Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (New Drivers)

– in the House of Commons am 5:01 pm ar 7 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Opposition Whip (Commons) 5:43, 7 Mai 2024

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about licences issued to new drivers for the period of six months after the issuing of the licence, for the purpose of increasing safety for road users;
and for connected purposes.

Since I was elected in 2021 as the Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, road safety has been one of my top priorities and an issue frequently raised with me by concerned constituents. Speeding drivers, high-performance rental vehicles, off-road motorbikes and quad bikes, inconsiderate and dangerous parking and reckless driving blight our towns and villages.

Not long after my election, our community was shocked by a tragic road traffic incident on White Lee Road in Heckmondwike, in which a much-loved local woman lost her life. Our thoughts remain with her family and friends. I have therefore worked closely with the excellent Batley and Spen neighbourhood policing team, local councillors and the West Yorkshire deputy mayor for policing and crime, Alison Lowe, to support the Vision Zero strategy to eliminate fatal collisions on our roads.

That is an ambitious target, but one that other regions and countries have shown is possible with the right measures and resourcing. However, it requires a concerted effort to get there because, despite all the positive advances in road safety in recent decades—from the installation of seatbelts and airbags to drink-driving testing, speed limits, speed cameras and MOTs—it is a tragic and horrifying fact that 29,742 individuals were killed or seriously injured on Great Britain’s roads in 2022. As I am sure you will agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, that is a startling statistic. We must never forget that, behind it, thousands of families across the country are grieving and going through unimaginable pain. Lives are changed forever and families torn apart by tragic and often avoidable collisions.

Indeed, I was inspired to introduce the Bill following a meeting that I and colleagues had with Dr Ian Greenwood. Fifteen years ago, he tragically lost his 12-year-old daughter, Alice, in a horrific crash involving a young, inexperienced driver. That 18-year-old driver was racing four of his friends at night time on a rural road when they crashed into the car carrying Ian’s two children and their mother. Alice, whose sister and mum were seriously injured, was killed. The 18-year-old driver and their 16-year-old passenger were also killed—three young lives lost. In the face of such enormous personal grief, Ian has steadfastly and courageously campaigned for road safety reform, including the introduction of graduated driving licences.

Sadly, Ian is not alone. On “BBC Breakfast” this morning, we heard from Sam Robinson, the mother of Billy, who was in the passenger seat of a packed, overcrowded car with seven of his teenage friends when it crashed on the way to a birthday party. Billy and the driver tragically lost their lives. The consequences of that awful day will last forever. Ian and Sam’s stories are heartbreaking. I know how painful their grief is, and I hope that we can remember them and many others today.

The Bill is not about taking away young people’s freedom or fun; it is about trying to save their lives. By giving them the opportunity to build their experience and confidence during the first six months of driving after passing their test, we can try to ensure they have a happy lifetime of driving and the future that they deserve. Road fatalities and serious injuries are not inevitable. Our roads can and must be safer. As the Transport Secretary himself said in March:

“Despite Britain having some of the safest roads in the world, the levels of serious injury and road deaths remain too high.”—[Official Report, 5 March 2024;
Vol. 746, c. 776.]

Although there are many ways in which we can and should look at improving road safety, the Bill focuses on one important area of significance: new, often young, drivers who have just passed their test. In 2022, around a fifth of all deaths or serious injuries on our roads were a result of collisions involving cars driven by a young driver. Many of us will remember—just about—becoming new drivers. There is the excitement of passing our test, the independence, the freedom, the feeling of growing up, but what about the inexperience, the nervousness, the underlying lack of confidence, or, sometimes, the overconfidence?

We have a few lessons on local roads that we probably already know quite well, read the highway code back to front, learn all the road signs, master the dreaded parallel parking and then complete a 40-minute practical test before being presented, excitingly, with our full licence for life. We want to celebrate with our mates—maybe with a road trip, or perhaps we offer to be the designated driver on a night out—but we are now driving in a variety of conditions, without the support or guidance of an instructor or an experienced driver. I am sure that we can all see the problem. The danger is obvious.

