Graduated driver licensing

Posted on November 26th, 2012 by James Luckhurst

Graduated driver licensingAMONG THE various schemes and ideas to reduce young driver crashes, the idea of graduated driver licensing (GDL) appears to be finding favour. There have even been rumours of government ministers now expressing interest in its potential to reduce deaths and injuries.

Dr Sarah Jones, from Cardiff University, has been leading the academic world in putting forward the benefits of GDL. “I’ve been doing some research in recent years, particularly into young driver crashes, and how we go about preventing them,” she said. “GDL works in other countries and I think we should have GDL in the UK because it could be the thing that reduces young driver crashes – and with them, so much carnage on the roads.”

The Graduated Licensing Scheme, as its name implies, puts certain restrictions on newly-qualified drivers. “The intermediate period is the key part of the GDL scheme,” says Sarah Jones. “You have come out of the learner phase and learnt the basic skills, but then the key thing is to build up experience. GDL lets you build up this experience under conditions of reduced risk. We know that the high-risk conditions are driving late at night, driving with passengers of a similar age in the car, and also driving having consumed any alcohol. So what the intermediate period does is to give you permission to drive on your own but not in any of those high-risk circumstances.

A GDL can last anywhere between six months and two years. In Florida or the Australian state of New South Wales you can be 19.5 before being released from that intermediate period.

So if it has so much promise, why aren’t we doing it in the UK? Sarah Jones says she doesn’t know but is optimistic. “So far the government has said it’s not convinced by the evidence but I can’t work out what part of the evidence that they’re not convinced by. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews gathered all the evidence from all over the world, and shows that GDL has reduced crashes by up to 60%, with no negative effects.  Yet the government seems to favour an incentive-based approach for which there is no evidence,” she says.