Monday, 19 November 2012

The Young Ones

Years after several other countries acted on this subject, the UK is once again teetering on introducing legislation to save novice drivers from themselves and others.

I first became aware of similar restrictions placed on young/inexperienced drivers when we were touring Australia in 2003. Over there, if you have held a full licence for less than 2 (I think) years, you were not allowed to carry passengers except under strict conditions, penalty points incurred were doubled and your allocated drink/drive alcohol intake limit was zero. Even as a bit of a libertarian I couldn't find much in there to object about, having scraped too many youngsters from roads, lamposts and trees during my policing years. Very few of them were actually `unlucky`.

I don't want the state telling me I must wear hi viz clothing at all times on my motorbike. There are times when I choose to do so and some of that decision making process, quite a lot actually, is based on judgment which in turn is based on experience. When I first passed my test I nearly crashed dad's car through pure stupidity, too much speed in the wrong place, inexperience and peer pressure. I used up quite a bit of my lucky bag's* contents over the following couple of years. I actually agree with the gist of these proposals. I would perhaps build in a get-out clause whereby if a young driver then takes a separate course run by say the I.A.M. or RoSPA and passes, they get their restriction lifted. These courses are life savers - the standard driving test is not.

 I think this law will be an interesting one to enforce, but having seen the mess, the heartache, the sheer death and destruction up close and personal, I'd be ready to try it, unlike the stuff the French are churning out.

*When we're born we have a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. The knack is to fill the experience bag before the lucky bag runs out.


dickiebo said...

Interestingly, although I am 74, I really do believe that elderly people should be required to undergo tests - perhaps every 2 years or so.

TonyF said...

I have never understood the driving laws here. You can pass your test in a Ka, then 'drive' a Ferrari. And yet, new motorcyclists have to jump through so many hoops....
I reckon you shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel of a car unless you have done 2 years motorbiking.

JuliaM said...

The proposals are pointless - if they are 'to save lives', why the planned exemption for family members?

Ben said...

The problem is not primarily age, but experience.

Making it too difficult for young drivers to gain experience will not really help. It will push the age of inexperienced drivers up, so that the peak age for driving deaths will go up to 20 or more. This will be claimed as a huge victory even if it doesn't ultimately save a single life - just postpones the accident hump.

Of course police officers, particularly traffic, see a lot of horrific accidents. I can well understand that it looms large, and many would simply want to do anything which would reduce it. But that's also why those people neccessarily lack the perspective necessary to balance the risk against the benefit.

With the perspective of a parent whose children will soon begin driving, I think the current proposals are unreasonable.

I would be very happy with restrictions on drivers driving late at night, if that were balanced by allowing people to begin driving earlier, so they could gain enough experience to be still able to drive when they are of employable age.

For example, if learner drivers can only drive supervised for the first year, why shouldn't this begin at age 16, or even 14 or 15 in a dual-control car with a qualified instructor?

BillB said...

In California if your traffic infringement doesn't pass a threshhold (eg, driving, say 10-15 mph over the limit "OK) you still pay the horrendous fine (to a cash-starved govt) but you can attend "traffic school" where you listen to an off duty CHP officer and watch bad movies.

And try to remain awake.

Never will forget one video showing a pretty young (17-18?) girl - not a visible exterior mark, but dead.

When I think of the skills I have had to acquire over the years navigating our crazy freeways I shudder to think of some 16 year old out there with virtually no experience.

I think that from 16 to 18 they are not allowed to drive at night here but am not certain - have to get back to work.

Blue Eyes said...

Hogs, your sentiments are understandable but it's a totally flawed proposal as usual. How would the "family" exemption be determined? Sibling? Parent/guardian? Aunt if staying at her place for the weekend? Cousins? How is the prosecuting officer to prove that the passenger is in fact an entitled passenger or even who he/she is? Or do traffic officers now get a new power to demand ID and family tree from all vehicle passengers?

I've got a much simpler idea: enforce the existing laws properly (let's get rid of this stupid obsession with speed limits while we're at it) and make sure that there are fewer defences for things like drink-driving and less get-outs on the more subtle offences.

The current system gives new drivers half the allowance before a ban through totting up comes in. That focuses the mind a bit.

We can never legislate for youth and inexperience. We shouldn't want to!

Blue Eyes said...

Sorry I didn't mean defences I meant mitigation.

Trobairitz said...

I've always found it interesting that over here you take your drivers test at 16 and then never have to be tested or take training again until you hit your dotage and even then only if you are having issues such as getting in accidents.

I think that is a big difference between motorcycle riders and drivers who stick to 4-wheels. Motorcycle riders will seek to continually improve their skills whereas it seems a lot of car drivers just add more distractions.

Quartermaster said...

