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Testing the patience of drivers

The UK driving test isn’t fit for purpose, but any changes are likely to be years away.
Two years ago, a bill amending the Road Traffic Act had its first hearing. The idea was to bring in Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL), something that’s badly needed if the latest research is anything to go by. Campaign group RoadSafe says 89 per cent of young drivers pass their test with less than the recommended 40 hours of tuition time. And one in five then has an accident within six months of getting a full licence. Without wishing to be patronising, it’s not the new drivers’ fault; it’s the fault of a system that teaches people to pass a test that has failed to keep pace with road conditions. Graduated Driver Licensing could be the answer, making the driving test more than a target you hit as quickly as possible. In its GDL proposal, the Department for Transport suggested drivers hold a provisional licence for at least 12 months before they qualify. And in order to get a full licence they should have 100 hours of supervised daytime training and 20 hours at night. Assuming they then pass their test, drivers would have a 12-month probationary period. During this, there would be a night-time curfew and restrictions on the age and number of passengers they can carry. The RAC found that two thirds of UK adults and 41 per cent of young drivers supported this.Bearing all this in mind, what’s happened to GDL? To employ a horrible political cliché, it’s been kicked into the long grass. Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists told me: “Nothing happened under the coalition. Then the first thing the road safety lobby said to the new government was we need to do something about young driver training. I was involved in a roundtable discussion with new road safety minister Andrew Jones and he gave the impression that we need a new plan for road safety.”

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