Opinion: SNP’s ill thought out proposals discriminate against young people

Drew's first driving lesson - Some rights reserved by akarmyMark 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 a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Council for Europe, and the Liberal Democrat Federal International Relations Committee. Outside of politics, she works in European affairs consultancy on health policy.

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  • 17-25?!? Twenty FIVE?! That’s insane. By that age most people are working regular jobs, and a significant number will have families of their own. Effectively this is ban on young adults from working the night shift and young parents taking their children to the hospital.

    I can understand the argument for very young drivers, or for very inexperienced drivers but to apply it to drivers with six years experience under their belt, regardless of how safe they’ve proved themselves.

  • I think theres a fundamental confusion here arising from the assumption that discrimination is inherently wrong. We ban blind people from driving & no-one complains because its obviously rational discrimination.
    The problem with the SNP proposal is that it doesnt focus on the right group, young men who are far more likely to drive dangerously. The evidence is all there in the statistics.
    While I agree that extra teaching would help, as would making the test harder, lack of caution is inherent in being a young man & the only cure is time.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 10th Jan '13 - 1:18pm

    @Paul Barker
    I don’t think that all young male drivers necessarily lack caution. If you want to place restrictions, place them on all new drivers for a period of time. Don’t bring age into it.

  • Oh for goodness sake, the SNP policy is silly, but they are right to say that 17-25 years are more likely to be involved in accidents, because they are, as reflected in insurance premiums.

  • I don’t happen to support Mark McDonald’s proposals but this article is seriously misleading. He is not proposing blanket restrictions on all drivers under 25 but a graduated licensing scheme which means the restrictions would only apply to newly qualified young drivers for a specified period. The length of period that is being discussed is something like 18 months to 2 years. As I say, I don’t particularly support the idea but it is worthy of serious discussion rather than scaremongering. Tavish Scott certainly seemed to think so when he signed a motion in 2011 supporting discussion of such a scheme.

  • Old Codger Chris 10th Jan '13 - 3:09pm

    I suspect the accident statistics would support the introduction of a measured and sensible law to restrict young / inexperienced drivers – some countries already do this. It could be brought in for (say) 2 years, and reviewed after that time to assess whether lives had been saved and hence if the scheme should be continued and possibly widened in scope.

    It would have to be UK-wide, or young drivers living in Alan Beith’s constituency would all decamp over the border for an all-nighter!

    I agree that males are usually the problem. Even insurers can no longer differentiate between the sexes – leading to unfairly high premiums for young women .

  • Old Codger Chris 10th Jan '13 - 3:13pm

    Sorry – I obviously meant that young males in the Borders would decamp INTO Alan Beith’s constituency!

  • We have a compulsory driving test in the UK for a reason, If you pass the test, then you are fit to drive. If the concern is drivers aren’t ready to drive in certain conditions after passing their test, then why not make them learn to drive in these conditions as well? Why not have a section of the driving test which covers driving at night? And what’s so particular about 11pm-4am? Why not ban new drivers from driving in the rain or fog as well? Also to assume that just because someone is a new driver that automatically makes them a fundamentally worse driver than others on the road is ridiculous. By the same logic, we should probably be considering banning all older people from driving at certain times as well (on the basis that there’s a chance their eyesight might have diminished or their reaction time decreased with age.

  • @ Jack

    Spot on, 25? Someone is seriously having a laugh.

    When I used to do work as a young person in an rural area (not as remote as some areas of Scotland) I used to rely on collegues to give me lifts to work as I didn’t own a car, when that was night shift work any ban of this sort would have removed more than one person’s access to employment.

    But it probably looks ok from the comfort of an MSP’s office. Did this person ever have to do night work in a rural environment? I would guess not.

    @ Hannah

    It is not just rural areas that have poor public transport between 11pm and 4am. Try getting from Dundee to Glenrothes at 2am on public transport

  • Plenty of teenagers and people in their early twenties are doing responsible jobs, supporting their families and volunteering. Having a car makes it possible for them to do these activities. If a young driver is causing a problem by driving badly or recklessly then they will be dealt with by the law appropriately. Who do MSPs think are going to serve them in restaurants, pull pints in pubs, work in late-night shops and do a spectrum of essential jobs that require them to go to remote areas at nght?

