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New rules for learner drivers - have your say!

The Environment Committee wants to hear your views on the Road Traffic Bill - which, if passed, will change the way young people learn to drive.  The Bill was introduced to the Assembly on 12 May 2014 by the Minister for the Environment and following a debate in the Chamber on 27 May, the Assembly voted to consider the Bill further. It is now the job of the Environment Committee to examine the Bill in detail, to consult experts and the public, and to suggest any changes or ‘amendments’ to the law that the Committee thinks would improve it.

You can give your opinion on this Road Traffic Bill by writing to or emailing the Committee.

What does the Bill seek to do?

As well as changing the rules for learner drivers as a way of reducing the number of young people killed in and responsible for road accidents in Northern Ireland, the Bill also seeks to stop people from drinking and driving and ensure that punishment for this type of offence is appropriate.

How will it affect young people?

The ways in which the new law would affect young people are:

  • Drivers will be able to obtain a provisional license at 16 ½ years, instead of 17 years. Someone applying at 16 ½ must take a full year of training/lessons before the practical test can be taken, meaning the youngest a person can have a full driving license is 17 ½ years. 
  • Drivers will have to complete a compulsory ‘Learning to drive’ course which involves completing a logbook (training record)
  • New qualified drivers will have to display plates for 2 years, rather than one.
  • Young drivers will face passenger restrictions. For six months after a driver (up to 24 years old) passes their test, they will not be allowed to carry passengers between the ages of 14-20, unless accompanied by a qualified driver (over 21 and qualified for more than 3 years).
  • There will be a lower drink drive limit for a period of 2 years for new drivers.
  • The 45mph speed restriction on L and R drivers will be removed and the driving test will be changed to include driving on a wider range of roads, including motorways.

There are some concerns about the potential negative impact some of these new rules will have on young people, e.g. the extra costs they may face as a result of an extended training period which requires formal lessons; the effect on access to study, work, sporting/social activities of a restriction on the number of passengers they can carry; and the disproportionate impact this may have on those who live in the countryside, as they tend to rely more on travel by car.

While the Department for the Environment recognises these concerns, it feels the benefits of reducing the number of accidents and deaths outweigh these concerns.

Before producing the Bill and presenting it to the Assembly, the Department of Environment studied research evidence and consulted experts and the public. It found that, in Northern Ireland and the UK, young drivers and passengers are the highest risk group from road accidents and fatalities. It also found that most collisions and fatalities involving young people occur on rural roads.

Following its investigation into the Bill, the Environment Committee will produce a report which will be debated in the Assembly Chamber, where there will be the opportunity to make changes to the Bill, known as amendments.

How can you have your say?

Write to the Committee, or email them, to tell them who you are and what you think. The closing date for giving your opinion is Thursday 21 August 2014.

Submissions will be published on the website. (Say in your submission if you don’t want your name published.)

You can view the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill here. Part 3 of the Bill concerns learner drivers.

The contact details are as follows:-

The Committee Clerk
Committee for the Environment
Room 373, Parliament Buildings

Email: committee.environment@niassembly.gov.uk

For further information, you can also call the Committee on (028) 90521783