/ Motoring, Parenting

Don’t drive youngsters off the roads

Young drivers looking depressed

As if young people aren’t charged enough for car insurance, insurers are now calling for some far-fetched restrictions on when and how they can drive. Why don’t they just focus on improving driving standards?

It seems to me that insurance companies are trying to shirk out of their responsibility for the risks they would have us believe they offer cover for.

Not content with demanding extortionate amounts of money from the under-25s, they’re now calling for even more restrictions to be imposed on them.

Too many restrictions for young drivers

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has called on the government to impose a number of restrictions on young drivers, including: a ban on driving between 11pm and 4am; a zero-alcohol limit; and a 12-month learning period during which they won’t be allowed to take a driving test.

In a rare ‘sensible’ move, the government announced last week that it would not impose any such restrictions on young drivers. My 22-year-old niece has struggled to find an insurer to cover her and enough money to pay for premiums, so I’m relieved the government has decided not to make things even tougher for her.

While I commend the notion of a zero-alcohol limit for all drivers, it would unfairly penalise young people if they weren’t allowed to drive themselves home after 11pm. In my early 20s I worked in a local pub, and would have been concerned about my own safety if I hadn’t been able to drive myself home after work. It is these, and many other jobs involving unsociable hours that are taken by under-25s.

Similarly, why should anyone who is adept enough to pass their test in less than 12 months be forced to carry on as a learner for longer?

Stop penalising and start improving standards

Instead of coming up with a list of restrictions, why doesn’t the insurance industry step up to the challenge of helping improve driving standards? Insurers could provide sizeable discounts for those who take advanced driving courses, for example. At present they really only pay lip-service to this, so it’s not financially worthwhile for drivers to bother getting extra training.

And if they really believe their suggested restrictions would save lives, why not offer reductions to all drivers who voluntarily agree to abide by them?

There are many ways that insurers could act as more a positive influence on young drivers than simply penalising them for being young. If they don’t, we’ll end up with a situation where no one drives until their mid-20s, at which point they’ll still lack the experience to drive safely.


I think you need to re-edit that first paragraph Claire.

Hi Phil, thanks for pointing that out. Entirely a mistake in the editing, not on Claire’s part! All fixed now 🙂

The price of insurance should, of course, be related to risk and everyone knows that on average young people are more likely to have accidents. Why don’t insurers take on young people at affordable premiums and increase these if they have to pay out? Information is shared between insurance companies, meaning it should not be possible for those who do have accidents to avoid an increase in premium by switching companies.

Those young people who drive safely should not be expected to pay for those who have accidents. Treat them as individuals and not as statistical averages.

I’m glad I learned to drive when insurance premiums for young people were very reasonable.

Mr Iain says:
2 December 2011

This is something I have long considered would be fair and, at the same time an incentive. Give young drivers the opportunity to prove their worth at a reasonable premium, but hit them hard at renewal if they show themselves to be high risk during their first insurance. We really should positively encourage our younger drivers with measures that promote responsibility and skill development behind the wheel. At the same time, we should introduce measures that require ALL drivers to update their driving skills periodically – or perhaps incentivise them to do so by increasing insurance premiums for those who don’t (who would, in theory be higher risk).

I’ll put my hand up and say I’m a young driver. Whilst I agree that something needs to be done to keep accidents amongst young drivers low, I do not think imposing restrictions is the best thing to do.

I often drive at times where this says I would be restricted, and if I’m honest I actually find it much easier to drive at these times and certainly less stressful.

Perhaps a better solution would be to still implement restrictions but instead offer the ability for a young driver to remove them by completing an advanced driving course (which should be subsidised may I add!). This would also help to boost confidence amongst young drivers and teach them better driving skills.

I absolutely commend any suggestion to introduce a 0 alcohol level too, and I don’t think this would be too much of an ask – if you’re going to drink, even the smallest amount, then prearrange transport home.

I do not agree with a 0% alcohal ban it would just drive even more small pubs out of business. A small quantity is fine and that is what the majority sticks to. Those that do not stick to it would not stick to it with 0% either but in the mean time another host of small pubs will have disappeared.

Mr Iain says:
2 December 2011

A zero alcohol limit, with zero tolerance is well overdue. I, for one, could not live with myself if (heaven forbid) I caused suffering following an accident, and even the presence of a small amount of alcohol would make me wonder – probably for the rest of my life – “what if I hadn’t….?”
Such a system is in place, and is rigorously enforced in a number of countries, including Japan (where I lived, and drove) for a while. Cause death with ANY alcohol in your blood = 15 years mandatory.
Fully appreciate the impact on pubs etc, but then, there are taxis or other means of getting home. Perhaps the “local” should mean just that – a local pub…….