  • Robin Bennett 11th Jan '13 - 2:33pm

    A young male driver with three young passengers have died in both Fife and Aberdeenshire, We need a restriction targeted at the circumstances (rural, male, inexperienced, hyped up by company) which statistics indicate.

  • @ Robin Bennett

    So your argument is that because a driver killing themselves (and three people who presumably voluntarially got in the car with them) is a tragedy then other young people who are more careful should have their choices restricted.

    The normal argument used is that “unsafe” you drivers are more likley to loose control and halm others then they need to be restricted. However between 11 at night and 4 in the morning there is a much reduced threat to other people.

    To be fair to the SNP they are not a liberal party, they believe in minimum alchohol pricing and general paternalism. The LibDems are a liberal party so should be totally opposed to it.

  • Michael Parsons 11th Jan '13 - 9:30pm

    This is just a local example of the general, nationwide problem we have caused by reformers who are busy shooting the by-standers and those who make disfavoured choices; which they do by brining in general bans and price hikes. We have it with tobacco, alcohol, certain foods and now driving. It is a symptom of the moral decay that prevents enforcement action against actual defalcations: against people who smoke outside smoking=allowed pub rooms and carriages, who spit in the street; or misbehave there when drunk; who resist proper food labelling etc. It is far easier to get a warm glow if self-satisfaction while making decent people pay more or not drive than it is to actually doing something effective such as apprehending and stopping those who break the laws,. B cause that would require uncomfortable acts of judgement; and a curb on the employment of skilled pleaders in court; and the restoration of initiative and power to juries instead; and the de-professionalising of the legal system.

    It is time to curb moral weakness in law enforcement, not drivers, drinkers, smokers and sex-workers’ customers choices. Time for personal freedom!

  • Robin Bennett 11th Jan '13 - 10:49pm

    Psi: You intepret my views correctly, though I believe the accidents referred to happened before 11 pm. And Lib Dems (and Tories and Labour) now support minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland.

  • @ Robin Bennett

    Well if the accidents referred to occurred before 11 then they are not helpful.

    I am very disappointed that LibDem policy in Scotland is to support minimum pricing, perhaps it ought to be to drop the “Liberal” part of the name to.

    But to the point…

    This policy would penalises the responsible (those who are working night shifts as they pay better) to protect the irresponsible (those inclined to drive more dangerously when “hyped up by company”). That is something that I can’t believe Liberals should ever support.

    On the issue of experience of driving, how do you think people get the experience? Older drivers didn’t wake up one day and suddenly had a whole range of experience of drivig at night, in ice, in fog etc. Experience is developed and you have to allow people to have the experience (and some will make mistakes in gaining them) in order for them to be allowed to gain the experience.

    You could ban driving for everyone under 25 it wouldn’t result in a load of newly qualified 25 year olds who are experienced in driving in difficult conditions.

    The truth of this is that there are a wide number of factors around different young drivers, experience, views around alcohol/drugs when driving, susceptibility to be “hyped up” etc. There is not a silver bullet which will cure all ills, there are a combination of things that will gradually address different aspects, and certainly not all of them are best executed by the state. Insurance companies have an ability to affect the incentives on drivers as they represent such a large part of young drivers costs.

  • Matthew Thompson 2nd Aug '13 - 5:59am

    Age Discrimination Against Young Drivers
    This should not be accepted by us young drivers !!!
    Some of us are good drivers and we get punished because of idiots
    If its a new driver regardless of their age they are a risk but its always (young Drivers). What about that 30 year old that just passed and has a suped up sports car with cheap insurance ??
    I personally think that young drivers should get charged the same as anyone else, and it goes up if they have a accident of their fault, As punishing young drivers before they do anything wrong is not fair

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