No driving licence until 19?

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L plates
Image caption,
Learner drivers may be subject to a minimum of 120 hours supervision

Teenagers, get ready to be outraged.

Some new research put together for the government suggests that young drivers shouldn't be able to qualify for a full licence until they are 19 years old.

In effect, it's proposing that 17 year olds have to spend at least a year learning how to drive before taking their test. After they pass they'll then have to spend another year on "probation", with some chunky restrictions on what they can do.

For example, no driving between 22:00 and 05:00 unless you have someone over 30 years old in the car. Why? Because 30-year-olds are more sensible.

It stops people filling their Vauxhall Viva with boisterous teenagers. You'll have to drive around with a green "P" plate on the car.

'Controversial stuff'

Can you imagine police patrols trying to work out at a glance whether someone's 30 years old or not?

It also suggests a ban on carrying passengers under 30 years old for all novice drivers aged under 30.

Controversial stuff. Having said all that, though, there is plenty in this work by the Transport Research Laboratory that that I'm sure will be welcomed by most campaigners - and parents, frankly.

Things like:

- road skills being taught in schools as part of the national curriculum

- letting learner drivers practise on the motorway

- making learners drive for a minimum of 100 supervised hours during the day and 20 at night. They'd have to fill in a log book to show they'd done it, although I suppose that's not hard to fake, is it?

Anyway, why does all this matter? Three reasons.

1. Driving is one of the biggest killers of young people in Britain. They're involved in around 20% of the worst accidents yet only drive around 5% of all miles. (I had a nasty accident three days after I passed my test because I was driving like a fool).

2. Some of these suggestions could happen. The government's going to consult on all this stuff soon and there could be a new law in a year or two.

3. If you cut accidents amongst young people, firstly you save tragedy and heartache for thousands of families; secondly insurance premiums might even come down. So more young people can get mobile.

'Long campaigned for'

The AA has already waded in. Its president, Edmund King, says: "There are many proposals in the report with merit and which are advocated by the AA. Road safety on the national curriculum is something we have long campaigned for and I am pleased to see it being recommended here.

"Likewise we would also support learner drivers being allowed on motorways with their instructor. However, at the extreme end this report could be seen as just recommending taking novice drivers off the road by regulation and restriction rather than helping them develop the right attitudes and skills to provide them with the mobility they need".

The government's publishing its young drivers Green Paper this month (hopefully). Expect plenty of interesting suggestions and ideas in that.

Are you a teenager? What do you think? @richardwestcott

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