Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Road deaths and serious injuries have fallen by 33% since the mid 1990s, but the casualty rate for young drivers has not changed. One in five people have an accident within six months of passing their test, and another 70% report near- misses in the same period. Alongside this newly-qualified drivers and their passengers account for one in five of all car deaths in Britain.
The aim of the consultation is to create safer drivers for life by strengthening the current learning and testing procedures, and creating a culture of extended and advanced learning. This follows extensive discussions with young people, employers, driving instructors and the insurance industry.
A foundation course in safe road use for under 17 years olds will be piloted in schools and colleges in Scotland from this Autumn. This will lead to a qualification that will be available across Great Britain.
For the first time there will be a syllabus to ensure more effective and comprehensive training is offered to learner drivers. This will set out more clearly the necessary steps to driving safely - beginning with the basics of car control, progressing to skills such as driving in difficult weather or at night and culminating in ensuring driver awareness is enhanced, to help novice drivers predict the intentions of other road users. This will help more learners to pass first time as safe and responsible drivers.
We want to create a culture in which the driving test is a milestone towards lifelong learning. Employers and insurers should have greater confidence in the driving abilities of those who have undertaken further training, and so we will work with them to develop proposals for post-test courses and qualifications that produce safer drivers, and that they are prepared to reward. Examples of this could include a new advanced training qualification, a course in motorway driving or vocational qualifications such as for van drivers.
Alongside this the driving test will be revised to place less emphasis on mechanical manoeuvres and allow examiners to properly assess the full range of a candidate's abilities. An assessment of their ability to drive independently and test to judge awareness of road safety issues will be introduced.
Speaking to young drivers at the Driving Standards Agency training centre in Cardington, Ruth Kelly said:
- Every year more than 750,000 people pass their driving test. New drivers are keen to gain the freedom driving offers them to access further education, jobs or keep in touch with family and friends.
- But too many new drivers are involved in road accidents and are not properly prepared for driving alone.
- It is time for a new approach to learning to drive. We must make sure that novice drivers are safe drivers when they have passed their test. We must also create an expectation of lifelong learning, so that people continue advanced learning after their test.
- That is why I am publishing proposals which offer new drivers more opportunities to learn both before and after the test, including at school.
- Those who undertake extra training will not only be safer drivers, but will have the added incentive that they could see a financial reward in terms of lower insurance premiums."
More detail on the proposals in the consultation is below:
* A new foundation course, to be piloted in schools and colleges in Scotland from this Autumn, leading to a qualification on safe road use being offered across Great Britain;
* A more focused and thorough learning process before the driving test, which focuses not just on vehicle control but also the wider skills needed to be a safe driver, from driving in difficult conditions (for example at night or in poor weather) to learning to predict and respond to other road users' intentions;
* A new training syllabus to ensure learners understand what is required of them to become a responsible driver, enable them to undertake structured and efficient learning and accurately assess when they are ready to pass their driving test;
* An improved driving test which requires the driver to demonstrate independent driving skills and clear understanding of different situations on the road, with the option of modular assessment;
* New opportunities to take extra training post test; working with the insurance industry and employers in the driving for work sector we will develop new courses and qualifications to be taken after the driving test that could lead to lower premiums and a better chance of securing a career in the driving for work sector;
* A star-rating system for driving instructors so that learners can make an informed choice based on pass rates and the level of training instructors have undergone;
* A review of driving instructor training and testing to ensure they provide a quality service and are focussed on those areas of driving performance that are closely linked to safe driving.