16 September, 2019

‘Don’t stop us driving’ – young people in rural areas urge government not to take away their freedom

Young drivers in rural Britain are urging the government not to take away their freedom and stop them driving through the introduction of a Graduated Driving Licence, according to research for the National Rural Crime Network.

The Department for Transport is looking into whether to introduce restrictions on those who have just passed their tests, potentially including banning them from driving at night or carrying passengers.

The National Rural Crime Network believes this policy is another example of where the needs of rural communities have not been considered and is worried about the disproportionate impact on young people and novice drivers in rural areas.

The Network asked North Yorkshire Youth Commission members for their views as part of their research into this proposal.

The survey found:

  • Seven in ten believed a Graduated Driving Licence which introduced restrictions on when they could use a vehicle would have a negative impact on their lives.
  • 83 per cent said it was a bad idea overall and did not want it to be brought in.

Members were also asked for their views on alternatives to blanket restrictions:

  • 73% felt more pre-test practice requirements, such as more rural driving, night driving and motorway driving, were one solution
  • 57% thought there was an argument for a black box with incentives to reduce insurance premiums for safe driving behaviour.

Commenting on the results, North Yorkshire Youth Commission Member, 23-year old Katy Welford from Ryedale, said: 

“Many young adults, including myself, are required to drive late at night, either for job purposes, to help their families or in an emergency. If the Government were to restrict young adults driving at night, we would not be able to do any of these things. This is particularly a problem in rural areas where there are long distances involved and very limited options for public transport.

“Not allowing young adults to drive with passengers will also be extremely unfair. It would also be less eco-friendly at a time when the debates on climate change are acute amongst young people as more cars would be on our roads.

“While it is clear that something needs to be done to prevent careless driving, both these bans would be very restrictive to young adults’ daily lives and have a disproportionately large impact on young adults in rural areas. They would reduce young adults rights, liberty and independence, which I feel has not been properly considered.”

The survey’s findings reinforced the concerns expressed by the National Rural Crime Network in a submission to the Transport Select Committee.

Julia Mulligan, Chair of the National Rural Crime Network and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said:

“Too many young people are seriously injured or killed on our roads, so we welcome the government’s determination to address this issue and bring those numbers down. Our message is that they must do so bearing in mind what life is really like for young people who live in rural communities – something all too often forgotten by those drawing up these policies who live and work in major urban areas.

“With little public transport, and large distances to travel, many young people in rural areas rely on cars to access education, training and employment. Restrictions on driving at certain times of day could prevent novice drivers, and young people, from accessing education, training and employment. This has the potential to have a long-term negative impact on the lives of young people living in rural areas and could further exacerbate the net migration of young people towards more urban areas where access to services is easier.

“Whilst the Network has concerns about limiting the access to transport for young people and novice drivers in rural areas, we are also conscious that road safety is a key concern of those living in our rural areas. Many of our members say they would be supportive of a scheme which helped improve their safety as road users but would have significant reservations about a scheme which imposed time restrictions on novice drivers which would impact directly on them and indirectly on other rural residents.”