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L-plate proposals could slash young driver premiums

By Claire McNeilly

Young drivers in Northern Ireland could save hundreds of pounds a year on car insurance under proposed legislation, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said.

It backs Environment Minister Alex Attwood's radical plan to help slash premiums.

Mr Attwood's proposals include putting learner drivers on the road at a young age and allowing them to be taught on motorways.

Similar plans were unveiled at last week's annual ABI motor conference, where it emerged that improved safety could cut car insurance bills for young people by up to £370 each year.

In Northern Ireland, which traditionally suffers premiums of around 11% higher than elsewhere in the UK, that could equate to over £400 a year, or £33 a month.

The ABI said that it now costs on average £1,800 a year to insure a driver aged 17 or 18, but that figure is often much higher here.

Using three comparison websites yesterday, we priced the cost of a policy for a student aged 18 in a 1.2L 2003 three-door Corsa*.

It threw up quotations ranging from £2,208 to a staggering £26,280.40. was cheapest, offering £2,208 with the insurance company Bell at Admiral. Its most expensive was £20,580 with Premium Choice.

At, the least expensive company was Diamond at £2,225, with the dearest policy costing £26,280 with Vauxhall.'s cheapest quotation was £2,272 from Diamond, with the most expensive being £9,586 from Asda Money.

"Car drivers under 25 are responsible for 44% of road fatalities but hold only 11% of full car licences," said Mr Attwood, who was at the ABI conference.

ABI spokesman Malcolm Tarling said Mr Attwood has led the way to implement safety measures that should reduce prices.

"In a sense the rest of the UK is looking towards Northern Ireland after the Environment Minister announced his proposals," he said.

The ABI has recommended that new drivers should have a passenger limit, restrictions on night-time driving, and that their blood alcohol limit should be zero.

ABI director general Otto Thoresen said: "Insurers want to see young drivers become safer drivers, which in turn will result in more affordable premiums."

* Based on an 18-year-old male student living in Belfast and driving a 2003 petrol Corsa and doing under 5,000 miles a year.



The proposals:

• Minimum licence age of 16.

• A minimum learning period of 12 months.

• Post test period of two years.

• Removal of the 45mph speed restriction.

• L-drivers will be allowed to take lessons on motorways.

• N plates (for 'New' drivers) will replace R plates, displayed for two years.

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