The night may be young, but the drivers won't be
The British government wants to ban new drivers from heading out at night. Are they right?
This week, I read a news report somewhere or other which suggested that someone in the Department for Transport has come up with a plan to reduce accidents by banning new drivers from taking to the roads at night.
According to the report, one in five drivers are involved in a crash within a year of passing their tests, and I’m sure that’s true. But what’s also true is that of the 761,000 people who passed their driving tests in the UK over the last year over 507,000 of them were between the ages of 17 and 24. So when the Department for Transport says “new drivers”, what they actually mean is “young drivers”.
You can find further evidence of this by reading further into the report, where it’s also suggested that novice drivers will not be allowed to carry passengers under a certain age. Nor will they be able to take their driving test in the first place unless they’ve completed a minimum learning period.
Imagine that you’re reading this on the eve of your 17th birthday. You’re excited because as a present your parents have paid for you to have your first ever driving lesson, and soon you’ll have a licence, a car, and the freedom that you’ve always wanted to go where you please, when you please.
Except now, under these new proposals, what will actually happen is you’ll spend a year of your life taking (and paying for) lessons in how to do something that any intelligent person should really have nailed within a couple of months. Then, once you’ve passed, you’ll buy a car and call an insurance firm, who will help themselves not only to all the money you have, but all of your parents’ cash as well. Car insurance for young drivers is now so expensive that I wouldn’t be surprised to find the woman from the Admiral adverts down at the local cemetery digging up your Nans gold teeth.
And after all of that you’ll be informed that yes, you may drive. But no, you cannot use your car to take your friends to a music festival, or to take your girlfriend or boyfriend out for a Nandos and some light intercourse. You’ll have to give up your job too, because in the winter by the time you leave at 5pm the sun will have gone down and it will be dark. So, you’ll have to walk home, alone. If I had a teenage daughter, this is not something that I would allow her to do, and I’m sure you wouldn’t either.
As a 17-year-old, you’ll take all of these factors into account, and conclude that, actually, there doesn’t really seem to be much point in learning to drive after all. So instead of asking for driving lessons, you’ll ask for an Xbox, or an Oyster Card, or anything else really.
And that’s a shame, because not only does it mean that the government, whose war on private motorists has nothing to do with safety and absolutely everything to do with being seen to do something about ‘the environment’ by attacking the easiest target regardless of whether their goals are realistic or not, are going to get their own way. It also means that young people are going to be denied the thrill of climbing into their own car and knowing that for the first time in their lives, they can go anywhere they want.
There’ll be no more all-night road trips with your mates to watch the sun come up at Lands End, just because. No more nervous drives home with the girl you fancy wondering if she’ll ask you to come in for a coffee.
And yes, there might be a few less accidents, but consider this. Nowhere in the report did it say that the new drivers were to blame for the crashes that one in five of them have been involved in. Who’s to say that half of them weren’t caused by some doddering old fool who had driven their Alvis the wrong way down the M4 with no lights on and ploughed into a 17-year-old in his Micra on the right side of the road?
But I fear that nobody is going to be listening to this argument. Because this morning we woke up to the news that last night at a car meet in Hertfordshire, someone in a Toyota hit someone else in a Nissan which then ploughed into a crowd of people, injuring seventeen.
Of course, no details have been released about the people who were driving the cars involved. They could have both been 62-year-old university lecturers for all we know. But it doesn’t matter. It was a car meet, with lots of stereotypically modified cars with huge spoilers and noisy exhausts, and lots of stereotypical younger guys and girls in attendance.
I’m actually surprised, in this world of Extinction Rebellion, Netflix, and indeed Chill, that seventeen people had even turned out to look at some modified cars driving up and down a light industrial estate, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is that because one driver, in one car, made a mistake, the already fragile image of the young petrolhead has been dealt another agonising blow.
Of course, I feel for the people injured in the accident, and in time someone official will decide if the Toyota driver didn’t look before pulling out, or whether or not the Nissan driver was speeding. But for you, me and every other like-minded soul who loves cars and enjoys driving, the damage is already done.
We may as well face the facts, the day is coming when the fifteen young drivers that have actually bothered to take a driving test will not be allowed out at night or to have a friend in the car, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So here’s an idea, if we’re going to ban young people from driving at night, why don’t we also ban old people from driving in the day? If the statistics are to be believed, this would mean that the two most accident-prone groups of drivers will never be on the road at the same time.
This makes the roads safer for everyone. Young’uns can tear about in their ST’s and VXR’s without having to worry about a man who looks like a baked potato with hair pulling out in front of them, and those in the autumn of their years can trundle to the 24 hour supermarket as slowly as they like without fear of being tailgated or meeting anyone who didn’t remember when it was all trees and fields around here.
I think it’s a brilliant idea, and I’d love to describe it in further detail, but I need to go and call the insurance company now because yesterday, someone reversed into one of my cars whilst it was parked. I don’t know how old she was, but her name is Elaine. Make of that what you will, but I doubt that she's ever watched 'Love Island'.