STATEMENT FROM DOE NI PRESS OFFICE.
In Northern Ireland, young and inexperienced drivers are over-represented in road traffic collisions. The stark fact is that, between 2009 and 2013, although 17 to 19 year olds accounted for only 4% of all current car driving licence holders, they were deemed responsible for 18% of fatal collisions where the driver was deemed responsible. Over the same period, drivers aged 20 to 24 represented 10% of licence holders but were deemed responsible for 23% of fatal collisions where the driver was responsible.
Further to that, there is evidence that young male drivers are four times more likely to be killed and six times more likely to kill than the average road user. The scale of the problem necessitates fundamental changes to how new drivers are trained, tested and gain experience once they have obtained their full licence.
The Department’s proposed Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) scheme has the following key points:-
The minimum age for both provisional and full licensing remains at 17 years old.
There will be a Mandatory Minimum Learning Period (MMLP) of 6 months. – This means that a person cannot take their driving test until they have had held their provisional licence for at least six months.
Removing the 45mph Speed Restriction on Learner and Newly Qualified Drivers. – This would allow learner and newly-qualified drivers to drive at up to the posted speed limits. It will also enable learner drivers to drive on motorways as long as they are accompanied by an ADI in a dual controlled car.
Introducing a New Programme of Training and Learners Logbooks. – It is proposed to introduce a Programme of Training which will detail the learning required to become a safe driver and introduce a compulsory logbook which will provide evidence of that learning.
A reduced blood alcohol limit for learner drivers and for 2 years post-test. – The Bill proposes to reduce the blood alcohol limit for general drivers from 80 mg/ 100 ml of blood, to 50; and to reduce it to 20 for learner, new and professional drivers.
Introducing Passenger Restrictions for Newly Qualified Drivers. – Young drivers carrying two young passengers are twice as likely to be killed as those driving alone, and 4 times more likely to die if carrying 3 young passengers. Over the period 2009-2013, 17-24 year old drivers were deemed responsible for the deaths of 83% of passengers aged 14-20 years who were killed.
It is proposed to restrict new drivers, up to age 24, from carrying more than one passenger, aged 14-20, for 6 months post-test. Certain exemptions might apply and will be subject to further scrutiny by the NI Assembly. This measure aims to prevent new drivers being distracted or encouraged to take risks by peer group passengers while driving. A recent amendment to the Bill makes this only applicable at night.
Introducing a new Plate – It is proposed to replace the “R” plate with a new design. A new plate will be needed to distinguish between those drivers who have passed their test under the old regime and those who have passed under the new regime and who are subject to the restrictions of GDL.
Timescale – The Road Traffic Amendment Bill is continuing to work its way through the Assembly process. Subject to relevant legislation being enacted, it is anticipated that the new drink drive limits should come into operation in 2016 whilst the bulk of the GDL measures would be introduced by 2018.