly
demonstrates that graduated driver licensing schemes are effective public policy
interventions in improving the road safety of young drivers. Closer to home, this
evidence has not been over-looked. In 2007, the Transport Select Committee urged
the Government to modernise the driver testing regime by introducing graduated
driver licensing in the UK. The Committee cited the international evidence,
highlighting the fact that all the countries listed above have lower young driver
casualty rates than the UK. In its response to the Committee, the then Government
instead pledged to improve the driver education system by improving road
safety education. While improving road safety education is important, there is no
evidence that it has a quantifiable or demonstrable effect on collision risk, and its
continued use should be set against much lower expectations in terms of what it
can contribute directly to the safety of new drivers.27
In Northern Ireland, Environment Minister Alex Attwood has prepared proposals
that will introduce a graduated driver licensing scheme to Northern Ireland. The
key measures include introducing a 12 month minimum learning period, developing
a more structured syllabus, introducing a restricted phase where there is a limit
of the number of passengers a new driver can carry, and a lowering of the blood
alcohol limit for the duration of the two year restricted period.
In March 2011 Transport Scotland, the Executive agency of the Scottish
Government responsible for Road Safety, published a report on the findings of a
national debate on young driver safety. The report was commissioned to meet a
commitment in Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to “conduct a public debate on
young driver issues including graduated licences and additional training”. Although
driver licensing is not devolved and is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish
Government confirmed that the report was intended to help determine what policy
initiatives or practical interventions may be implemented to support a reduction
in young driver casualties in Scotland. The majority of Scottish stakeholders
involved in the debate were supportive of a form of graduated driver licensing with
views expressed that progression to a full unrestricted license should be linked to
restrictions placed on those under 20.
In light of the overwhelming international evidence, the ABI strongly supports the
introduction of graduated driver licensing throughout Great Britain which would
mirror the current regime for motorbike licensing which follows the principles
of graduated licensing. In the section that follows, we outline our proposals and
provide supporting evidence for each measure.
27 How Can We Produce Safer New Drivers, Helman et al, Transport Research Laboratory, 2010
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 21
How can we improve the situation in the
The current UK licensing system allows a young person to drive unaccompanied
and with no restrictions as soon as they pass their practical driving test unlike
with a motorbike where they have graduated licensing. It is therefore unsurprising
that many young people try to pass it in as little time as possible, many taking
just a few months to learn the skills required to pass the test. The result is that
inadequate emphasis is placed on the benefits of gaining road experience and,
subsequently, young drivers can have little experience of driving in different road
and traffic conditions. It is unsurprising that these drivers with the least experience
subsequently go on to have the highest crash rates when fully licensed.
Measures implemented in the UK to date, including reforming and strengthening
road safety education, have only had a marginal impact in reducing young driver
crashes. Fundamental change is needed and the introduction of a graduated driver
licensing system in the UK is the key reform needed.
ABI Proposed Measures
• A minimum 12 month learning period before the driving test can be taken,
enabling drivers to undertake supervised practice without an incentive to
rush to take the practical test.
As the international evidence and experience shows, a minimum supervised
learning period is a key component of graduated driver licensing schemes. For
some countries this period lasts six months although the most common minimum
learning period is 12 months. Section Two clearly illustrated that young drivers
are more likely than older drivers to crash during adverse driving conditions and
during night-time hours. As a result, the ABI is supportive of a 12 month minimum
learning period as this allows the learner to experience driving conditions
associated with a wide variety of road and traffic conditions, including driving in
adverse weather conditions and low light conditions. By gaining a wider driving
experience, the driver will be better prepared for solo driving after passing the test.
• The lowering of the age at which young people can start learning to drive
to 16 ½ years.
By calling for a minimum learning period of one year, the age at which individuals
are able to take their driving test would by default increase to 18. We therefore
propose to lower the age in which young drivers can start learning to 16 ½ years.
Implementing a mandatory minimum learning period in conjunction with lowering
the age at which a young driver can obtain a provisional licence offers significant
potential to reduce road casualties by enabling and incentivising young people to
learn to drive for a full year before attempting their first practical test.
22 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Allowing young people to obtain a provisional licence at 16½ mitigates the impact
on their mobility that would result from having a 12 month mandatory minimum
learning period starting at age 17. In practice, this will mean that few young people
will be adversely affected as they will undertake their practical test at a similar age
to the current system.
• A ban on intensive driving courses.
