Learner drivers dip – but still focus of safety campaigns

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Motoring costs and the price of insurance for novices have been blamed for the dip in learner driver numbers revealed earlier this year.

In recent years, the percentage of those aged 17 to 20 who hold a provisional licence has fallen to 36%, from 43%. Among young women, the fall is most marked. Some have even speculated that younger drivers may be taking public transport more because they can stay online throughout their journey, though this isn’t backed up by firm statistics.

It’s true that insurance can be more expensive for new motorists – young driver Rhys Barker, who’s from Manchester, bought a Vauxhall that was a decade old last year, and was quoted a staggering £1.2m to insure the vehicle – payable with monthly sums of £104,000! (The vehicle itself cost less than £1,500.) It seems that now, the website in question would decline the quote instead of giving such unaffordable high prices.

But, fewer new drivers or not, they are still the focus of safety campaigns. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has called for safeguarding young drivers to be a priority ahead of the General Election, particularly in terms of rural roads, which the body says should be part of the driving test.

As the driving test celebrates 80 years of existence, it has a long history. The first person who passed it was one Mr J Beene, who paid the equivalent of less than 40 pence for the privilege. Since its creation in 1934, motoring has of course changed significantly, as has the test itself, with one of the biggest changes being the introduction in 1996 of the written theory test.

Yet young drivers remain the group most at risk of accidents on the road. Currently, there are nearly 4,500 annual casualties of drivers aged 17-19 on Britain’s roads.

There are various schemes to reduce this, such as the Driving Skills for Life course from Ford. Equally, the IAM is calling for a graduated driving licensing scheme, by which the granting of a full permit is delayed until a particular number of hours behind the wheel have been logged. A similar system is already in place in Sweden and Australia.

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