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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 12:58 GMT
Learner drivers 'behind wheel at 16'
Prince William and his car
Young drivers could face tough new restrictions
The minimum age for drivers could be lowered to 16-and-a-half under radical new safety proposals being considered by the government.

Learners would be able to get behind the wheel six months earlier than is currently allowed, but they would also have to take lessons for up to a year.

After passing the test strict new restrictions, including the compulsory display of P-plates for six to 12 months, would apply in a bid to cut road accidents.

It is thought the shake-up would reduce the number of deaths caused by inexperienced drivers by up to 1,000 a year and the total number of crash casualties by 7,000.

Engine size

In all 18 proposals are being considered in the government's review of the way licences are awarded.

The restrictions for new drivers could include:

  • Tougher drink-drive rules
  • Lower speed limits
  • Limits on night-time driving
  • Maximum engine size on cars
  • Compulsory professional tuition for learners and accompanying drivers
  • Compulsory skid and motorway training
  • Minimum waiting period for re-tests
  • Probationary licence code for two years
  • A second practical driving test

'Impractical'

Announcing the plans Road Safety Minister David Jamieson said: "Too many new drivers are being injured on our roads because they are not getting enough experience before they take the driving test.

"We want to prepare them for their driving career, not just to pass the test."


The way young drivers are taught does need to be changed to prevent so many young drivers being involved in accidents

Andrew Howard - AA
Andrew Howard, the AA's head of road safety policy, said the organisation supports giving young learner drivers adequate practice before their test.

But he added: "We don't want learner drivers to become swamped by a bunch of new rules and regulations. Some of the suggestions in the consultation paper are impractical and unenforceable."

He said the AA believes P plates do little to improve safety and the idea new drivers should be restricted to driving low-powered vehicles and only at certain times is impractical.

Mr Howard added: "The way young drivers are taught does need to be changed to prevent so many young drivers being involved in accidents, but any changes need to be carefully considered to make them work."

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The BBC's Simon Montague
"Many do not want learning to take longer"
See also:

09 Aug 01 | Scotland
Road safety advice for tourists
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
'Show-off' teenage drivers targeted
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