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Elliott concerned at proposed changes to driver training in Northern Ireland

Ulster Unionist Environment Spokesperson, Tom Elliott MLA, has expressed concerns about a number of the proposed changes to driver training in Northern Ireland. He made his comments after the Department announced plans for the ‘most radical change in the driver training regime for a generation.’

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said;

“I strongly support exploring any measures which seek to reduce the incidence of death and serious injuries as a result of car accidents. 

There is no doubt that newly qualified, especially younger men, are involved in far too many accidents. As figures from the Department reveal – car drivers under the age of 25 are responsible for 44% of road fatalities but hold only 11% of full car licences, therefore I absolutely agree that a radical approach is needed to tackle the problem. 

The Minister has proposed a number of new initiatives. Whilst I agree with some, especially the decision to allow learner take lessons on motorways when accompanied by an appropriate instructor, unfortunately I believe the Minister has went too far, too soon and the impacts of the changes may go far beyond what was originally intended.

Firstly I disagree with the proposal that learners will have to hold their provisional licence for a minimum of twelve months before they can sit their first practical test. Whilst I believe a minimum period of learning may be beneficial; six months would seem a much more appropriate length, given that the driver must undergo a test. It may not be appropriate that some people who start to drive later in life would be required to hold a provisional licence for twelve months before they could take a test and hold a full licence.

The proposal to prevent young new drivers up to age 24 carrying young passengers, with the exception of immediate family members, during their first 6 months post-test may also be difficult to enforce. Whilst I again can see the rational, I believe this proposal has been ill thought out given the reliance which many younger drivers, especially in rural areas, have on cars. This reliance is seen no clearer when young people are relied upon friends for lifts home from college or to and from work. There may be more rational for having this rule come into effect as a late night control mechanism that is enforced after a certain time at night.

In addition I am concerned about the proposal to remove the 45mph speed restriction for learner and restricted drivers. Whilst I realise by proposing this the Minister is bringing Northern Ireland more into line with Britain and Ireland, it is important to remember that a large proportion of Northern Ireland is not covered by the motorway network and therefore relies much more heavily on single lane roads. Maybe there is a different restriction required for motorways than other Northern Ireland roads.

Overall I welcome the renewed focus which the Minister has placed upon tackling the unacceptable level of car crashes amongst young people. However, I believe the Minister and the Department should be focusing possibly improving the existing driving test, investigating and possibly limiting younger people driving late at night, as well as continuing with the on-going educational campaign to tackle the problem.”

Ulster Unionist Environment Spokesperson, Tom Elliott MLA, has expressed concerns about a number of the proposed changes to driver training in Northern Ireland. He made his comments after the Department announced plans for the ‘most radical change in the driver training regime for a generation.’

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said;

“I strongly support exploring any measures which seek to reduce the incidence of death and serious injuries as a result of car accidents. 

There is no doubt that newly qualified, especially younger men, are involved in far too many accidents. As figures from the Department reveal – car drivers under the age of 25 are responsible for 44% of road fatalities but hold only 11% of full car licences, therefore I absolutely agree that a radical approach is needed to tackle the problem. 

The Minister has proposed a number of new initiatives. Whilst I agree with some, especially the decision to allow learner take lessons on motorways when accompanied by an appropriate instructor, unfortunately I believe the Minister has went too far, too soon and the impacts of the changes may go far beyond what was originally intended.

Firstly I disagree with the proposal that learners will have to hold their provisional licence for a minimum of twelve months before they can sit their first practical test. Whilst I believe a minimum period of learning may be beneficial; six months would seem a much more appropriate length, given that the driver must undergo a test. It may not be appropriate that some people who start to drive later in life would be required to hold a provisional licence for twelve months before they could take a test and hold a full licence.

The proposal to prevent young new drivers up to age 24 carrying young passengers, with the exception of immediate family members, during their first 6 months post-test may also be difficult to enforce. Whilst I again can see the rational, I believe this proposal has been ill thought out given the reliance which many younger drivers, especially in rural areas, have on cars. This reliance is seen no clearer when young people are relied upon friends for lifts home from college or to and from work. There may be more rational for having this rule come into effect as a late night control mechanism that is enforced after a certain time at night.

In addition I am concerned about the proposal to remove the 45mph speed restriction for learner and restricted drivers. Whilst I realise by proposing this the Minister is bringing Northern Ireland more into line with Britain and Ireland, it is important to remember that a large proportion of Northern Ireland is not covered by the motorway network and therefore relies much more heavily on single lane roads. Maybe there is a different restriction required for motorways than other Northern Ireland roads.

Overall I welcome the renewed focus which the Minister has placed upon tackling the unacceptable level of car crashes amongst young people. However, I believe the Minister and the Department should be focusing possibly improving the existing driving test, investigating and possibly limiting younger people driving late at night, as well as continuing with the on-going educational campaign to tackle the problem.”

Ulster Unionists