Young people in the UK should be banned from driving at night or having any alcohol in their system, according to the Association of British Drivers (ABI), and I am inclined to agree as I look back with slight horror at my early years behind the wheel.
Time for a change in the law?
According to research, one in three people who die on the UK’s roads are under the age of 25 and an 18-year-old is more than three times as likely as a 48-year-old to be involved in a crash.
With this in mind, the ABI is proposing a night time ban from 11pm to 4am with drivers made to learn for a year, but starting to learn earlier from the age of 16-and-a-half.
This follows similar and successful restrictions in Australia, New Zealand and the US. In Northern Ireland there are already similar plans underway and by April 2014 young drivers will face some of these restrictions, including having to learn for one year and limiting passengers in the first six months after passing your test.
The need for more ‘rigorous training’
It’s always surprised me how little experience you need to have before you are let loose on the road. You could feel a bit sorry for young people who, like me, grew up in the countryside and need a car to get around in the evenings; I was never a big drinker and was often the designated driver among my friends on a night out.
But more importantly, if bringing in this night time ban saves lives – surely it’s a sacrifice more than worth making. Now I am a parent I am hoping, please God, let the rules change before our daughter turns 17!
I can now see exactly why my father took me to a disused airfield for months before he let me on the road and why my mother would giggle with nerves as I drove (mild hysteria/panic) before finally deciding she just couldn’t do it anymore and handing me back to my dad for extra lessons.
I was aware at the age of 17 that you were allowed one drink when you drove, but I also remember that understanding units wasn’t always easy when comparing spirits to beer or wine.
These new reforms would mean that young people would be banned from having any alcohol in their system and I believe would help with the peer pressure of ‘just having the one’.
Memories of my early driving days
I remember it clearly; at the age of 17 years old there I was driving around in my first little car after finally passing my test on the third attempt. I had my ‘drive with Jules’ tape cassette ready with a mix-tape of songs recorded off the radio.
I owned the ‘sports cars’ of the Fiat Panda (Fiat Panda 1000 Sport) and drove it around like it was a souped-up BMW with my sunroof down and my ‘Jungle is Massiiiive’ music blaring, trying to overtake lorries at speed, but going nowhere.
I wore a hat, gloves and scarf when the heating conked out for an entire winter (with my left foot holding the stereo in place… ). It cost my dad £500 to buy and £1,500 to make roadworthy. It also cost £25 to get someone to take it to the car cemetery around five years later.
Learning to drive on the motorway
There was, and is still is, no requirement for young people to learn to drive in the dark, or on a motorway, before getting a driver’s licence. You can of course go out at night time while you’re learning, but for many young people who are in a rush to pass (one of the restrictions would also be a ban on intensive driving courses), or don’t have family to take them out, you don’t actually ‘have’ to do this.
Before you know it, your good deed of driving one of your mates home takes you onto the unknown territory of a motorway. You then face the scary prospect of trying to judge the speed of cars going past you just in order to get yourself off the slip road.
It may also be dark, and for even the most experienced of us, as I now reach my 15th year since I passed my test, it’s still easy to get disorientated when driving down dark roads and having the full blare of a car coming past you or overtaking.
Restricting the number of young passengers
Many young people go from learning in a nice quiet new car with an instructor who has their own set of brakes, to being on your own in a little banger with a clunky clutch, a group of friends all squawking and squealing in the back of the car with the window open and wind blowing cigarette smoke (or worse) around the car.
So when I learn that the insurer is also asking for restrictions on passengers for six months after people pass their test, I think, yes this is a good idea. You may have passed your test but in reality, and with no patronising intended, the real learning comes when you’re out on your own.
What are your thoughts on the proposed restrictions?