Newly-qualified motorists should be barred from driving at night or with passengers, according to a Midland MP.
Introducing a “graduated driver licensing”, which imposed restrictions on motorists until they had gained experience behind the wheel, would cut accidents, said MP Mark Pawsey (Con, Rugby).
Currently, drivers are considered to be fully qualified the moment they pass their tests – but one in five has a crash within six months of obtaining their licence.
Although it would be a break with the traditional British system, graduated driver licensing schemes are already used in parts of Canada, Australia and the US.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Pawsey highlighted research by Cardiff University which concluded that graduated licensing could save lives.
He said: “I have seen the effect that a road traffic accident can have: when one of my teenage son’s great friends lost his life, it had an effect on the whole friendship group. I also speak as an observer at a local court where a young man was sentenced for causing by careless driving the death of his friend who was in the passenger seat.”
He added: “A lot of research has been carried out by Dr Sarah Jones and Prof Stephen Palmer of Cardiff University, and they have put together a detailed report on the potential of graduated licensing to save lives. They draw attention to the driving conditions where risks are highest and note that they are exacerbated for new and young drivers: driving late at night, driving with passengers of a similar age and driving after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
“To save lives, those conditions need to be minimised, which is exactly what graduated driver licensing does. It reduces exposure to those conditions and builds on-road driving experience by providing an intermediate phase - where there is a degree of supervision and control - between being a learner and holding a full licence.
“The duration of the intermediate phase is a matter for consideration, so I shall not suggest a firm figure; some supporters have proposed between two and two-and-a-half years.”
Newly-qualified drivers would be free to drive without supervision, but not with passengers and not at night, he said. This could mean between 9pm and 6am.
They would also be barred from driving after drinking any amount of alcohol, or taking drugs.
Mr Pawsey said: “Currently, there is no restriction on a 17-year-old passing his or her test on one day and, on the next, driving a gang of mates in a powerful car with a five-litre engine, capable of travelling at 150 mph. There is a problem that needs to be addressed.”
The previous Government considered the case for a graduated licensing scheme in 2008 and ruled the idea out, while Ministers in the current Government have said they see no reason to reconsider the idea.
But Mr Pawsey urged them to think again, saying: “The number of young driver crashes is clearly disproportionately high. The issue touches almost everybody: parents, relatives and friends of the young people involved.
“I firmly believe that an approach that decreases the risks to which young drivers expose themselves will help reduce the number of young driver incidents.
“I urge the Government to look again at the positive effects that a new system of licensing could have in achieving what we all wish to see: the young people of our country being safer on our roads and fewer people having to go through the kind of experience that my son and his friends went through,” he said.