In my neck of the woods, we get a discount on our auto insurance and the rider's practical exam is waived by the state if we graduate the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course. I think it would be an excellent idea to have a similar course for teens going to 4-wheel route.

I took the BRC, even though I didn't have to, because it wasn't available when I started riding in the mid 70s and I thought it a very good idea.

I also wear a Hi-viz vest when I ride. I want to be sure they see me when they hit me. Seriously, I wear it voluntarily. It's not required by law. I just think it's a good idea.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Excellent QM. I didn't mention that the IAM and RoSPA test pass recipients usually get a substantial insurance discount - sometimes >40%. I joined IAM for that incentive.
I was always confused as to how parents would spend fortunes on their kids education yet send them off in the car having just passed what is a ' bare basics' test into a world of loops and halfwits.

Blue: Totally agree. Its flawed as proposed. I do favour zero tolerance with no points leeway for 'probationary' drivers.

Troub': Yes, Biking is a passion. Driving is nowhere near so. We need to always challenge our own abilities and continually improve, not assume we know it all, however old we get.

Billb. We have speed awareness courses but they are run by full time professional trainers and usually kick in as an alternative to a ban. The 'zero tolerance' in me says just ban 'em, but I hate too much law and really do favour training - carrot/stick/carrot/BIG stick..

Ben. I too favour training over law (see myMAG link on the right side. I've been on many a demo), the earlier the better. This has to have an additional incentive though and that incentive also has to include a just measure of "pain" for those who know no other stimulus, but experience is costly to all if it includes blasting off with a car full of hoorays. Peer pressure is more powerful than law, especially as the law no longer includes a death penalty.

Anonymous said...

At £3K to £4K to have a teenager on your policy as a named driver insurance is not cheap. The car is a 1.2 litre runaround btw. However I was immensly cheered to find that in the UK 'celebrity' can be put down as your main employment.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Retired: I'm down as `Househusband` which is cheaper than `retired`! If I had my chance again, I'd have got my two on the IAM advanced driver scheme. £130 joining fee plus covering the petrol for `observed` drives would be reclaimed on the insurance discount once the test is passed. Its not all old buffers either as there are some very young qualified IAM observers these days.

Hogdayafternoon said...

What would I support for inexperienced drivers?
Definition of "inexperienced driver/rider" carefully defined, with a `buy-out` bonus if the driver passes an approved post test `advanced` course.
Alcohol limit zero. Penalty points limit half or more. A presumption that fines for breaking traffic laws will be higher (to focus the mind of the novice whilst they are gaining their `experience` - again, the buy-out option with an advanced test pass will remove this sword of Damocles.

I don't miss knocking on the doors of families delivering death/serious injury messages and watching the collapse of their world start before my very eyes. (The only one I didn't mind was when the deceased was one of the worst, most violent criminal offenders in the neighbourhood - how inhumane and callous of me? Yes, I let one of my section do the honours, they were queuing up to volunteer).

Tadanori said...

Its laudable to want to minimise risk which will in consequence reduce the Health Service bill, family trauma, etc. The proposal you mention will have, in my opinion, minimal impact for the overall population. Better to raise the lawful age to consume alcohol to 21 years and ban any amount of alcohol influence whilst driving. With a 20% increase in liver related diseases in the UK (2011-2012) alcohol is a demon that needs much stronger controls. Adolescent's with alcohol are significantly higher risk factors than being simply an inexperienced adolescent driver.

Of course alcohol is just too popular for politicians to want to tackle the issue. That and the powerful, rich alcohol manufacturers lobbyists..

Kids need to grow up. They'll make mistakes hopefully that won't kill them or others. I don't think tampering with driving age and restrictions proposed are helpful. I do, and strongly, think the mix of driving and the lawful drug of alcohol should be addressed. Yesterday.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Tadanori: Sounds simple, which suited me.

MTG said...

"....The knack is to fill the experience bag before the lucky bag runs out."

Very wise. If there is such a thing as luck, any postnatal remnants are a huge bonus.

JuliaM said...

And when these restrictions are brought in for drivers with passengers, will the cry go up 'Hey! What about the solo drivers'?

Hogdayafternoon said...

JuliaM: A very good point. I always hoped that cause and effect was considered in the drafting of legislation. Sadly, it was not always the case and right up to my final month in the old career my oppo and I were arguing that the stats and causation factors as gathered by the County Council were flawed and lacking fine detail. Eg to give a location as 'at junction 'x' is not enough. There was never a tickbox labelled "Insufficient experience". I won't go on and on, as experience tells me it's never going to be perfect.

MTG: Of course we could always adopt the old India driving test: Three people turn up in one car, examiner gets in, they all drive off and do a right turn and if they all survive the ride everybody passes, even the passengers. QED, four lucky bags pooled are safer than one on its own?