Belfast Telegraph

Driving age could rise to 18 in bid to cut roads carnage

Training and testing of young drivers could be overhauled

By Adrian Rutherford

Proposals to raise the minimum licensing age to 18 are among a series of safety measures put forward in an attempt to cut the carnage on Northern Ireland’s roads.

Banning learner and restricted drivers from using high performance cars, and introducing a night-time curfew also feature in a wide range of options aimed at driving down the death toll.

The proposals were announced as Environment Minister Edwin Poots published his Road Safety Strategy for the next 10 years.

It comes after another black weekend on Northern Ireland’s roads in which four people lost their lives in separate accidents.

The proposals include raising the minimum age for holding a licence as well as forcing learner drivers to take a minimum number of lessons.

Young people account for more accidents than any other age group. Some 15% of licensed drivers are aged between 17 and 24, yet they were responsible for 38% of fatal collisions between 2003 and 2008.

Between 2004 and 2008, the same age group was responsible for one in four of all road fatalities and one in five of all serious road injuries in Northern Ireland — amounting to 163 deaths and 1,237 serious injuries.

Launching the strategy, Mr Poots expressed condolences to relatives of the four people killed in road accidents over recent days.

“This is why we must keep striving for improvements in road safety — to help prevent such tragedies in the future,” he said.

“This strategy is the best way to do that and to make our roads safer over the next 10 years.”

Mr Poots said the Road Safety Strategy is the first step in a journey to make roads safer.

“I will not accept that nothing can be done and I will not accept that our young people should be allowed to die or be seriously injured at the rates they do today,” he added.

“Neither will I accept that they should be allowed to kill and seriously injure other road users. Improving the safety of young drivers, overhauling how they are trained, tested and licensed is a key challenge for my department.”

The Graduated Driver Licensing scheme reforms the learner and restricted driving schemes, and involves a series of stages lasting usually for three years.

It has proved successful in the US, Canada and Australia.

Mr Poots said the Executive is fully committed to improving safety for all road users.

“Working together, I firmly believe that we can make a journey on our roads as safe as anywhere in the world,” he added.

Factfile

Measures included in the consultation are:

  • Raise the minimum licensing age to 18
  • Require learner drivers to take a minimum number of driving lessons, or hours/miles of supervised practice
  • A minimum mandatory learning period (starting potentially from age 16)
  • Encourage/require skid training for learner or restricted drivers
  • Amend or remove speed limits for learner and restricted drivers
  • Allow learner drivers to drive on motorways
  • Revise the practical driving test
  • Night-time driving restrictions for restricted driver

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