Consultation on Proposed Changes to the Learner and Restricted Driver Schemes and on Graduated Driver Licensing
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My first priority as Minister for the Environment is to do all within my power to continuously reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads.
And this priority is the driving force behind this consultation which brings forward proposals on amending the 45mph speed restriction for learner and restricted drivers and on options for a system of graduated driver licensing to build on the current R driver scheme. The vision of Northern Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy to 2020 is simply ‘to make a journey
on Northern Ireland’s roads the safest in the world’.
One of the key challenges we must address is how to protect our young and other new drivers from killing and injuring themselves and other road users.
I am troubled by the unacceptably high number of young and other new drivers involved in fatal and serious collisions on our roads each year. I know my concerns are widely shared because the facts are stark.
Almost a fifth of new drivers has some kind of collision within their first six months of driving.
Young car drivers are twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal or serious collision than older drivers.
Between 2004 and 2008, 17 to 24 year old drivers were responsible for 1 in 4 of our road fatalities and 1 in 5 of all road serious injuries in Northern Ireland. This amounts to 163 deaths and 1,237 serious injuries.
I do not accept that the problem of new drivers is too difficult to fix and I do not accept that our young people should be allowed to continue to be involved in fatal and serious collisions at the rates they are today.
That is why we have a target in the new strategy to reduce by at least 55% the number of
young people killed or seriously injured on our roads – the only part of these islands to
have such a target.
If we are to achieve this target, it is clear that we must improve how we train and test drivers to ensure that they are competent and safe when they start to drive unaccompanied.
The current training and testing regime is not fit for purpose. Currently we put too much emphasis on testing ability to control a vehicle and perform a range of basic manoeuvres. Not enough attention is paid to the motivations, attitudes and behaviours we know are linked to an increased risk of being involved in a collision.
We also need to improve how we allow drivers, who have just passed their driving test, to gain experience in as safe a manner as possible.
In particular, I am aware of the evidence on how Graduated Driver Licensing systems in other countries have significantly reduced the likelihood that new drivers will have a collision.
This is why I want to reform the learner and restricted driver schemes and propose the introduction of a new system of graduated driver licensing.
This is a very important debate. I want to hear from you about how we can find more effective ways to allow our new drivers to become experienced, skilled and safe. I urge
you to read the consultation paper and to respond on the evidence, measures and options it sets out. If you do not see your own solutions, feel free to suggest different measures that you believe will make a difference and improve safety on our roads. Thank you for your interest in this consultation. Join us in making a journey on Northern Ireland’s roads the safest in the world. I look forward to hearing your views.
Edwin Poots MLA
Minister of the Environment
15 March 2011
Road Safety and Vehicle Regulation Division Clarence Court
10-18 Adelaide Street
Telephone: (028) 9054 0611
Text phone: (028) 9054 0642
Date: 15 March 2011
CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE LEARNER AND
RESTRICTED DRIVER SCHEMES AND ON GRADUATED DRIVER
I am writing to invite your views on a range of possible measures aimed at reducing road deaths and serious injuries involving new drivers. By ‘new drivers’ we mean car drivers of all ages – but especially young drivers – with less than
two years experience since passing their test and starting to drive unaccompanied. In particular, the Department wishes to consider if the current Learner (L) and Restricted (R) driver schemes should be reformed and whether a new, extended, scheme of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) should be introduced.
Northern Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy to 2020
Northern Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy to 2020 sets targets (measured against
the baseline of the 2004-2008 average):
！ To reduce the number of people killed in road collisions by at least 60% by
！ To reduce the number of people seriously injured in road collisions by at
least 45% by 2020
！ To reduce the number of children (aged 0 to 15) killed or seriously injured in
road collisions by at least 55% by 2020; and
！ To reduce the number of young people (aged 16 to 24) killed or seriously
injured in road collisions by at least 55% by 2020.
In light of these targets and amid concerns at the continuing over-representation of young, often inexperienced, drivers in fatal and serious road collisions the Department has carried out a review of the L and R driver schemes and to assess the potential effectiveness of GDL.
The Restricted (R) driver scheme
Since 1968 Northern Ireland has had a type of GDL in the form of the R driver scheme. The scheme requires drivers to carry an R plate for 12 months and limits them to a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour (mph). Research carried out in the early 1990s on the effect of the scheme on road safety was inconclusive and responses to the draft Road Safety Strategy consultation in 2010 about the R scheme were mixed with some favourable and others critical. There are concerns that drivers in Northern Ireland are not being trained or tested at speeds higher than 45mph at any stage before they receive their full licence and that immediately after their period of restriction they are free to drive at the posted speeds, despite not having undergone any specifically relevant training or testing.
Northern Ireland’s ‘New Driver Problem’
！ Is related to a combination of inexperience and youth.
！ Too many young drivers – many of them also newly qualified – die or are
seriously injured on our roads or are responsible for collisions in which other
road users are killed or seriously injured.
！ Between 2004 and 2008 casualties resulting from road traffic collisions
where a 17 to 24 year old car driver was responsible accounted for one in
four of all Northern Ireland’s road traffic fatalities and one in five of all road
traffic serious injuries.
！ Based on the estimated economic cost of deaths and injuries to society, the
total value of preventing these casualties would have been in the region of
！ Allowing for the proportion of car driving licences they hold, young drivers
are more likely to be responsible for a fatal collision (2.3 times) or a serious
collision (2.0 times) than older drivers.
