Changes for NI Drivers

During the week Environment Minister Alex Attwood proposed radical changes in driver training and new driver safety. The new measures which are said to reflect best practice around the world, are claimed to be a fundamental shift towards safer driving for young people.

Alex Attwood said: “These proposals would create the most radical change in the driver training regime for a generation. I know that the proposals will challenge our thinking. But the objective of better road safety with the ambition of zero road deaths on one hand and reduced driver premiums on the other makes a bold and informed approach the right approach. This is the core argument at the heart of the proposals.”

The Minister’s plans include:

  • lower provisional licence age of 16½;
  • a mandatory minimum learning period of 12 months for provisional licence holders;
  • post test period will be two not one year;
  • removal of the 45 mph speed restriction currently applied to learner and restricted drivers;
  • learner drivers will be allowed to take lessons on motorways when accompanied by a fully qualified Approved Driving Instructor in a dual-controlled car;
  • N plates (for ‘New’ drivers) will replace R plates, displayed for two years; and
  • compulsory logbooks for learner drivers;
  • and in a new initiative, new drivers up to age 24 will not be allowed to carry young passengers (aged 14 to 20, except immediate family members) during their first six months post-test, unless there is a supervising driver over 21, with three years full licence in the passenger seat.

To implement these changes the Department will need to make primary legislation. With Executive approval from Stormont,  it intends to include the necessary provisions in a Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill planned for introduction to the Assembly later this year.

How although this only mentions drivers, there are some aspects, if related to riders, that would have an effect, especially as in January 2013 the European Driving Licence will change the learning and testing period for riders.

At Right To Ride, not being backward at coming forward, we fired off some questions which included:

  • Part of the announcement was that the R-plate currently displayed by newly-qualified drivers restricted to 45 mph will be replaced by an N (for new drivers) plate which must be displayed for two years. This is linked into, as previously discussed in the stakeholders meeting, to remove the 45 mph restriction on learners and newly-qualified drivers.
  • Also regarding the N plate would this include motorcyclists, considering the introduction of the 3DLD and the progressive access route to the different categories and having to pass a test to step up a category A1- A2 – A would a rider have to display a N plate for six years.
  • Also with introduction of Direct Access then I would assume a rider would have to display the N Plate.
  • And also the announcement includes that,  New drivers up to the age of 24 will not be allowed to carry young passengers, except immediate family, for six months after passing the driving test., would this have an effect on motorcyclists.
  • Maybe a review/overview for the next stakeholders meeting on how or if the changes will affect learner motorcyclists and those that past their test.

The Department of the Environment has also announced it is already taking forward plans to legislate to set the drink drive limit for newly qualified drivers (for two year post-test) at 20mg/100mls in place of the current limit for all drivers of 80 mg/100mls and plans to consult on this shortly.

The Department will also be taking measures to improve new driver safety that won’t need legislation. It will do this by developing awareness campaigns and improving driver training.

In a “Pigs might Fly” statement the insurance industry has apparently said, “Significantly, the car insurance industry has pledged to review premiums for young drivers if these changes are enacted. “ “These measures should benefit young drivers on the road and in their pocket: by helping to make them safer drivers and reducing their crash risk, they will benefit from lower motor insurance premiums.”

We would like to see that same statement from the insurance industry regarding motorcycling, as previously mentioned with the introduction of the 3rd European Driving Licence will see a motorcycle licence structure in place designed for riders to progressively access different categories of motorcycles in respect of their power and speed, with a regime of stricter testing and training. New riders should already be safer on the road with the introduction of CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) that riders must complete and be delivered by AMI (Approved Motorcycle Instructor).

However riders in themselves may be safer on the roads but is the interaction with other road users and their awareness of motorcyclists that cause problems? Therefore within these proposals we welcome the introduction of compulsory logbooks for learner drivers and we hope that these log books include a section for learner drivers to be instructed and learn to look out for riders and other vulnerable road users.

Perhaps a new generation of drivers will be more aware of motorcycles and their riders.

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  1. To make it clear it was Right To Ride who asked the questions through the stakeholders group which included:
    Also regarding the N plate would this include motorcyclists, considering the introduction of the 3DLD and the progressive access route to the different categories and having to pass a test to step up a category A1- A2 – A would a rider have to display a N plate for six years.
    And to be clear it is recognised by the Government Department concerned that this is an anomaly and that all the questions raised by Right To Ride (and reported by others) will be discussed at the next 3DLD stakeholders group.
    Also the Government Department concerned are aware and will be looking at all these concerns when detailed discussions start on starting to implement new changes for NI drivers.

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