Road safety charity calls for 12-month minimum learning period for new drivers

Published 11 February 2021

More than two-thirds of drivers surveyed (68 per cent) strongly backed the suggestion that all new drivers, regardless of age, should undergo at least a year’s training and supervised practice before being allowed to take their practical test.

Road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, is calling for urgent action on this issue based on its findings from a survey of more than 2000 motorists. The charity says that a move to Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is a crucial step forward to improved road safety.

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The UK already has a graduated licensing scheme for motorcyclists, with young riders restricted to less powerful bikes and only able to take tests for larger motorbikes when they reach the specified age. For example, riders can only apply for their full A licence test at age 21, if they’ve already held an A2 Licence for at least two years. At age 24, regardless of previous licences (or lack of), they can take a full A licence test to ride the most powerful motorcycles.

Similar schemes also already operate in areas of New Zealand, Australia, the USA (New York and California), Sweden and Canada (Ontario and British Columbia).

Learner -driver

In July 2019, off the back of an eight-year peak of drink-drive deaths, the Government said it would explore whether a GDL — or a similar scheme — should be introduced in England. At the time, IAMRoadsmart voiced its support for a lower drink-drive limit in the first years of driving, arguing that distraction, alcohol and drugs are key contributing factors to new driver collisions.

IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy & Research, Neil Greig, said: “A lifetime of safe driving starts by gaining the right experience behind the wheel. Even the Government’s own statistics show that one in five new drivers crash within their first year on the road, so a longer learning period can only help make our roads safer for all road users.”

Meanwhile, the study found that around two-thirds (65 per cent) of people also support more encouragement for post-test training, believing that it would be beneficial for drivers to improve their skills through advanced driver training and testing. This rises to 71 per cent among drivers aged 17 to 49.


Andy Charlton    on 11 February 2021

Driving is an essential skill, but it costs a fair amount of money to learn to drive, pass your test and buy your first car. We need to be careful that we don't make it so expensive that only young people from wealthy families can afford to learn to drive. That would lead to more people driving without a licence, more car theft, and less safe roads.

Plodding Along    on 11 February 2021

Passed my test a month after I was legally allowed to drive. Went out for a minimum of an hour every day from 17th birthday with my wonderful late dad. I had the practice necesaary to pass my test so I don't see the problem. The test proves you are either a competent driver or you're not and will fail. I do however think it insane that learners can pass their test without ever having driven on a motorway, that should be part of the learning process. I have been driving for 38 years and I am still learning to drive every time I get behind the wheel.

Edited by Plodding Along on 11/02/2021 at 22:35

DLDLDL    on 19 February 2021

... I do however think it insane that learners can pass their test without ever having driven on a motorway, that should be part of the learning process....

Yes, it is nonsense that an inexperienced unaccompanied driver can get onto a motorway and play dodgems with the fast lane lunatics!

But, many parts of the country do not have motorways (Cornwall, Norfolk, Northumberland, too many counties in Scotland and Wales to list). In some areas you will struggle to find dual carriageways (In North Northumberland the A1 is single carriageway - but that opens up a whole new area of skills requirements!).

I would imagine that learning in central London probably does not give you experience of free flowing fast dark-at-night motorways either.

Travelling large distances to find specific road types on which to learn (and be tested) is probably not feasible.

Perhaps we should concentrate on enforcing correct behaviour on Motorways (fast lane lunatics, middle lane hogs and tail-gating leeches)?

jchinuk    on 12 February 2021

While I can see some sense in a system of Graduated Driver Licensing, imposing an arbitrary "you must be learning for 12 months" seems the wrong solution.
It's plainly silly that a 17 year old can pass their test and the next day drive anything, witness the number of young footballers caught speeding and driving dangerously.

If the aim is to reduce accidents and improve road safety it would make more sense to police the existing rules and get the uninsured drivers, often without a license, off the roads first.

Brian Penny    on 12 February 2021

This smacks of the driver training industry pushing for a year’s training.

Robert perry    on 13 February 2021

Proposed by people who already have a driving licence and probably don’t need a car to get to work or college. The reality should be that if you are good enough to reach the standards required to pass the examination set by the DVLA then you are good enough, regardless of how long you have been under supervision. Many of the worst drivers took the longest to pass their text and when they do you wonder how. Hopefully this won’t see the light of day as it will not solve the issue it intends to.

hissingsid    on 13 February 2021

Who will provide "at least a year's training and supervised practice"? A year's driving lessons would be prohibitively expensive for most new drivers and might put them off learning altogether, which is of course the real agenda for the lobby which proposes these changes.

