MINISTER'S VIEWS ON THE WAY FORWARD FOR LEARNER AND RESTRICTED DRIVERS

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MINISTER'S VIEWS ON THE WAY FORWARD FOR LEARNER AND RESTRICTED DRIVERS

On 15 May 2012 the Minister for Environment Alex Attwood, reported to the Assembly on the outcome of a recent North South Ministerial Council Transport sectoral meeting. Regarding his current thinking about reforming the current regime for learner and restricted drivers and on graduated licensing, he said:

"I am inclined to go down the road of allowing learner and restricted drivers to drive at a speed of 70 mph rather than 45 mph.

I am inclined to agree that learner drivers should be able to go on a motorway in a dual-controlled vehicle with a qualified driver instructor in order to learn how to drive on motorways.

I am looking at more radical changes, including the potential to allow people to get a licence before the age of 17 but not being allowed to take a test for a period, potentially up to a year, after they get their licence. In all those ways, we can create opportunities for young drivers to drive and have a better training regime in preparation for qualification in a way that can work itself through to reduce insurance costs. [....]

[I]nitiatives that I am inclined to bring forward would be, for example, to increase the restriction period from one year to two years. If there is to be a more liberal approach in some aspects of novice driving — for example being able to drive at 70 mph — it may be necessary to extend by a year the period of restriction to fully and better monitor new drivers' performance. In that way, we can give some flexibility to new drivers while creating new discipline.

There will also be a proposal — newer drivers are much more aware of this than my generation — to have a syllabus-led training regime, whereby people would be obliged to record how their training proceeds in order to self-assess and be externally assessed on the quality of their driving during the training period. I also intend to change R-plates to N-plates to demonstrate that drivers are new drivers and give expression to that in that way.

There are other more controversial proposals that I will think about, but I am far from satisfied that they are the right way to go in our particular circumstances. For example, in other jurisdictions, there is a ban on night-time driving for new drivers, let us say between 1.00 am and 6.00 am, and there is an argument and evidence from Australia, New Zealand and states in America that that has an appreciable impact on road safety, especially for new drivers. However, in our circumstances, our diverse rural community and the need for younger people, in particular, to work part time at night, it seems hard to see how that could work.

A proposal strongly made to me by insurance companies is to put restrictions on who new drivers can carry. That is, again, because there is good evidence that new drivers carrying people of their own age group are involved disproportionately in serious and fatal road traffic accidents. To consider restricting who new drivers can carry, particularly applying it to their own age group, and the number of passengers they would be allowed is a bold step. That is the radical, bold, cutting edge of a driver regime, and I am considering those proposals. Whatever I come up with in the coming weeks will be measured by the concern for road safety, flexibility for new drivers and reducing insurance costs."