A graduated driving licence, including passenger restrictions for young drivers, is to be trialled following an eight-year campaign by a Highland and Islands MSP.
Road safety campaigner David Stewart expressed his delight yesterday that the UK Government had finally agreed to pilot such a project.
His campaign began following the deaths of two 17-year-olds on a city road – driver Ahlee Jackson and friend Callum Matheson – in Inverness in 2010.
Mr Stewart said: “After the unfortunate and tragic deaths of two teenagers, I started a campaign to improve road safety, which I proposed was carried out through a form of graduated licence (GDL).
“My initial campaign was called the ‘Sensible Driving – Always Arriving’ campaign and over the last eight years I worked closely with Dr Sarah Jones of Cardiff University, who could evidence that in Scotland alone, if a form of GDL were introduced, up to 22 lives could be saved and up to £80 million to the Scottish economy.
“I contacted successive Cabinet Ministers and their deputies on this one issue alone and finally, in response to my most recent correspondence, Jesse Norman MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, wrote to advise me that the Government have now decided to introduce a form of GDL in Northern Ireland as a pilot with the potential to roll out across the rest of the UK.”
The MSP added: “The Northern Irish Government have consulted on secondary legislation to bring a number of provisions into force during 2019/20 including passenger-carrying restrictions and a six month mandatory learning period.
“This is excellent news and just rewards for all the hard efforts of my team.
“More satisfying is the knowledge that many grieving parents who have worked on this issue with us or have contacted us regarding tragic road deaths related to this issue, will now see that their efforts were not in vain.”
A spokesman for the Government’s Driver and Vehicle Agency said: “Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) will establish a revised training and testing regime for car drivers and motorcyclists, and will introduce some post-test restrictions for drivers/riders to reduce the over-representation of new – mainly young – drivers/riders in fatal and serious road collisions.”
A package of measures includes persons under 24 being restricted from carrying more than one passenger aged 14 to 20 for the first six months post-test during certain times. It also includes a six-month mandatory minimum learning period (for car drivers) and a requirement to display a distinguishing plate on the vehicle for two years after receiving a full licence.