It is hardly surprising then that, according to the Department for Transport, when compared with vehicles driven by drivers of other ages, the most common contributory factors for fatal or serious collisions involving younger drivers was

“driver failed to look properly”, followed by “loss of control,” “exceeding speed limit” and “learner or inexperienced driver.” The AA has also found that 71% of fatal collisions involving young drivers were on rural roads—roads where the driver is often unfamiliar with single lanes and blind corners, and roads where experience would instil caution—but currently driving lessons and tests may have failed to give the necessary experience. All this is reflected in the research produced by ALA Insurance Brokers in 2017, which found that almost 28% of drivers aged 25 to 34 admitted to being involved in a crash in their first year of driving.

This is where I believe we can take immediate action to increase safety on our roads. The Bill I am presenting today would place restrictions on newly qualified drivers for the first six months immediately after they pass their test, following consultation. Substantial evidence shows that, during that time, drivers are statistically much more likely to be involved in a collision, often with devastating consequences.

Other countries that have successfully introduced graduated driving licences have included zero-alcohol consumption for newly qualified drivers, as well as restrictions on the number of passengers in the car and on night-time driving, with exemptions, obviously, for work, medical and emergency reasons. Additional options to consider are the inclusion of rural roads, motorways or dual carriageways as part of the driving test, a requirement during driving lessons that a driver gains experience on different road conditions, and consideration of the engine sizes new drivers are permitted to drive within the first few months of passing their tests.

We should consult widely in this country, including with young drivers themselves—although I have to say that the ones I have spoken to would actually welcome some of these changes—and we have to look to other countries and their successful implementation of graduated driving licences. For example, in New Zealand, its graduated driving licence scheme has led to a 23% reduction in car collision injuries for 15 to 19-year-olds and a 12% reduction for 20 to 24-year-olds. We should be looking to countries such as New Zealand, as well as Canada, Sweden and Australia, and learning from best practice.

I am pleased that both the AA and the RAC are fully supporting the Bill, and that graduated driving licences more broadly are also supported by the road safety charity Brake, the Association of British Insurers, Project EDWARD—Every Day Without A Road Death—and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. Indeed, Edmund King, president of the AA, recently said to “BBC Breakfast” that a six-month graduated driving licence

“is a very small price to pay, and in that 6 months the drivers can get much more experience on the road”.

I therefore strongly believe that this proposal will not only have a very direct effect in reducing the contributing factors to road collisions, but, most importantly, act as a reminder to all novice drivers—actually, regardless of age—that during their first few months driving on the road they should take additional caution, and take steps to gradually build their confidence and experience on different road types, in different conditions and at different times of day.

I hope Members across the House will consider this proposal seriously and work with me, ahead of Second Reading, to ensure the measures in the Bill are proportionate, evidence-led—the evidence is clear—and effective at significantly reducing road traffic collisions. Finally, I would like to place on record my personal thanks to Ian Greenwood, who I mentioned earlier, whose devastating personal experience prompted his extensive research and campaigning on this issue, which has assisted me throughout. I hope Members will agree that this relatively small measure will be highly effective and, in the years to come, only lead us to question—

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Order. I am terribly sorry, but the hint was that this is a ten-minute rule Bill, and we have hit the 10 minutes.

This would be the opportunity, if anybody wishes to oppose the Bill, to make a speech. I have had no indication of anybody wishing to do so, and I see no one, so I will put the Question.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Kim Leadbeater, Tim Loughton, Alicia Kearns, Edward Timpson, Holly Lynch, Lilian Greenwood, Mr Barry Sheerman, Naz Shah and Mrs Paulette Hamilton present the Bill.

Kim Leadbeater accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 May, and to be printed (Bill 212).