Head of Market Affairs
Young drivers: moving in the right direction but there’s a long road ahead
Last week, the Government published its much-anticipated Road Safety Statement 2019: a lifetime of road safety, identifying 74 work streams across four priority areas over the next two years.
Keoghs has been campaigning for many years on the need for the Government to take action to improve young driver safety, so we warmly welcome the Statement as an important step in the right direction.
There’s a lot to be positive about in the Statement.
- Young drivers are a priority - young drivers have been identified as one of four priority road user groups on which to focus over the next two years, which is a testament to the hard work of road safety charities and the insurance industry over the past decade or more.
- Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) works - the Government acknowledges that GDL has “proved very effective at improving the safety of young drivers”. Its ‘Driver 2020’ research, which began in January this year, considers which interventions will have the most impact. Thus the debate has shifted from whether GDL works to how it can work in the UK.
So far, so good. However, we do need to sound a note of caution.
- Strong on ideas, weak on commitments - although the Statement floats a number of very welcome concepts on young driver safety, it promises only to ‘review’, ‘refresh’, and ‘explore’ - there are very few firm commitments to implementing real change.
- Economics versus safety - the Statement warns that GDL schemes “have the potential to restrict young people’s access to education and employment”. The Government will therefore commission research to understand the social and economic impact of different GDL measures. Though the economic argument is an important one, there is a balance to be struck with safety and we need to make sure that the scales don’t tip too far in the wrong direction.
- There are no quick wins - the Government has been clear that the work streams set out in the Statement are the “building blocks” of the next Statement – in other words, it’s going to be at least two years (the timeframe over which the work streams will be carried out) until any decisions are made, and even longer until any substantial changes can be implemented.
The Statement shows that the Government is seriously considering GDL, but that doesn’t mean that our work here is done. Over the next 24 months, we will:
- Push for prioritisation of young driver work streams – the appointing of a new Prime Minister will inevitably lead to a ministerial reshuffle, so until the DfT’s new team is known, officials are reluctant to set out timescales for the work streams contained within the Statement. Keoghs’ market affairs team are due to meet DfT officials over the summer, and will push for young drivers to be prioritised.
- Continue to engage MPs – we’ve engaged positively with a number of MPs on young driver safety, including Jenny Chapman, Trudy Harrison and Craig Tracey; we’ll continue to liaise with them going forward to make sure that the Government does what it has pledged to.
- Analyse the Transport Committee’s road safety inquiry – the inquiry is expected to report imminently; we’ll scrutinise its recommendations to understand how it can help our case for GDL.
Overall, the Statement is to be welcomed, but any substantive changes are still a long way off. While it’s essential that GDL is introduced properly rather than rushed, we must not lose sight of the fact that for every day that it’s delayed, another ten people are killed or seriously injured in a crash involving a young driver.