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Learning to Drive

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

Over the past decade Britain’s roads have become much safer. The number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents has fallen by a third, keeping road travel in this country safer than almost anywhere else in the world.

But we cannot afford to be complacent when on average nine people a day die on our roads. In particular, we must do more to help make newly qualified drivers safer, one in five of whom has some kind of accident within six months of passing their test.

We must ensure that people learning to drive are taught the skills they need to be safe drivers when they start driving alone. It is time for a new approach to learning to drive. We must make sure that novice drivers are safe drivers when they have passed their test. We must also create an expectation of lifelong learning, so that people continue advanced learning after their test.

That is why I am today publishing a consultation paper targeted at improving the training and testing of new drivers.

Our research shows that we must make sure that learners demonstrate not only good skills, but also safe attitudes and proper understanding of road conditions before they are allowed to drive unsupervised. We will build improved learning opportunities and assessments to support these standards, as well as strengthen the quality of driving instruction available. We will also provide new opportunities for learning both before and after the driving test. This will help new drivers become better, safer, motorists and save lives.

Our proposals include:

a new foundation course, available at schools and colleges, leading to a qualification on safe road use.

a more focused and thorough learning process before the driving test, which focuses not just on vehicle control but also the wider skills needed to be a safe driver, from driving in difficult conditions—for example at night or in poor weather—to learning to predict and respond to other road users’ intentions;

a new training syllabus to ensure learners understand what is required of them to become a responsible driver, enable them to undertake structured and efficient learning and accurately assess when they are ready to pass their driving test;

an improved driving test which requires the driver to demonstrate independent driving skills and clear understanding of different situations on the road, with the option of modular assessment;

new opportunities to take extra training post-test; working with the insurance industry and employers in the driving for work sector we will develop new courses and qualifications to be taken after the driving test that could lead to lower premiums and a better chance of securing a career in the driving for work sector;

a star rating system for driving instructors so that learners can make an informed choice based on pass rates and the level of training instructors have undergone; and

a review of driving instructor training and testing to ensure they provide a quality service and are focussed on those areas of driving performance that are closely linked to safe driving.

In addition to the consultation document being published today, we also intend to publish within the next few months a consultation paper on how we intend to crack down on the reckless minority and deliver improved road safety enforcement and compliance.

Copies of the consultation document have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses.