Incoming Environment Minster Edwin Poots may consider allowing young people to get behind the wheel from the age of 16 in a bid to tackle high numbers of collisions among newly qualified drivers.
The Lagan Valley DUP MLA said he is also open to looking at other innovative ways of boosting driving skills among the young, such as allowing provisional drivers to learn at higher speeds.
“I would like to get into the issue and see if there are innovative ways of tackling young people being involved in accidents shortly after they pass their test,” he said. “We need to see if the driving test is fit for purpose,” Mr Poots told the Belfast Telegraph.
At present, inexperienced drivers are limited to 45mph which can make it difficult for them to become acclimatised to driving on motorways and dual carriageways, he said.
“The limit is set at 45mph. As it stands they are doing the driving test and immediately going onto the motorway.”
The Assembly member, who is expected to take over from Environment Minister Sammy Wilson within weeks, stressed he is not advocating the measure, but is open to looking at it.
Mr Poots said it may also be worth training young drivers to deal with skidding.
“I would be looking at how we do things in terms of preparing young people to drive and see if what they're doing is fit for purpose — even through allowing young people to drive at an earlier stage but not sitting the test,” Mr Poots said.
“I would be prepared to look potentially at allowing young people to drive at 16 but not sit the test until they are 17, so they will have a far greater degree of experience before going on the roads on their own, instead of going on the road two to three months after they turn 17 with a limited experience of driving under supervision.”