Mark McDonald, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, has recently proposed unjust new restrictions on young drivers. His proposals would mean that 17-25 year olds, regardless of driving experience, would be banned from driving between 11pm and 4am every day, as well as preventing them from carrying passengers in their vehicles.
This is based on a discriminatory assumption that young people are generally bad drivers. Even although there is a higher risk as assessed by insurance companies, once you pass your driving test you are judged competent to drive. The SNP seem to be seeking to punish responsible drivers by tarring them with the same brush as the minority of those who drive irresponsibly. These plans are poorly targeted – basing the restrictions on age and not simply on all new drivers is ageist.
As it stands, these proposals would seriously restrict the lives of young people living in rural areas with poor public transport links. Furthermore, young people would not be able to ‘car share’ if travelling long distances, possibly damaging the environment by putting more cars on the road with a single driver in them. In addition, these proposals would also exclude under 25s from jobs that required night driving, such as driving taxis or emergency vehicles. The repercussions of such a policy clearly have not been thought through.
There must be a discussion about road safety in Scotland – hard hitting education programs such as Safe Drive Stay Alive can be very effective in making you think about driving safely. In my experience, everyone who’s seen the Safe Drive Stay Alive show has been emotionally affected by it – once you’ve seen how accidents affect those involved, you’re less likely to take risky decisions on the road.
A better use of resources could be helping all local councils in Scotland to subsidise some of the cost of the Pass Plus scheme, which allows new drivers to practise driving on different types of roads and in different conditions. Ideas on these lines, that do not discriminate, should be explored. However, the SNP’s proposals demonise young people and as they stand are simply wasting police resources by stopping drivers to check they are not guilty of the ‘crime’ of being young and on the road.
* Hannah Bettsworth is co-chair of Liberal Youth Scotland and on the Executive of Scottish Liberal Democrat Women. She recently spent a year studying in Salamanca and is a former member of the Liberal Youth International Committee.