Passing your driving test is a time of great excitement for young drivers, with a sense of liberation coming from being able to travel where you want, when you want. For those aged 17-24, however, it could soon be the case that they are no longer immediately free to hit the roads with complete autonomy. In fact, should a new government trial prove effective, they will instead be subject to new guidelines known as Graduated Driver Licensing.
The scheme - which is set to be put on a live trial throughout Northern Ireland in 2019/20 - is aiming to reduce the number of accidents involving new drivers within this age bracket. So, how does Graduated Driver Licensing work?
The proposals state that all young drivers will be required to have a learning phase lasting a minimum of six months - at present there is no minimum requirement. More significantly, even once drivers pass their test, they will be required to use R plates for at least two years. Similar to the optional P plates available in the UK, the R plates will come in two designs - one for the first six months after passing, and another for the next 18 months.
More controversial still is the proposal that new drivers aged up to 24 won’t be allowed to transport more than one passenger aged 14-20 during the hours of 11pm and 6am.
Statistics have found that young drivers are up to three times more likely to die in a road crash than older motorists. As such, the scheme hopes to reduce the number of accidents involving young people, with road safety charity Brake claiming that such measures could lead to saving up to 400 lives annually in the UK.
The scheme has also been influenced by similar success stories from around the world. For example, in New Zealand, the introduction led to the number of car crash injuries among those aged 15-19 to drop by 23 percent. Similarly, 16-year-old motorists in the USA that had Graduated Driver Licensing experienced 37 percent fewer accidents.
With the scheme to be trialed in Northern Ireland between 2019-20, it means that younger motorists throughout the UK still have plenty of time to learn and pass their test without being subject to the potential changes. However, it always pays to be as safe and careful as possible once you have passed your test, so ensure you are driving a model that features suitable safety measures as standard.