Researchers from Cardiff University are today speaking about the potential of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) for new drivers at Safety 2010. Every day four people are killed or seriously injured in crashes involving young
drivers and one in five new drivers are involved in a collision within the first six months. The risks are particularly high when driving at night with passengers.
Researchers are due to tell the conference that Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most parts of America have introduced graduated driver licensing (GDL) as a way of cutting down unnecessary death and injury on the roads. GDL allows new drivers to gain experience by ‘adding’ an intermediate phase between the preliminary and full driving licence. During this period, which can last as long as two years, the newly qualified young drivers are allowed to drive without supervision, but not in certain circumstances such as at night, or with similar aged passengers. Some systems also have a different level of permitted alcohol for new drivers.
A review of the evidence by Dr Sarah Jones of Cardiff University has found a:
- 16% decrease in crash rates for all GDL drivers in British Columbia, Canada
- 28% reduction of fatal or severe injury crash rates and 40% decrease in teenage passenger deaths and injuries in California, USA
- 23% decrease in hospital admissions following crashes in New Zealand
- 62% decrease in midnight to 5am crashes in Ontario, Canada
Research by Dr Jones suggests the benefits of implementing GDL could save up to 200 lives every year,
avoid 14,000 casualties, and save the UK £890million.
In theory it is clear that graduated driver licensing can reduce collisions amongst this group, so it is certainly worth looking at. The recommendation for a different alcohol limit for new drivers is particularly controversial as increasing the permitted limit after two years may well send the wrong message, especially as drink driving is highest amongst people in their twenties. There remains a question about how enforceable graduated licensing would be in the UK, especially given that the police service is already stretched. An alternative might be to promote ‘pay-as-you-go’ insurance for this group, which would provide a real incentive not to travel at the most risky times of day. One thing is for sure – today is unlikely to signal the end of the discussion about graduated driver licensing!
Press release for the conference and report research findings can be found at Blue Cat Communications