Within the proposal to introduce a 12 month learning period is a ban on intensive
driving courses which typically take place over a two-week period. These courses
place little emphasis on accumulating road experience during the learning period
and as a result young drivers are not likely to have gained sufficient driving
experience to be safe road users after completing these courses.
• Introducing graduated driver licensing for drivers under the age of 25.
During the intermediate phase, restrictions would be placed on the number
of passengers a young person can carry and the time of day they can drive.
Graduated driver licensing would form a natural extension of the first stage of
learning to drive; the minimum one year period. After passing a test, the driver
would proceed to the intermediate stage, which should last two years. There
would be restrictions on the number of passengers a young person could carry
and the time of day they could drive with possible exemptions for work or medical
appointments. These restrictions would last 6 months after passing the driving
test. In addition, there would be a further restriction – the lowering of the blood
alcohol concentration for young drivers – lasting for the full restricted period of
two years. A second driving test at the end of the two year period would then
be undertaken to ensure that drivers have the required competencies to drive in
accordance with the Highway Code.
• The intermediate period: restricting the number of passengers young drivers
are able to carry for a period of 6 months.
The presence of young passengers in a car can both distract young drivers and
encourage them to drive in a more risky way. The chart outlined in section 2
concerning the impact of carrying passengers clearly shows that the collision rate
for young drivers increases with each additional passenger carried: The research
reveals that the fatality risks to 16- or 17-year-old drivers: increases by 44% when
carrying one passenger; doubles when carrying two passengers; and quadruples
when carrying three or more passengers.
A requirement for the learner driver to experience driving in different road, weather
and traffic conditions could be achieved through a minimum 12 month learning
period. However, it would be difficult to introduce an element of training in carrying
passengers and for this reason, As Section Three has shown, post-test restrictions
are common across the world: in the US, Australia and New Zealand, young drivers
are banned from carrying passengers (or have severe restrictions in place) for 6–24
months after passing their test.
28,29 Survey findings based on fieldwork conducted online by YouGov between the 25th August and 3rd September, 2012
The survey results are based on responses from 3,742 adults aged between 18 and 70, and weighted to obtain a GB
representative sample. ABI Quarterly Consumer Survey 2012 Q3.
60% of people think
a 12 month learning
period would be
effective in reducing
71% of people
would support a
restriction on young
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 23
The ABI is supportive of a 6 month period in which drivers aged under 25 are
not allowed to carry passengers under a specified age, except immediate
The restriction will not apply if there is a supervising driver present (aged 21 years
or older and who has held a full driving licence for 3 years).
Like the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the proposed graduated driver
licensing scheme in Northern Ireland, further exemptions will apply. Should a
passenger restriction be considered by the Government, specific exemptions
will need to be considered, taking into account a number of factors such as
employment and/or education needs.
• The restricted period: A night time driving restriction between 2300 – 0400
during the first 6 months of driving.
As we have already pointed out in section two, late night driving increases crash
risk among young drivers for a variety of reasons such as driver fatigue, lack of
driving experience and recreational driving at night.
Given the increased risk of a young driver crashing during night-time hours, the
ABI advocates a night-time driving restriction where young drivers are banned
from driving between 2300 and 0400. Exemptions will apply, allowing young
drivers to drive to their place of employment/education. The international evidence
has shown that there are no demonstrable impacts on the local economy by
introducing a night time driving restriction.
• A lowering of the blood alcohol limit to 20mg/100ml during the
A lowering of the alcohol limit to 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (from the
current 80mg) would, in effect, act as a zero limit as, if consumed, an alcoholic
drink would push this limit beyond 20mg/100 ml of blood. The 20mg also
allows for consumption of alcohol linked with products such as mouthwash and
confectionary which contain small amounts of alcohol.
Enforcing the restrictions contained within the
intermediate (restricted) phase
Self-enforcement: Driving laws in the UK are already to a large degree selfenforcing.
That is, individuals are inclined to abide by laws that codify accepted
principles of behaviour. Wearing a seatbelt, refraining from using a mobile phone
and obeying the speed limit are all examples of laws that are, for the vast majority,
self-enforcing. Motorists are fully aware of the sanctions that they will face for noncompliance
and tough sanctions such as loss of licence/significant fines could be
introduced to accompany graduated driver licensing.
30 Survey findings based on fieldwork conducted online by YouGov between the 25th August and 3rd September, 2012.
The survey results are based on responses from 3,742 adults aged between 18 and 70, and weighted to obtain a GB
representative sample. ABI Quarterly Consumer Survey 2012 Q3.
