Making it Harder to Get a Licence Won't Stop Young Driver Carnage
Sensible Motoring Laws and Post Test Training the Way Forwards
The Government is considering a variety of measures to make the driving test more difficult in order to counter a worsening trend in deaths of younger drivers.
The ABD, in common with some other road safety groups, believes these proposals miss the point. The central problem is that novices are led to believe they are fully qualified drivers the instant they tear up the L
plates, but at the same time they regard the style of driving needed to pass the test as irrelevant to the real world.
"This breeds a dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance", said ABD Policy Director Mark McArthur-Christie. "Passing the test is all that matters, encouraging new drivers to think they know everything. But, at the same time, they hold what they have been taught in contempt, believing that one learns to drive "properly" only after passing the test. This makes it doubly hard to predict how someone who has always been supervised will react once they are alone in the car. Making the test harder won't help this — in fact it is likely to build tension and result in an even greater rush of blood to the head once it is passed."
The way to break the cycle is to make a higher level of training and testing compulsory within a few months of passing the basic test. This sends a clear message to new drivers that they haven't yet reached the required standard to be safe on the roads, but allows them to gain the "solo" experience they need to be capable of taking more advanced skills on board.
"An hour of training once the driver has real experience of handling the roads alone is worth ten hours of lessons as a learner driver," continues McArthur-Christie. "But badly scoped motoring laws, which focus on external control at the expense of developing mental skills and safe attitudes, undermine even these benefits, and need to be changed before training and testing can have a positive effect."
When learner drivers see speed limits and other laws that are universally ignored by qualified drivers, but which they have to rigidly comply with in order to pass their test, they develop contempt for regulations and for official road safety pronouncements. Worse, they fail to pick up essential skills such as the ability to moderate their speed correctly according to the road conditions. They simply aren't allowed to learn to drive safely.
"If we are serious about road safety, we must have speed limits and other motoring laws that are respected by the majority of safe drivers," concludes McArthur-Christie. "Only then can we teach people essential driving skills on the scale required to make a difference."