While we’ve covered the issue of graduated driving licences (GDL) before, this is the first time that the Department of Transport has officially confirmed that it is considering adopting such a system – and is rolling out a pilot in Northern Ireland to see what works and what doesn’t.

For instance, according to the new information, anyone under the age of 24 will not be able to have more than one passenger aged 14-20 in their car between the hours of 11pm and 6am. This restriction will apply during the first two years of having a licence.

The reason? Research shows young drivers are more likely to crash because they are trying to impress their passengers or are distracted by them.

Six-month learning period
Young drivers can also expect a six-month mandatory minimum learning period once they’ve taken their test before they can get their hands on a full licence. What precisely this training will entail is vague at the moment but we will keep you updated on any new information when it becomes available.

Probationary plates (P plates) will also need to be displayed for two years after getting a full licence; at the moment, displaying the plates is voluntary.

It all adds up to the potential introduction of some tough restrictions – and they could all be coming to the UK sooner than you might think if the pilot is successful in Northern Ireland. The graduated driving licence system is expected to be rolled out there in 2019/2020 with any findings from its implementation fed back into the plans for a potential UK-wide rollout.

The P-Plate – coming to all new drivers’ cars soon?

Change will save lives
Experts say that such a tough new set of restrictions will help bring down the number of deaths caused by young drivers on the road.

For instance, according to official figures, motorists aged 16-19 are more likely to be killed in an accident than drivers aged 40-49. Plus one in four aged 18-24 have a crash within the first two years of getting their licence, according to the AA.

The campaign to introduce the GDL has been spearheaded by David Stewart, a Scottish MP, who has been calling for the licence scheme for the past eight years since two 17-year-olds were tragically killed in a car crash in Inverness.

After the unfortunate and tragic deaths of two teenagers, I started a campaign to improve road safety, which I proposed was carried out through a form of graduated licence… This [announcement] is excellent news and just rewards for all the hard efforts of my team. More satisfying is the knowledge that many grieving parents who have worked on this issue with us will now see that their efforts were not in vain.”

– David Stewart, Member of the Scottish Parliament.

Firm but Fair?
While you may feel this all sounds harsh, there are others calling for far tougher restrictions. For instance, Brake, the road safety charity wants novice drivers to:

… not be able to drive between 11pm and 6am, unless supervised or travelling directly from home to work or school

… stick to a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml blood

… not be able to drive on motorways and also be restricted on the size of engine they can drive.

Whether learners or new drivers like it or not, it’s now clear that it’s no longer a case of if a GDL will be introduced in the UK – but more likely, when. And we can’t help but feel that if the system brings down the number of deaths on our roads in the future, then it can only be a good thing in the long term.