Police chief calls for ALL young drivers to be put on probation
ACPO traffic supremo calls for ‘graduated’ licences to curb motorway driving, reduce the number of passengers they can carry, and cut their insurance bills
By Valerie Elliott
Last updated at 10:56 PM on 3rd December 2011
Newly qualified drivers would be barred from motorways and forbidden from driving at night under changes being demanded by the country’s most senior traffic police officer.
Novices would also face limits on how many passengers they may carry, and would be forced to display the currently optional ‘P’ plate – which shows a driver has only recently passed the test.
The changes are part of a ‘graduated’ licence scheme proposed by Deputy Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, which would effectively place new drivers on probation and subject them to extra rules for a period, after which they would receive a full licence free of the restrictions.
Miss Davenport, who works for Northamptonshire Police, is in charge of roads policing at the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and is the first woman to be appointed to the position.
While young drivers may object to the new rules, they will welcome the cheaper insurance experts say will result from the measures. The move would bring Britain into line with other countries and could save hundreds of lives.
Miss Davenport, 48, who took up the ACPO post six weeks ago, says she experienced ‘the ruin and havoc’ road accidents cause while working as a traffic officer.
Every day, an average of two people die and 16 others are injured in road crashes involving drivers under 25. One in four people killed or seriously maimed in crashes is a young driver or is a passenger driven by one.
Miss Davenport told the Mail on Sunday: ‘At the moment, people learn to drive mainly in calm residential streets when it’s light. They don’t have much experience of driving on busy A-roads or in the dark.
‘Yet as soon as they get a licence they can drive on motorways at speed and carry as many passengers as they like. The vast majority are responsible but some – especially young people – take risks and drive too quickly. I am enthusiastic about graduated licences and I would like to put some constraints on new drivers.’
She is also calling for all drivers to be banned from drinking any alcohol at all and for drivers caught using mobiles, laptops or other electronic devices to be prosecuted.
Miss Davenport has promised to raise the subject of graduated licences with Ministers at the Department for Transport next month.
‘The scheme needs further work on exactly how it would operate, but my view to Ministers is that this needs exploring,’ she said.
But if the graduated licence is to be adopted, she will have to persuade Roads Minister Mike Penning to change his mind. The Tory MP has claimed restrictions for new drivers unfairly penalise those who rely on driving to get to work or college.
Graduated licences already exist in Australia, New Zealand and parts of the US. Cardiff University researchers estimate a graduated driving licence for 17 to 19-year-olds in Britain could cut road deaths by 200 a year and serious injuries by 1,700.
The high number of accidents that involve newly qualified drivers has pushed up insurance costs for those aged 17 to 24. Premiums are up to £6,000 a year, often more than the value of a vehicle. The high cost can tempt the young to drive uninsured.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau estimates there are 400,000 drivers aged under 30 on Britain’s roads.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) believes the graduated licence could result in cheaper premiums. A spokesman said: ‘If young drivers had controls on their behaviour after the test, we believe that safety would improve, accidents come down, and premiums follow.’
At present, when someone passes their driving test they can choose to display a ‘P’ (Probationer) sign on their car to alert other motorists to the fact they are an inexperienced driver, but there is no compulsion.
Miss Davenport wants serious consideration given to a mandatory ‘P’ scheme. She also believes that new drivers should take extra lessons in motorway driving.
She notched up six penalty points ten years ago when she was twice caught by speed cameras exceeding the 30 mph limit.
Miss Davenport is a keen cyclist, and frequently pulls over drivers who fail to give consideration to cyclists. But she also has a reputation for stopping cyclists who are not wearing helmets, have poor lights or are dressed inappropriately.