Will any driver with a full licence be allowed to supervise practice? I taught my wife and son how to drive a car, but knew that I could not teach them how to pass the driving test. For that they underwent a short course of lessons and both passed their tests first time.

Falkirk Bairn    on 13 February 2021

I passed my test aged 17.

My 3 x sons had their first outing in their mum's car on their 17th Birthday and driving 3 months later.

It was a right of passage event and important as their University was some 20/25 minutes by car or 75-90 minutes by shanks pony, train into Edinburgh & a bus out to the Campus and again the same at night.

I am in favour of P plates, only 1 passenger, 10pm curfew etc but making them wait 12 months is OTT - on a price basis & often the DL is key to getting to & from work, college etc etc

Lada    on 13 February 2021

This is just yet more anti-car policy making. Like electric cars (there is no intention for there ever to be sufficient charging points or power to allow all but a minority to have a car - and that minority will be south-east based), endless cycle lanes, the nasty incitement for us all to spy on each other using dash and helmet cams. The liberal woke elite(and that includes Mr Johnson) won't be happy until we are all peddling away furiously in our Mao suits on our bicycles. All that is except the posh people from London, who can cruise past us in their Teslas on their way to their country homes (from which they will have managed to force out we rural people for whom a car or truck is not a luxury but an essential tool).

Edited by Lada on 13/02/2021 at 15:02

   on 13 February 2021

Pointless learning to drive for 12 months's expensive enough as it is at around £25 an hour for 2-3 months without extending it further .... Your instructor will only put you forward for your test when they think you're ready and the examiner will pass or fail on whether you're competent enough or not ...

Mr Dave    on 15 February 2021

IAM is, in my opinion, a road safety organisation in name only and only really interested in making money. This is demonstrated by the recent “trendy” rebranding and changes they’ve made to their courses. Now asking existing members to retake tests every few years and adding 2 more higher layers of qualification to the already existing Advanced Driver courses.

Edited by Mr Dave on 15/02/2021 at 05:08

hissingsid    on 15 February 2021

Having held a clean licence for over 50 years, and having driven cars of every decade from the 1920's to the present, my driving record speaks for itself.
I have never been tempted to join the IAM as I have nothing to prove. It would just be another badge to adorn my classic Rover 3.5 Litre Coupe.

ch3no2    on 15 February 2021

Pointless. You either want to drive responsibly or you don't and no amount of instruction /experience will change that. Witness the number of so called "experienced" drivers on our roads who drive appallingly.

Chris Sawyers    on 17 February 2021

Both my children learned to drive when they were 17. They drove almost every time they were in the car with my wife and me, in addition to their lessons. Pass Plus made a huge difference to my son's competence. It cost £160 at the time, but reduced his first insurance premium by about the same amount - a worthwhile investment.
Another young man we know learned when he was about 23 and has never driven regularly. Ten years on, he drives hire cars occasionally but is genuinely scary. As urban car ownership declines, there will be more people like him. There's much more to this than meets the eye.

Road Rat Rod    on 19 February 2021

The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) normally provides about 1.8 million driving tests a year, because of Covid very few tests have been carried out in the last 11 months. The pass rate is 47%, meaning that about 800,000 new drivers are not on the road.

Extending the learning period to 12 months is immaterial as the waiting time for a driving test will easily exceed that time anyway.

When driving tests start again, as they must, not all examiners will return to work as there will still be a risk of infection. DVSA have indicated that the agency will reduce the waiting time for a test by re-employing retired examiners, working weekends and longer hours. Unfortunately these measures will only make a slight dent if anything, in the waiting time for a test.

There is also the knock-on effect for people who need a test for a large van or a heavy goods vehicle, which they have been unable to get durig the lockdown period, for which there will be a similar test waiting time. There is a national shortage of HGV drivers, in the region of 59,000 new drvers are needed.

Overall there is a serious problem related to driver testing, DVSA need to gear up and meet the challenge head-on.

DavidEdsson    on 8 September 2021

I totally agree that today amount of practical lessons is too small to feel confident at the wheel. I think that it's also necessary to increase driving age. I've written a survey for my college using on the advantages of such decision. I think that adults are more responsible and can take full responsibility for their actions. The combination of these two things can reduce the number of accidents on the road. To my mind, driving is a subject of increased danger, and not everyone should have the right to get a licence for it.

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