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Young people have their say on the Road Traffic Bill

At its meeting last week, the Environment Committee heard the results of research into the views of young people on the Road Traffic Bill. The Committee Chair, Anna Lo, said that it was ‘very useful to hear what young people have to say’.

The proposed new legislation will change the rules governing how young people learn to drive. The Assembly’s Research and Education teams developed an online survey of young people and spoke to 2 school groups to see what young people thought about the proposals.

There were 582 responses to the online survey, which was aimed at 13 to 24 year olds and took place in November 2014. Information about the survey had been sent out to all schools and youth organisations.

The Assembly’s Research team reported that responses to the survey showed support for most of the proposals in the new Bill because they allow young people to gain more driving experience, eg on the motorway, and therefore improve road safety.  It was felt that allowing young people to learn from 16 and a half gave them more responsibility and freedom and made it easier to participate in educational and social events.

However, there was evidence of some uncertainty about the proposals around the logbook and a 2 year post-test ‘N’ plate. Views were quite split on these issues, with people wanting to know more about what these might mean in practice. How big a task would completing the logbook be?

There was also considerable opposition to two of the proposals:

  • young people would have to wait a year after getting a provisional licence before they could sit their practical test at 17 and a half; and
  • in the first 6 months following qualifications, drivers aged 24 and under would not be allowed to carry passengers aged 14-20 (except family members) without a fully qualified driver being present.

Survey results and focus group discussions showed that young people felt that these time limits were arbitrary, that a year was too long to wait to get your full licence. There was also concern about the cost of lessons, eg, how many formal lessons would be required?  Young people also thought it unfair that they couldn’t drive with their friends in the car for the first 6 months.

The Committee spent some time discussing the young people’s views and departmental officials also spoke to the Committee and answered questions which arose from the survey.

The following week the Committee agreed to request a change, or amendment, to the legislation, which keeps the age at which you can apply for a provisional licence at 17, rather than reduce it to 16 and a half. This means that young drivers will only have to wait 6 months, not a year, before doing their practical driving test.