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The lowdown on graduated driving licences

Graduated driving licensing (GDL) is a scheme that sees new drivers developing their skills and experience over time, in structured stages. If you've never heard of the system before, it's because it isn't currently place in the UK – but that could all be changing soon.


DfT proposes UK GDL scheme

In late April, it was revealed the Department for Transport (DfT) would be looking into introducing GDL in the UK, which would mean new drivers face some restrictions before and after passing their test.

Included in the DfT's proposals is:

  • A limit on how many passengers a new driver could carry
  • The requirement to display 'P' plates for two years
  • Learners having to undergo at least six months of driving training before sitting their practical test.

As the BBC reported, Northern Ireland wants to introduce GDL, although any changes need to receive sign off by the NI Assembly. The scheme, if approved, would act as a pilot to decide whether or it should be rolled out to the rest of the UK.

Is there proof graduated driving licences work?

GDL has been successfully implemented in countries around the world, including Australia and New Zealand, and recent statistics are testament to the positive impact the scheme has had in improving road safety.

In fact, road safety charity Brake is a pioneer of the scheme, explaining it's a 'vital, life-saving policy because young drivers in all countries are known to be at very high risk of serious and fatal crashes, and GDL helps to address this.'

Here are some of the figures cited by Brake:

  • In New Zealand, car crash injuries have dropped by 23% for 15-19 year-old drivers and 12% for 20-24-year-olds since the introduction of GDL
  • In the US, 16-year-olds under the GDL scheme have 37% fewer car accidents each year, and 17% fewer crashes per mile driven
  • It's predicted more than 500 lives could be saved every year in the US if every state enforced the toughest GDL scheme.

In Britain, it's thought GDL could prevent over 400 deaths and serious injuries each year, and save £200m annually through crash prevention.

Brake has set out its own suggested requirements for a UK-based GDL scheme, which it believes will limit young driver casualties. Just some of its many proposals include:

  • A minimum learning period of 12 months before drivers can sit their driving, theory and hazard awareness tests
  • Accompanying drivers to be registered as 'approved accompanying drivers' by completing a questionnaire to prove their suitability
  • Qualified drivers holding a novice licence for two years after passing their test
  • Restrictions on engine sizes for novice drivers
  • A further 10 hours of professional tuition, which would see drivers using motorways and driving at night.

What do drivers think?

Research from the RAC Foundation uncovered two-thirds (68%) of adults in Britain support the introduction of GDL for new drivers.

Perhaps surprisingly, the drivers facing the stricter rules brought about by GDL also support the initiative. A total 41% think it's a good idea, compared to 32% who oppose it.

New drivers might not have the freedom their predecessors enjoyed, but if it gives them a chance to fine-tune their driving skills and experience, at the same time as reducing accidents and deaths on the UK's roads, the introduction of GDL can only be a good thing.