Scottish Government demand restrictions on new drivers to cut crash risk

Scottish ministers have called for the power to pioneer restrictions on newly-qualified drivers after the UK Government signalled it may drop its long-standing opposition to such limits.
Research will be launched into whether restrictions could cut the risk of new drivers crashing. Picture: ShutterstockResearch will be launched into whether restrictions could cut the risk of new drivers crashing. Picture: Shutterstock
Research will be launched into whether restrictions could cut the risk of new drivers crashing. Picture: Shutterstock

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced research into a minimum learning period and banning younger passengers. However, a possible night-time curfew was met with alarm by motoring groups and experts.

The move forms part of a new road safety action plan to be published today, which also includes penalty points for anyone failing to wear a seatbelt, on top of the current £100 fine.

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The Scotsman understands a proposal for mandatory eyesight tests for drivers over 70 was in a draft of the plan, but the DfT refused to say whether it would be in the final version.

Calls for the measure, which was recommended by an expert group two years ago, were renewed after the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh crashed into another car in January.

Other aspects of the strategy include research into the road safety risks of young pedestrians on their mobile phones, and the potential for breath-operated “alcolocks” fitted to vehicles to stop drink drivers from reoffending.

The Scottish Government said it would “continue to push for action to be taken” to introduce restrictions on new drivers, or graduated driver licensing (GDL), which operates in parts of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Sweden.

A planned pilot in Northern Ireland has been shelved because of the collapse of the devolved government.

A Scottish Government spokesman said it had made “numerous representations over a number of years to the UK Government to take action or to consider devolving power to Holyrood to enable measures to be taken forward north of the border.

“If we were granted powers from the UK Government, we would be required to develop what a GDL scheme in Scotland would look like, including undertaking a public consultation.”

The DfT said limits had been previously rejected because of concerns they could restrict education and jobs.

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It said: “Conducting further research means the DfT can build an evidence base to fully understand how graduated driving might work.”

The DfT said one in five drivers crash within their first year on the road, with young males at highest risk.

Motoring technology firm Lightfoot said a curfew was “not a workable or fair solution” as new drivers needed to gain experience of all conditions.

IAM RoadSmart policy director Neil Greig said: “A good minimum learning period will include a log book showing you have driven at night, in the wet, on rural roads and on dual carriageways.”

“This will build experience of night time driving anyway without the need for a curfew that requires enforcement and could create all sorts of confusion around day/night.”

The Scottish Government said curfew exemptions applied in other countries for those needing to drive to work.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP and veteran GDL campaigner David Stewart said: “After ten years, we seem to be finally getting there.”