The Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed a series of proposals in a bid to improve safety on Britain’s roads.
A series of consultations on each of the specific proposals will take place in 2016, and they could come into force over the next few years.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to improve that record.
“Today we are delivering common sense proposals that balance tougher penalties for dangerous drivers with practical steps to help youngsters and other more vulnerable groups stay safe on our roads.”
The proposals, outlined below, come after a series of new laws were introduced in 2015 – including a ban on smoking in cars containing children, and an increase in speed limits of heavy goods vehicles.
It’s currently illegal for anyone with a provisional licence to drive on the motorway – even with an instructor in the passenger seat. The first time they’re allowed on the country’s fastest roads is after they’ve passed their driving test – and often unsupervised.
But the new proposals include allowing learner drivers on the motorway, as long as they’re in a dual-controlled car with a professional instructor.
[bctt tweet=”This is definitely not the time to have mum or dad in the passenger seat.” via=”no”]
RAC Foundation director, Steve Gooding, said: “One in five young drivers has an accident within six months of passing their test so putting the learning process under the spotlight has to be a good thing.
“Mile for mile, motorways are our safest roads but can be intimidating places for novice drivers. Exploring ways of letting learners have controlled access to them is welcome.
“The important thing is the official seal of approval provided by the approved driving instructor who will accompany them down the slip-road. This is definitely not the time to have mum or dad in the passenger seat.”
Mobile phone penalties increased
Since 2007, anyone caught using a handheld mobile phone while driving in the UK could be handed an on-the-spot fine and points on their licence. This was initially a fine of £60 and three points on your licence, rising to £100 in 2013.
But the DfT is proposing even heavier punishments for those caught on their phone while driving – including £150 fines and four points for car drivers. For drivers of larger vehicles, such as lorries, this could be increased to six penalty points.
£750,000 police grant
One of the biggest criticisms the police face from motorists is the lack of manpower – with many concerned that speed cameras are being used instead of traffic cops patrolling the roads.
Speed cameras can’t spot dangerous driving or detect whether someone is driving under the influence of drink or drugs – which is why the Government is proposing a £750,000 grant to fund more police officers in England and Wales with expertise in drug recognition and impairment testing.
The move, the DfT suggests, will allow a more targeted enforcement of drug drivers. It comes after a special ‘drugalyser’ machine was introduced earlier this year, along with new laws to lock up anyone caught driving under the influence.
£50m cycle training grant
In 2014, more than 21,000 cyclists were injured in accidents on UK roads – including 3,401 who were seriously injured, and a shocking 113 who were killed.
In a move to reduce this figure, the Government is proposing a £50 million grant over the next four years to support the Bikeability cycle training scheme in schools. This grant is twofold, says the DfT: not only will it increase children’s road awareness, it’ll also encourage them to be healthy and active.
Since it was launched in 2007, more than 1.5m school children have so far received training through the Bikeability scheme – and a further 275,000 are expected to benefit from the service in 2015/16.
Cycle safety consultation
It’s not just through cycle training that the DfT plans to make riding a bike on UK roads safer. Since 1 September 2015, lorries driving through Central London have to be fitted with essential safety equipment to protect cyclists – including extra mirrors to prevent blind spots, and side protection bars to prevent cyclists being dragged under an HGV’s wheels.
Under the new proposals, the DfT has said it will consult on how to further improve cycle safety – including making sure sideguards on lorries are not removed after being fitted.
£2m driver education research programme
The driving test is changing – a 10 minute independent driving section has already been introduced, where the learner is instructed to use road signs and prior knowledge to get to a destination. More changes are already being trialled – including a 20 minute independent driving section, with candidates allowed to use a sat-nav to navigate.
But further changes could be on the horizon, with the DfT proposing a £2 million in-depth research programme in how driving training could be improved.