The Department for Transport is considering forcing new drivers to display mandatory probationary ‘P’ plates in a bid to reduce the accident and death toll for inexperienced drivers.
Government whip Earl Attlee confirmed the notion at the House of Lords, stating: “Probationary plates are one of the things we are considering, possibly linked with other measures such as not allowing young and new drivers to carry young passengers in order to deal with that sort of problem.”
The proposals are reminiscent of those put forward by transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin who claimed 18-year-olds are over three times more likely to be in a crash than people in their late forties, and that it may be in everyone’s interests if young drivers were banned from carrying young passengers.
Besides reducing the death and injury toll, the DfT hopes a reduction in the number of crashes would make insurance for young drivers more affordable. A DfT consultation document, scheduled to be published in early summer, is expected to contain a more detailed proposal.
Not everyone agrees the solution to the problem should involve the suppression of freedoms. In fact, critics argue that what teens need is experience of all driving situations. Speaking back in November, Neil Greig from the Institute of Advanced Motorists said: “Young drivers themselves admit that they are lacking experience, but we don’t believe that restricting people – such as curfews at night and restricting the number of passengers they can carry – is the way to develop that experience.”
He added: “They need the opportunities to get to learn, by doing these things, by carrying young people, by going out at night – how else can they learn?”
Although not required by law, young or inexperienced drivers can opt to display green plates until they feel confident enough to remove them.
Making young drivers stand out when driving isn’t a new idea. In Australia, the Graduated Licensing system requires young drivers to display a P1 red P plate for one year, during which time mobile phone use and towing is prohibited and progression to the next level of licensing requires a good driving record. If successful, they must then drive for three years with a P2 Probationary license and display green P plates.
A similar system of R (short for restricted) plates exists in Northern Ireland.