58% would support
for new drivers.30
24 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Police Support: The Police obviously play a key part in enforcement and their
support of graduated driver licensing is essential. The Head of Roads Policing at
the Association of Chief Police Officers has publicly called for a graduated driver
licensing scheme to be implemented throughout the UK. In addition, discussions
involving the Police in other areas of the UK have taken place, with the Head of
The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Chair of the
Wales Senior Traffic Officers Conference both lending their support to a graduated
driver licensing scheme. A number of officers take the view that the enforcement
of restrictions contained within graduated licensing would be no more difficult
than enforcing other motoring offences. The support of the Police is therefore
not a major obstacle to enforcing graduated driver licensing, although continued
engagement and assistance will be needed when negotiating with Government.
International experience: The international evidence from the United States,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand has shown that young drivers comply
with the restrictions contained within the second stage. Correspondence with
officials in Canada and New Zealand has confirmed that non-compliance with
restrictions is low. In New Zealand, the level of non-compliance is similar to
other driving offences such as speeding and driving while using a mobile phone.
Ontario’s experience of graduated driver licensing is similar, with violations of the
restrictions contained within the second stage at similar levels to driving offences
such as failing to comply with traffic lights and exceeding the speed limit.
Parental support: Given the age range of the young driver, parental support is a
key factor that ensures young drivers comply with the restrictions contained within
the second stage of graduated licensing schemes. These schemes give parents a set
of rules and restrictions most would want and these rules empower parents. There
is considerable evidence from the United States, Australia and Canada that parents
highly approve of graduated driver licensing given it improves the safety of the
roads for their children. This further re-enforces the view amongst young drivers
that adhering to the restrictions is an expected behavioural requirement.
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS 25
Young drivers are in far more catastrophic crashes than they should be given their
numbers. It is clear that this is the result of their age and attitude, rather than
just a lack of experience, and certain factors such as driving at night, carrying
passengers, wet conditions and excessive speed increase the likelihood that they
will be involved in a crash. The liberal regime in which young people learn to drive
at present is not working; it is out-dated, not fit for purpose and young people are
paying a price for our failure to act.
The situation can be improved and countries similar to ours such as the United
States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have introduced bold measures that
have improved the safety of young drivers, namely introducing graduated driver
licensing. In most jurisdictions where graduated licensing has been implemented,
the restrictions contained in the second phase include a limit on the number of
passengers a young driver can carry and a restriction on driving during night-time
hours. These restrictions are not arbitrary but have been applied as a direct result
of the factors that we know lead to accidents. Gradually lifting these restrictions
allows young drivers to experience higher risk situations over a longer period of
time than they currently do, ensuring they have built up an improved skill-set to
cope with these new situations. Exemptions apply meaning that the restrictions are
not too onerous and importantly, have not had any demonstrable negative impact
on the economies in which the schemes are applied.
The international evidence points to the overwhelming success of graduated
licensing schemes. Based on this the ABI strongly believe that robust reform should
be introduced to the driver training and testing regime throughout the UK – with
the adoption of graduated driver licensing being the key measure. Introducing
the fundamental change that is required will not be easy but past experience has
shown that it can be done. The requirement to wear a seatbelt and the clamp
down on drink driving are just two examples where intervention has worked.
Despite public concern at the time, it now seems absurd that at one point, driving
without wearing a seat belt was allowed and drink driving was a major problem.
Intervention has worked in the past and it can work now.
Introducing a 12 month minimum learning period, developing a more structured
learning syllabus, introducing a restricted phase where there is a limit of the
number of passengers a new driver can carry, and lowering the blood alcohol limit,
are all critical components of a graduated driver licensing scheme. Evidence from
abroad points to the fact that there have been no major problems associated with
enforcing the restrictions. This, coupled with strong support from both the Police
and parents, means we firmly believe these proposals can be applied in the UK.
26 IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG DRIVERS
Insurers want to see premiums for young drivers come down to more affordable
levels, but the key point is that the only way this can happen is to make them safer
drivers. Put simply, if young driver road traffic crashes decrease, the risk they pose
to an insurer decreases and insurance premiums for young drivers will follow. Bold
action is needed to ensure young driver motor insurance becomes affordable and
more importantly, by putting into place a graduated licensing scheme and other
safety measures, the Government will make sure that fewer young people are
killed and injured on our roads.
The insurance industry believes now is the time to make a real change for the
better by improving road safety to ensure that the young drivers of today become
the older drivers of tomorrow.
For more information, contact:
Association of British Insurers
51 Gresham Street
London EC2V 7HQ
020 7600 3333