Student Rep Slams Driving Age Raise To 22

James Ward

James Ward – Student Union Welfare Rep – Photo: Angela Shine

A University Student Rep has slammed recent Government proposals for young drivers. James Ward, 22, made his comments in the wake of The Novice Drivers Report, commissioned by The Department of Transport. The Government commissioned research suggests that the UK should ‘slow down’ the driver training process, recommending following a step-by-step graduated driver licensing system, similar to the 4-year process currently used in Australia.

Mr. Ward said: “I think it’s ridiculous, it’s utterly shambolic.” adding “Young people already have the burden of high insurance prices, so spreading the cost of driving over 4 years is just so expensive, young people will not be able to benefit.”

Minimum Age of 18 to start Lessons

Students and young people will be affected the worst, as the report by the Transport Research Laboratory also suggests the age of license applications (a provisional license) to rise to age 18, effectively making it impossible for a full license to be granted under the age of 22. So, if you had been toying with the idea of taking your test, it’s about to get a lot more expensive and will take you far longer, making it an especially difficult financial burden on students.

Emma Telford - Brunel Theatre Student Photo: Angela Shine

Emma Telford – Theatre Student
Photo: Angela Shine

Loss of Independence

Emma Telford, 20, shows off her hard earned driving license, obtained at age 17. Emma, a third year Brunel BA Theatre student said “I had my first lesson a week after my 17th birthday and I passed two weeks before my 18th birthday. At that age, you really want independence and you have to rely on other people. It’s a safety thing as well, as it’s more dangerous to work late and use public transport at night. I now drive into University and work part-time as a Sales Assistant.”

The DFT said ‘The report is expected to form part of a green paper currently being written and goes on to say that ‘Based on the evidence, it is recommended that licensing in Great Britain be based on a full Graduated Driver Licensing system.’

Caring for Students Welfare

Mr. Ward himself has a particular passion for transport at Brunel University; he has recently petitioned for more scheduled services plus double decker buses in order to tackle the overcrowded U3 route serving Cleveland Road at the University. He is also in the process of championing Brunel’s own cycle hire system after The London Mayor’s office rejected his request to extend the London bike scheme to include the University areas.

The Four Year Plan

Interestingly, applications to learn to drive are dropping. 5.2% fewer 17-20 year olds have applied this year than in 2009, according to the 2013 National Travel Survey. In fact, The Mail Online reported in 2012 that ‘Academics have found that the amount of driving licenses handed out to people in their teens, 20s and 30s has decreased significantly over the past three decades in nations where internet usage is high.’ Why then, review the learning process, stretching it over 4 years until a novice driver is given the metaphoric green light?

Punam Varsani, 20, a Biomedical Sciences student at Bristol’s University of the West of England said of the scheme: “I would be really against that! Even though I don’t have a driving license yet it would make life so much more difficult. Coming from London, I have good transport links but people outside of London don’t have this. I feel I am mature enough now and to have to wait until 22 would put more restrictions and make younger people feel like they are not responsible or mature enough. But at the age of 22, they are responsible enough to live on their own, cook for themselves, pay their own bills and study for a degree.”

With young people already put off by the increasing cost of learning, car costs, fuel charges and prohibitive insurance costs, our new drivers are naturally falling away. So is the report really trying to reduce our road casualty numbers by 4,471 in the UK? Or is this simply another way to deter new motorists?

The New Drivers Act

In fact, the Government published the ‘Roads Command Paper’ in July last year, months before this report was published setting out its strong intention to reduce road congestion. In addition, the report comments that ‘The New Drivers Act’ appears to have had a beneficial effect on offending patterns in Great Britain and may have had a safety benefit through deterrence from driving.’ Now, isn’t that a happy coincidence or maybe it’s just the meeting of ideas at a convenient crossroads?

To see the proposals or to find out more on the ‘Novice Drivers’ report, commissioned by the Government please visit the Transport Research Laboratory.

To see the BBC Report on these recommendations please click here

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