I have been an advocate for the introduction of a form of graduated driving licence for young and new drivers since early 2010 because, after a double fatal road collision in the city of Inverness, I was contacted by bereaved parents who pleaded with me to do whatever I could to address the carnage.
In response, I set up the sensible driving, always arriving campaign, which was supported by many local businesses in the Highlands and Islands.
They sponsored a series of professionally developed DVDs that we put around every school in the Highlands and Islands. We ran ads on the back of buses.
Through Macrae & Dick—a local garage—we managed to have a sports car in new livery advertising driver safety. We also visited schools and communities throughout the area.
The key philosophy in our campaign was the work of Dr Sarah Jones, who has been referred to many times in the debate.
I appreciate that the statistics have changed but, at the time, her stats showed that 22 young lives could be saved and £80 million saved to the Scottish economy every year.
For me, it was a no-brainer.
It is a truism not depleted by repetition that there is no greater tragedy, no greater sorrow and no greater loss for any parent that the death of a young son or daughter.
I will tell members in more detail why I am speaking in the debate.
In early spring 2010, when I was approached by constituents to do something about road safety in Inverness, I met the Matheson family from the city.
They had just lost their son Callum, who was 17, along with his friend, who was also 17. Both were killed in a road collision in the city.
The accident statistics that I quoted earlier to Alex Johnstone are stark.
One newly qualified driver in five crashes within six months of obtaining their licence.
A US study showed that young people under 25 who have more than three passengers and who are driving at the weekend are five times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Also, four people are killed or seriously injured in road collisions involving young drivers each day in the UK.
As Alex Johnstone suggested, there is also a rural component: rural roads throughout Scotland are more likely to be the scene of a fatal or injury road collision than urban motorways or dual carriageways.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists lists four reasons why young male drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents.
As we would expect, one is inexperience and poor judgment in more difficult driving conditions.
The second reason is inadequate control of the car, resulting in single-vehicle accidents, skidding, overturning or leaving the road.
More than half of accidents involving drivers aged between 17 and 25 in Scotland occur when the drivers are making general progress along the road rather than performing particular manoeuvres, such as turning, changing lane or overtaking.
However, a third of collisions in rural areas occur when they are manoeuvring around bends.
There are also issues with lifestyle and attitudes.
Alcohol, drugs and peer pressure are particularly important, especially in the context of social driving at night and weekends.
The other factor is economic.
Young drivers are more likely to have cheaper, older cars, which offer them less protection from injury than newer vehicles and are less likely to be fitted with technology that reduces the risk of crashes occurring, such as differential braking, which reduces the loss of control at bends.
On 26 October 2010, I wrote to Stewart Stevenson, who was then the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, and whom I thank for his kind comments earlier.
In answer to my question, he said:
“The legislation for Graduated Licensing is a reserved matter, but in reply to the Driving Standards Agency … consultation, we highlighted that there is strong support for regulated driving for young drivers amongst the road safety community.”
In his winding-up speech, perhaps the minister could confirm that he would support a pilot GDL in Scotland and indicate that he will write to the Department for Transport in support of that idea.
If he is looking for areas for such a pilot, I suggest that the Highlands and Islands might be suitable.
I believe that GDL is an innovative idea whose time has come.
Tom Paine, an American revolutionary author, said:
“We have it in our power to begin the world all over again.”
Unfortunately, we cannot turn the clock back for families who have lost loved ones.
We can, however, adopt a new, safer, proven driving regime that is aimed at slashing the carnage on our roads and preventing the deaths and injuries of young drivers.
Link to the entire debate
7 September 2011
Motion proposed by David Stewart MSP
That the Parliament notes with concern that research published by Dr Sarah Jones of Cardiff University suggests that there is epidemiological evidence available indicating that young drivers are more likely to crash at night or with similar-aged passengers in the vehicle; understands that between 2000 and 2007 there was no change in the number of collisions in Scotland involving young drivers while collisions involving older drivers fell by 19%; supports the view that, if a graduated licence scheme was introduced in Scotland, up to 22 lives per year could be saved and in excess of £80 million saved to the Scottish economy, and further notes and recognises the work of the Sensible Driving – Always Arriving campaign being undertaken in the Highlands.
Speech by David Stewart
I place on record my thanks to members across the political divide who have supported my motion and to colleagues who have stayed behind this evening, who have shown their interest in and concern about the road safety of young drivers across Scotland.