@ekc – Sorry, no quantity of alcohol or any other substance is “fine”. The limit is there because that is the maximum that will be tolerated under the law and because, short of outright prohibition, most casual drinkers will have some amount of residual alcohol in their body, even after several hours.

Do you honestly believe that the additional deaths and injury caused by impared driving under the influence of even the tiniest quantity of drink or drugs is justified, just so we can keep the purveyors of this misery in business?

I detect a vested interest.

I’m not sure why you are painting the insurance companies as the villains and HM Government as the hero of this piece. It’s government shirking its responsibilities that has led to this situation.

i) Government, through its legislation, requires compulsory insurance cover for a number of activities, including driving a car – and quite right too.

ii) But most of these activities also have some economic or social benefit. For instance, requiring a car to be able to get to a place of work, employing staff for your business, or trading with members of the public to earn a living.

All citizens should be able to go about their business legally and without hindrance or impairment. If, in their wisdom, HM Government have decided that 17 is the minimum age for driving a motor vehicle, but with the caveat that the driver must have insurance, then it is the government’s duty to see to it that the minimum level of compulsory insurance cover is available in the marketplace at a fair and equitable price.

Insurance companies are in business to maximize profits, not act as some benevolent organisation to facilitate government legislation, and left to their own devices they will behave like any other capitalist enterprise. So it has always been up to the government to regulate the insurers and not allow them to discriminate unfairly against certain sectors of the population, by “cherry picking” the risks that they are prepared to underwrite. I seem to recall these powers were vested in the now defunct DTI, but have been passed onto the FSA who seem to have a different agenda entirely, with all its focus on mis-selling, rather than refusing to sell at all.

If private enterprise does not provide the compulsory insurance cover that every citizen needs and is entitled to, then the government must intervene further, not sit on the sidelines and watch.

Refusing to quote for motor insurance purely on the grounds of gender, age or experience should be prohibited, along with targeting certain desirable segments like female or mature drivers. Insurers through their annual returns should have to demonstrate to the regulatory body that they are underwriting a proportionate share of the market at premiums commensurate with the risk. Then this nonsense over young drivers’ insurance will eventually sort itself out.

Failing that, the government will have to operate its own insurance scheme, or abolish driving by under 21’s. There’s no other way.

I am not a young driver but feel young drivers, in particular males are being penalised too much. Whereas I agree it should be higher it should not be extortionate. I tried for my 19 year old son to be on my car and got quoted £1863.00 a year with me being the main driver! Do I have a fancy car?? No just a vauxhall astra but a 1.8 which was their excuse for quoting in the extreme. What can I say.

Brian says:
2 December 2011

How would all these new rules be enforced we are looseing most of the traffic police plus not all young drivers are hell drivers so it should be up to the examiner who could asses the driver

Brian says:
2 December 2011

with ref to the above from me ,I am a retired rapid responce driver but now I have gone over the age of 70 my insurance has gone up by double so it looks like it is the young and old that are now the main targets for the insurance companies profits

What we really need is a serious commitment to high quality driver training combined with a few simple restrictions on new drivers.
1. Start with basic car handling skills in a national network of “closed road” training centres from age 16.
2. Add simulator training for dark, wet and bad weather conditions.
3. Teach basic mechanics, e.g. how to change a tyre.
4. Next comes the theory test.
5. Now we can start on-road training leading to a “novice” driver test and a first, restricted, licence.
6. Restrictions include no motorway driving and no passengers unless accompanied by an experienced driver (min age 25). Must display an “N” (novice) plate.
7. Mandatory further training, including motorways and night driving, with specially qualified instructors who also assess skill development and competence before signing-off a full licence after a minimum of 6 months.
This could cost over £1,000 but it would save lives and reduce young driver insurance premiums.
Has this government got the courage to do it?
Sorry, but I doubt it!

Mr Iain says:
3 December 2011

I agree with the principle of what you’re saying, though not necessarily the detail. Of greater importance is that driver training must not stop after obtaining a full license – many bad/inconsiderate drivers are those with plenty of experience and an attitude that they have learnt all there is to learn from experience. There are many excellent schemes, such as IAM and others, that teach you how to think about what you’re doing and how you’re interacting with other road users, and these really do create better drivers. Making these a periodic requirement for ALL drivers would save lives, cut insurance costs, and has an added benefit of job creation.