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Driving age may be raised to 18

The government is examining proposals to raise the driving age for young drivers to 18. The plans are aimed at cutting road casualties involving young, novice drivers. The proposals could also introduce driving restrictions on new drivers for 12 months after passing the driving test. The study was commissioned by the Department of Transport, which will publish the study for consultation before the end of this year.

The government is examining proposals to raise the driving age for young drivers to 18. The plans are aimed at cutting road casualties involving young, novice drivers. The proposals could also introduce driving restrictions on new drivers for 12 months after passing the driving test. The study was commissioned by the Department of Transport, which will publish the study for consultation before the end of this year. The government has been concerned about the casualty rate amongst young drivers and ordered the report after figures showed that in 20% of accidents which resulted in death or serious injuries, at least one of the drivers was under 24.

The new proposals would also impose other demands on learner drivers. These would include being required to log 120 hours of supervised driving practice, of which 20 would have to be at night. Once the test was passed, the new driver would be required to display a green P plate for a probation period of one year. Such young drivers would also be banned from carrying passengers under 30, unless an over 30 passenger was also present. There would also be a curfew between 10pm and 5am during which they would be banned from driving.

The measures would apply to new drivers under 30 but some additional restrictions, such as a lower drink drive limit and ban on hands-free phones, would apply to everyone in the first year after passing their test. One of the report's authors, Dr Shaun Helman, commented: "The reasoning behind this is that the evidence shows both youth and inexperience are factors in determining crash risk. The evidence is compelling." The report's authors predict that implementing the new measures would reduce casualties by more than 4,000 per year and cut deaths by more than 40.

The system of restrictions for a period after passing the test is known as graduated licensing and has already been successful in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Figures for the UK highlight the dangers of young, inexperienced drivers and show that those under 24 account for just 8% of licence holders but make up almost a quarter of road deaths. The Association of British Insurers welcomed the proposals, saying: "The transport research laboratory proposals are exactly what we have been campaigning for. If this package of reforms was implemented in full, this could reduce young drivers' premiums by as much as 20 per cent."

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