Young Drivers may Learn to Drive as part of the School Curriculum

It was recently announced that moves are being made to include driving on the school curriculum, which has been supported by several motoring organisations. The petition was launched in an effort to help reduce the high number of accidents involving newly-qualified drivers on the UK’s roads.

Launched by Young Driver, the UK’s largest provider of pre-17 driving lessons, the petition already has backing from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the RAC, the Driving Instructors Association, the Association of British Insurers, the Motor Schools Association of Great Britain, Admiral, Goodyear and TV presenter Quentin Willson.

 

The Concerning Statistics for Young Driver Accidents

Statistics show that a large proportion of new drivers are involved in an accident within 6 months of passing their test and road traffic accidents account for 25% of deaths in 15-19 year olds in the UK. This is compared to just 0.5 % of the adult population.

The petition does not propose lowering the age at which people can take to the roads, but instead suggests youngsters should start to be taught about driving at school, via both practical and classroom-based lessons.

Independent research undertaken on behalf of Young Driver showed past pupils of the scheme, which takes students from age 11, are half as likely to have an accident when they do pass their test. Pilot studies in Europe have also shown a 40 per cent reduction among novice driver groups who trained at school.

Whilst the intentions of the petition are certainly noble, whether or not the desired outcome would be achieved is highly questionable for a number of factors.

Firstly, schools themselves are under almost constant scrutiny and criticism in how they are proving education to our youth on a regular basis. There are a significant number of schools throughout the UK that struggle to meet recommended standards and some may feel that adding something such as “driving” to the curriculum may only be splitting the focus of students even more than it is already. Driving can hardly be considered a key subject in any upbringing.

My second concern would be in respect of funding. To add driving lessons to the curriculum would surely mean bringing in driving instructors to teach the millions of children nationwide. Surely this money could be better spent on improving the current education system?

In the event that the curriculum is amended, I also think there is a possibility of it being counterproductive to achieving its desired outcome of lowering accidents. There are plenty of children who already want to drive as soon as possible but there are also those that have no real desire to get behind the wheel of the car. Our roads are already saturated with traffic and I believe this initiative may only encourage more people to get onto the road at an early age. Whilst the insurance companies would be laughing all the way to the bank, it would not be as great for the rest of us. Can you imagine rush hour traffic? Congestion? Pollution?

I am half speaking from experience as my secondary school actually brought in a driving instructor to give us some driving lessons when I was in my final school year and all it did was make me want to drive even more.

 

The Implications for Motoring Offences?

We should also consider the real possibility that the number of motoring offences being committed would also considerably increase. The increase may be proportionate to the number of extra drivers but still, the numbers would be concerning to me.

The curriculum may help instil confidence in new drivers (a lack of which being something I feel is responsible for a large number of accidents) but it is also widely accepted that most drivers in the UK breaks the speed limit at some point or another regardless of experience or training. The point being, individuals will drive how they choose to once they have their licence. This has always been the case and I for one do not know a single person who drives exactly how their instructor taught them to. Bad habits will almost always creep in.

Younger drivers are also more likely to drive whilst over the prescribed limit and the younger generations are also those that are mostly likely to take recreational drugs. Do we really want to encourage this age group to get behind the wheel sooner than they might choose to otherwise?

Should this initiative come into force I suspect that all it will do is increase the number of drivers on the road and thus the number of accidents will increase proportionately. It would (in my view) not be the best use of funding when so many schools are already in desperate need of improvement in much needed areas such as basic arithmetic.

If my theory is correct (that it is a lack of confidence in new drivers that contributes to accidents) would it not be better to impose a statutory minimum number of hours of driving lessons? This would make sure that every new driver has xxx amount of hours already behind the wheel.

If driving alone is the underlying cause of no-confidence, why not modify the format of driving lessons? Personally I felt that my first trip alone after passing my test was the most intimidating part of the entire process. I was taking routes I had never taken before, at different times and in different conditions and what’s worse was that my instructor was not there should I need advice I started to do an ill-advised manoeuvre. Further, unless they take the pass-plus a new driver will never have experienced a motorway. To remedy this, why not have some driving lessons taught with the instructor following behind in a different car and liaising with the student remotely? This is how motorcycle lessons are conducted and I believe it would help the learner-driver gain more confidence being alone in the vehicle. The pass-plus aspect should also be mandatory to securing a driving licence.

 

A Motoring Lawyer Perspective

Being in the line of work that I am, I am behind anything that helps make the roads a safer place but I think there are more viable options than this initiative. I would be interested to see statistics on the percentage of new drivers involved in accidents that are under 25 compared to those that are 25+ . It may be that it is the young age/maturity of these new drivers that is partly responsible for the higher number of accidents as opposed to anything else and if that is the case, I for one certainly do not want to encourage more of them to be on the roads.

 

Parents Views on Young Drivers by @goodyear_uk

Parents Views on Young Drivers by GoodYear

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Article by: Neil Sargeant, Head of Olliers Motor Law

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