Approaches to Developing New Measures
Although in recent years the numbers of deaths and serious injuries involving young drivers have fallen in line with the trend for drivers as a whole, their over-representation among our road fatalities and serious injuries remains a continuing problem. Addressing it requires us to consider a number of different possible approaches.
Three main choices have emerged:
(a) using education and incentives to fundamentally reform driver training and
testing underpinned by modernised standards
(b) additional regulation of the way people learn to drive, by making them
learn for a fixed period or by changing the age at which they are allowed to
get a provisional or full licence
(c) restrictions on some or all newly qualified drivers (for example by
preventing them from driving at night or carrying passengers) which are
gradually lifted as they gain more experience – systems like this are often
referred to as Graduated Driver Licensing.
These three approaches are not mutually exclusive, each could improve road safety and, arguably, they could be applied together.
The Department has reviewed the statistics on fatal and serious collisions in Northern Ireland involving newly qualified drivers, explored the evidence on the main risk factors of age, gender and experience and examined the merits of various driver training and testing, regulated learning and GDL schemes in the UK, Ireland, Europe and internationally. It now seeks views on a range of options for change.
The consultation paper examines the nature and extent of our new driver problem and tries to identify the factors which might explain the issues around the over-representation of newly qualified drivers in road casualties and collisions. It goes on to consider the need for change and how that might be approached by, variously, reforming driver training and testing, additional regulation of how people learn to drive and/or placing different restrictions on newly qualified drivers which can be gradually lifted as they gain experience – GDL.
It then sets out 12 potential measures many of which are judged to have had a positive impact on new driver safety in other parts of the world, and which could have similar success here. The paper seeks preliminary views from consultees on these measures. Once the response to this consultation has been considered and decisions are taken as to which, if any, of these measures should be taken forward further detailed consultations may be needed on specific legal or regulatory proposals.
Developing Impact Assessments
Because the majority of restricted drivers are aged under 25 and this group is also disproportionately represented in road traffic collisions, the options will mainly affect younger drivers. However they are designed to deal with issues that affect all learner and newly qualified drivers and may be applied regardless of age.
The consultation paper also requests comments and evidence on any possible (positive or negative) impacts these options might have on equality for specific groups or individuals as set out in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, on groups/individuals living or working in rural areas and on costs for businesses or charities. The Department will carry out, as appropriate, equality, rural, health and regulatory impact assessments which it will publish and consult on before any specific policy or legislative proposals are decided on.
Accessing the Consultation Paper and Response Forms
Electronic copies of the consultation package are available on DOE’s Road
Safety website at www.roadsafetyni.gov.uk/new-drivers.htm. Easy Read
versions of the consultation paper and the response form are being prepared and will be available shortly.
If you would like a hard copy of the documents, please contact Betty Holland
(details below) and she will be happy to arrange this.
If the papers are not in a format that suits your needs, she can arrange for them to be provided in a suitable format.
A response form is available that will take you through the issues identified in the consultation paper. You can find this at Annex F of the consultation paper. The response form can also be accessed at the www.roadsafetyni.gov.uk/new-
drivers.htm web page where it can be completed on-line.
A Word version of the response form is also provided on the website. This can
either be returned by e-mail to email@example.com or printed and
returned by post to the address below.
Please note that the Word version of the response form is already available on the website and that the on-line questionnaire will be available from early May 2011.
Obviously, you are not restricted to the questions listed on the response form and may provide additional comments as you wish. All information received will be considered carefully.
We are also happy to have meetings with groups or individuals to discuss the
issues detailed in the consultation document, if this would be useful. How to respond
Responses should be received no later than 19 July 2011 and may be sent in
any of the following ways:
Complete the on-line questionnaire: www.roadsafetyni.gov.uk/new-drivers.htm
Write to: Betty Holland
Road Safety Policy Branch (2)
Road Safety Division
Department of the Environment
10-18 Adelaide Street
Telephone: 028 9054 1165 or Textphone: 028 9054 0642
When responding, please indicate whether you are responding as an individual or representing the views of an organisation. If responding on behalf of an organisation, please make it clear who the organisation represents, and where applicable, how the views of members were assembled.
If you have any questions on this document or attached papers, please contact Betty Holland through the address or telephone/textphone numbers provided above. Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Confidentiality of Consultations
The Department will publish a summary of responses following completion of the consultation process. Your response, and all other responses to the consultation, may be disclosed on request. The Department can refuse to disclose information
only in exceptional circumstances. Before you submit your response, please read the paragraphs below on the confidentiality of consultations and they will give you guidance on the legal position about any information given by you in response to this consultation.
The Freedom of Information Act gives the public a right of access to any information held by a public authority, namely the Department in this case. This right of access to information includes information provided in response to a consultation. The Department cannot automatically consider as confidential information supplied to it in response to a consultation. However, it does have the responsibility to decide whether any information provided by you in response to this consultation, including information about your identity, should be made public or treated as confidential.
This means that information provided by you in response to the consultation is unlikely to be treated as confidential, except in very particular circumstances. The Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the Freedom of information Act
！ the Department should only accept information from third parties in
confidence if it is necessary to obtain that information in connection with the
exercise of any of the Department’s functions and it would not otherwise be
！ the Department should not agree to hold information received from third
parties ‘in confidence’ which is not confidential in nature;
！ acceptance by the Department of confidentiality provisions must be for good
reasons, capable of being justified to the Information Commissioner. For further information about confidentiality of responses, please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at:
Information Commissioner’s Office – Northern Ireland
33 Clarendon Dock
Tel.: (028) 9051 1270
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