The AA has given its support for the introduction of new rules that would see young novice drivers facing stricter drink drive limits than other motorists.
At a hearing of the Transport Select Committee today, the motoring organisation backed calls for a zero-tolerance limit for drivers in the first months after passing their driving test, following the launch of a consultation by MPs last week.
It demanded a combination of measures – including increased use of telematics insurance – and ‘robust enforcement’ to cut the number of accidents on Britain’s roads involving young motorists.
Should novice drivers face zero-tolerance drink drive limits? The AA has backed proposals that would see new licence holders having to adhere to stricter rules for the first months on the road
Plans for novice drivers to face zero-alcohol limits are part of wider consultation looking at the introduction of a ‘graduated licencing’ scheme, similar to those used in Australian, Ireland, New Zealand and the US.
MPs have this year been discussing proposals for new motorists under the age of 25 to face night-driving curfews, only be allowed to give lifts to certain passengers and face speed restrictions until they’ve gained experience on the road.
The latest government statistics show under 25s make up a quarter of all drink drive-related casualties, compared to a fifth of overall fatalities on roads.
However, drink driving does appear low down in the list of reasons why novice motorists have had their licences stripped in recent years.
Data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency shows the most common reason new drivers has theirs revoked under the New Drivers Act in 2019 was due to insurance.
The New Drivers Act means any drivers who tot-up six points in the two years following their test lose their licence and have to take the test again.
In total, 11,125 drivers lost their licence in 2019.
There were on average 14 offences per day for new drivers caught in a vehicle uninsured against third parties, totalling more than 5,500 across the year.
On average there were 11 offences per week for distraction, such as using mobile phones behind the wheel – 602 in total for the year.
In comparison, 96 new motorists – an average of eight per month – lost their driving licence due to alcohol-related driving offences.
Rise in drink-drive crashes on Britain’s roads: There has been a 3% annual increase in the number of shunts involving intoxicated motorists, says the DfT
Existing laws mean drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are limited to 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, which is the highest limit in Europe.
Drivers in Scotland are limited to just 22mcg as part of tougher measures.
Lorna Lee, campaigns manager at the AA, said the motoring group backed proposals for a zero-tolerance drink drive limit for new licence holders, but added that a ‘combination of measures’ is needed along with ‘robust enforcement to improve the picture for young drivers’.
However, this combination should not result in graduated licences, she warned.
‘In short, telematic insurance can play a huge role in encouraging and rewarding good driving behaviour and choices instead of overly draconian post-test restrictions on passenger numbers and curfews.,’ Lee explained.
‘Making these restrictions mandatory could have a serious impact for those young people who do shift work. Given the impact of Covid-19 on this age group it would be a particularly bitter pill for them to swallow right now.
‘However, positive changes to the national curriculum to include road safety could help ensure better attitudes towards driving in younger teens. We would also support stricter monitoring of the learning process – such as a mandatory learning period and lessons in certain situations such as rural roads and in darkness.’
An estimated 5,890 accidents involved at least one driver who was over the alcohol limit in 2018, up from 5,700 in the previous year
Zero-tolerance for novice drivers part of wider drink drive crackdown
Tackling drink driving is high on the rule makers’ priority list after road casualty figures for 2018 revealed there had been a three per cent annual rise in the number of drink-drive crashes in Britain.
An estimated 5,890 accidents involved at least one driver who was over the alcohol limit that year, up from 5,700 in the previous year, the Department for Transport confirmed.
As part of an extended crackdown, MPs are also said to be considering the mandatory introduction of ‘alcolocks’ in cars driven by motorists with drink-drive convictions.
Alcolocks force these motorists to pass a breath test before the engine of the car can be started, with the devices refusing to let the motorists drive if they provide a sample that’s over the limit.
Government road safety chiefs are looking at plans to introduce the technology alongside issuing police with more advanced breath tests, which can give more accurate readings, we reported back in August.
Could alcolocks be a common sight in vehicles in the UK? Here’s how the devices work
Alcolocks, known more formally as alcohol ignition interlocks, are systems which test drivers for alcohol in their breath before they are allowed to drive.
They work in the same way as conventional breathalysers, in that they test to amount of alcohol in the sample of breath provided.
When fitted to a car, the driver is required to blow into the kit before the engine can start.
The systems vary, with some locking out the ignition for up to 24 hours if the user has alcohol in their breath.
If the measurement taken is over the limit, the system immobilises the vehicle’s engine, meaning the driver won’t be able to use the car until they blow below the limit.
According to the AA, all new and existing vehicle model lines in the EU will have the systems fitted from 2024.
Though no decision has been taken on whether this will be adopted in the wake of Brexit, the government has previously indicated its willingness to work within the current EU standards on road safety.
A call for evidence over their use in cars was launched last year by the Department for Transport.
While the government has been tasked to curb the number of deaths involving drink drivers, Britain does have the second safest roads in Europe, with only Sweden recording fewer deaths per million inhabitants, according to recent statistics.
There are 28 deaths a year on the road per million people in Britain, while in Sweden the figure is a slightly smaller 25, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Eastern regions of Europe have the worst fatality rates on the road per million people, with Romania propping up the charts with 99 deaths.
‘UK roads are already some of the safest among developed countries,’ RED Driving School’s Ian McIntosh explained.
‘In 2019, there were a total of 153,315 casualties in reported road traffic accidents, five per cent lower than the previous year.
‘Accounting for change in traffic, the rate of fatalities per billion vehicle miles has fallen by 2 per cent from 5.38 (2018) to 5.25 (2019) fatalities per billion vehicle miles.
‘In countries such as Australia or New Zealand, where graduated driving licences are already in force, this figure is at least four times higher. ‘
ACEA says the EU average deaths per million inhabitants is 49. In the UK, the figure is almost half that at 28 – the second lowest rate across the entire continent (behind Sweden)
Who has the safest roads in Europe? Road deaths per million inhabitants
1. Sweden: 25
2. UK: 28
3. Denmark: 30
4. Netherlands: 31
5. Ireland: 33
6. Estonia: 36
=7. Germany: 39
=7. Spain: 39
9. Malta: 41
10. Luxembourg: 42
11. Finland: 43
12. Austria: 47
13. Slovenia: 50
=14. France: 51
=14. Slovakia: 51
16. Belgium: 54
17. Czech Republic: 55
18. Italy: 56
19. Portugal: 58
20. Cyprus: 62
21. Hungary: 64
22. Lithuania: 67
23. Greece: 68
24. Latvia: 70
25. Poland: 75
26. Croatia: 80
27. Bulgaria: 96
28. Romania: 99
The AA said by lowering the drink drive limit for novice drivers it would hopefully ‘serve as a reminder to all drivers that if they are driving they should not be drinking’.
Speaking to This is Money, Lorna Lee added: ‘We also need to see the current laws enforced more effectively. The New Drivers Act means any new drivers caught using a mobile phone get at least six points and a £200 fine – enough to lose their licence straight away.
‘Despite this deterrent, too many young drivers still think they can get away with using a phone at the wheel, so we need targeted police campaigns to stamp out this dangerous activity and enforce the laws we already have in place.’
A recent study by the RAC found that nearly a fifth of drivers aged 17-to-24 admit they have made video calls on their phone while driving.
It added that the growing popularity of apps including FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp presents a ‘new, clear and present danger’ to Britain’s roads.
It comes after the Daily Mail’s End The Mobile Madness campaign, which has called for tougher punishments for drivers who recklessly use phones at the wheel.