/ Motoring, Parenting

Should young drivers spend a year learning?

How long should new drivers spend behind the wheel before taking their driving test? The Association of British Insurers thinks it should be a minimum of 12 months.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) also wants to see a ban on learners taking intensive driving courses as the sole means of learning to drive. And it’s recommending lowering the age at which young people can start learning to drive to 16 and a half.

‘Graduated’ driver licensing is another suggestion, which is used in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This would mean limiting the number of passengers that a young driver can carry in the first six months after passing their driving test. The reason? There’s a significantly increased crash risk when young passengers are carried in the car.

The ABI’s radical proposals don’t stop there. It also wants restrictions on night-time driving for the first six months after passing the test. New drivers would be banned from driving between 11pm at night and 4am, unless they are driving to work or education.

Also in the first six months, the ABI would like to see an effective complete alcohol ban, with a near-zero limit (which would still allow you to use mouthwash, for example).

Cheaper car insurance?

The ABI thinks these measures will reduce the high crash risk that young drivers face. In the UK, it says that one in three deaths on our roads is a person aged under 25. An 18 year old driver is apparently more than three times as likely to be involved in a crash than a driver 30 years older. It’s this that’s contributing to the car insurance costs that are spiralling out of control for young drivers

Any measures that increase safety are obviously something we should welcome, and I’ve always thought that there’s no substitute for experience in improving driver skill and awareness.

Whether the 12-month learning period will do this is another question. Surely it would be better to make learners spend a minimum number of hours behind the wheel with an official instructor, as happens in many other countries?

Of course, something really has to be done to lower insurance premiums for younger drivers. As it is, we risk losing a whole generation of younger drivers who are currently priced out by sky-high insurance costs. If these measures really can cut insurance bills, then it’s definitely something I’d welcome.

So do you think it makes sense to insist that new drivers spend 12 months learning to drive? And what about the idea of lowering the age drivers can learn to 16 and a half?


Insurance costs reflect the risk, so anything that reduces the risk of new drivers having an accident is good. So I cannot see how reducing the age to 161/2 would be other than counter-productive. More comprehensive training will help – pass plus helped my children and reduced their premiums. Monitoring boxes seem effective in checking driving habits and times, and reduce premiums for better driving. All this is fine for responsible drivers but a real problem is those others who simply do not get insured and will by-pass any system until caught. How do you penalise them – fines are less than their premium, scrapping their car leaves them free to get another, driving ban gets ignored. Would they respond if forced to pay for, and take, a driver-training course in addition to the penalty imposed? Who could provide it?


Have to add – The nearest I’ve ever come close to causing an accident was as a teenage when driving three friends who were encouraging me to go faster. As I turned a corner at speed – the car tipped onto two wheels. I didn’t roll over but nearly did -since then – some 65 years – I’ve driven safely.

The biggest problem is not “young drivers” as such – but irresponsible drivers. Especially uninsured irresponsible drivers. There should be a better way of ensuring uninsured drivers do not drive on the road again. An electronic tag that detects them on the road? Or imprisonment on first offence that includes regular enforced trips to road crashes where they have to clear up the mess including body parts. Such experiences have a very sobering effect on offenders.

Kathy says:
6 October 2012

It’s a good idea, after all I’ve learnt so much more since passing my test it scares me for my daughters sake because yes irresponsible drivers are a danger but so are inexperienced ones. It takes experience and patience to become a good driver and those intensive courses are really only teaching you to pass the test, not to be a long term responsible driver.


I am not sure that it is age that matters but the ability to act responsibly. Some will have this when they are 16 but it is fairly obvious that some who have passed the existing test have not developed sufficient responsibility. I do think the driving test should cover rather more than it does at present.

I do not understand why ABI wants restrictions on night-time driving for newly qualified drivers.


The problem with all these ideas to increase learning and cost for young drivers is that you’re doing it at the expense of the sensible, well driving, youngster.

What happens to the 17 year old driver who’s a natural? Do they have to keep paying twenty something pound a lesson for an entire year when they don’t need to learn any more?

In my experience, the real learning starts when you don’t have the safety net of an instructor with their own pedals. Responsible drivers learn that quickly, others do not.

Perhaps we could have a harder driving test put into place, for ALL drivers, where they must retake a subsidised test every 5 years?


Why should a driver who has never had an accident in his life – nor ever committed a traffic offence in his life – driving daily in London for over 60 years have to take a test every 5 years??

Surely it makes far far more sense to make every single driver of any age who has an accident or commits a traffic offence to take the driving test again?

Richard's mobile says:
13 October 2012

It doesn’t need to take a year before a young person can drive on their own but we do need a more structured training programme. Start with learning about the car and its controls in a “closed circuit” training centre at 16 1/2. How to change a tyre. Why tyre tread is important. Checking oil and water levels. What it feels like to stop dead from 10mph (in a full safety harness and neck brace of course!). Then a certain number of hours with a qualified instructor plus, if possible, supervised experience development. The stage one test would come at six months (aged 17) allowing limited unsupervised driving, e.g. no motorways, not between 10pm and 6am unless for work or education, only one passenger. Six months with further training including night driving, motorway driving and more closed circuit experience, e.g. skip pans. Then the final “full” test.


“Should young drivers spend a year learning?”
Some do and even when they eventually pass their test they’re still not very good at it.
But generally speaking I would agree there is no subsitute for experience. That’s why older drivers proportionally have fewer accidents and pay lower insurance premiums.
Perhaps “accelerated” supervised experience for young drivers might not be such a bad thing. I don’t really know if it would improve matters but I doubt it would make matters worse.
Perhaps a trial scheme?