It is a truism that is not depleted by repetition that there is no greater tragedy, sorrow or loss for a parent than the death of a young son or daughter, as I know from my own personal experience.
However, let me tell you why I am here tonight debating young driver safety.
In early spring last year, I was approached by the Matheson family from Inverness and asked to do what I could to stop the carnage on Highland roads.
Their son Callum and his friend died in March 2010 in a fatal road collision in the city of Inverness.
The car involved was a high-powered, 2-litre Skoda Fabia and the driver was only a provisional licence holder.
I had a discussion with my local team and we decided to launch a major campaign to raise awareness among young people of their responsibilities for their passengers, not in a top-down, patronising way but by involving them in the campaign.
I will give three or four examples.
Last week, I went to Anderson high school in Shetland and spoke to the whole sixth year about the campaign.
They were really enthusiastic and wanted to take part.
We managed to get a car from a local firm—Macrae & Dick—which changed the livery of the car to reflect the campaign, which was great; we managed to get hundreds of leaflets sponsored by a local nightclub; we managed to get a local bus company to put 150 posters in all the local buses; and we also hope to involve the Scottish Youth Parliament.
Finally, through the support of the business community, a DVD is being sponsored; part of tonight’s debate will feature on it, and I promise that each member who wishes one will get a copy.
Our first step was to consider best practice across the world.
We discovered that one in five newly qualified drivers crashes within six months of obtaining a full driving licence; that most newly qualified drivers are under 25; and that in the United Kingdom four people a day are killed or seriously injured in road collisions involving young drivers.
There is a rural component.
As we all know, rural roads across Scotland are more likely—in terms of road collisions per passenger mile—to be the scene of a fatal injury than urban motorways or dual carriageways.
If we ever needed an argument for the dualling of the A9, that is it. However, road design and engineering are only one part of the equation—we also need to consider driver safety, training and education.
Elsewhere in the UK, Wales has an excellent and innovative initiative called deadly mates, which warns young drivers that their passengers are their responsibility.
Dr Sarah Jones of Cardiff University has, for 10 years, carried out research into road collisions involving young drivers in Wales and Scotland.
As part of that research, she has considered a graduated driver licensing scheme. She has revealed that, if such a scheme were introduced in Scotland, 1,500 fewer injuries would occur each year, 22 lives could be saved, and £80 million could be reinvested in the Scottish economy.
In short, the graduated driver licensing scheme is a system that allows new drivers to gain further skills in driving under conditions in which the risks are reduced.
To use a very simple analogy, it is like a nursery slope for drivers—an apprenticeship designed to increase skills and reduce the risks for new drivers.
It works by adding an intermediate stage between the learner stage and the full licence stage.
There are restrictions on the number and age of passengers allowed to be carried, and the driver is not permitted to consume any alcohol.
There is no consensus across the world on whether such a scheme should apply to all new drivers or just to young new drivers.
New Zealand has one view; Australia has another view.
However, the evidence from Dr Jones shows clearly that young drivers are more likely to be involved in a collision at night if they have passengers of the same age. As we all know, the drivers most at risk are male drivers under the age of 25.
Across the world, the graduated driver licensing scheme has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing collisions and casualties.
However, we have a problem here in Scotland. Current practice is not having an impact on young driver crash rates.
Between 2000 and 2007, there was no change in the number of collisions for young drivers.
However, among older drivers, the numbers dropped dramatically—by around 15 per cent.
Enforcement is essential to reducing collision and casualty rates.
In other countries, sanctions take the form of penalty points, fines, and, in some cases, the seizing of vehicles.
Keith Brown, the minister, will outline the Scottish Government’s view on my proposals.
However, his predecessor—Stewart Stevenson—in reply to a parliamentary question on 26 October 2010, said:
―The legislation for graduated licensing is reserved but in our reply to the Driving Standards Agency ... we highlighted that there is strong support for regulated driving for new drivers amongst the road safety community‖.
―Transport Scotland is in the final stages of awarding a contract to facilitate a national debate on young driver issues.‖—[Official Report, Written Answers, 26 October 2010; S3W-36632.]
Perhaps the minister will confirm the timescales.
I believe that a graduated driver licensing scheme is an innovative idea whose time has come.
Tom Paine, the American revolutionary author, once said:
―We have it in our power to begin the world over again.‖
For families who have lost loved ones, unfortunately we cannot turn the clock back. We can, however, adopt a new, safer, proven driving regime, aimed at slashing the carnage on our roads and preventing the deaths and injuries of our young drivers.