Call for restrictions on young drivers - ban night driving and powerful cars

A probationary licence for newly qualified young motorists would help to keep them and other drivers safer, said one expert.

Ali Ahmad, 23, obtained his licence at age 18 and said he wished he had received more on-road experience. Satish Kumar / The National
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ABU DHABI // Young drivers should be restricted to driving in daylight only, under supervision and in less powerful cars, road safety experts say.

A probationary licence for newly qualified young motorists would help to keep them and other drivers safer, said Robert Hodges, chief operating officer at Emirates Driving Institute.

“New drivers are always vulnerable for the first six months to two years of their post-licence period,” Mr Hodges said.

“Young drivers are also always more at risk due to attitude, and in most cases the brains of those under the age of 24 and 25 have not fully matured.”

Mr Hodges suggested a three-stage licence for those between 18 and 24, similar to those issued in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and many US states.

Young drivers must have a restricted licence for the first year, which would be extended for another 12 months if they have no accidents.

At the end of that, the driver must pass a safety check to allow a new licence to be issued for another two years.

The second licence would have no restrictions on night-time driving or peer groups, but cars would be limited to 2.5-litre engines. The driver can then apply for a full licence to be issued for the next six years.

If any major crash occurred in the previous two years, an extra probationary year would be required, with another safety check test at the end.

“This seems harsh but this process would keep them much safer on the busy roads of Dubai,” Mr Hodges said. “Death is a permanent event.”

Figures released by Sharjah Police show drivers between the ages of 18 and 30 were responsible for more than 44 per cent of accidents in the emirate in the first five months of this year.

That age group was involved in 434 out of 970 accidents, which caused 159 deaths, 351 moderate injuries and 375 mild injuries.

Dr Britta Lang, director of British consultancy Transport Research Laboratory UAE, said it was harder for younger drivers to anticipate the consequences of their behaviour.

“The restrictions ensure they are not exposed to situations where the demands exceed their skills, which are still in the process of developing,” Dr Lang said.

Ali Ahmad, 23, a fourth-year international studies student at Zayed University in Dubai who obtained his licence at age 18, said he wished he had received more on-road experience beyond basic driving skills.

“When I got my licence I had to teach myself to drive to become a better driver,” Mr Ahmad said.

Many training organisations tend to rush students to the road test, Mr Hodges said.

“They should have 45 hours of on-road driver training before taking the road test,” he said.

After four years behind the wheel, Mr Ahmad became more at ease and confident while on the road.

“I don’t really like to drive fast,” he said. “I take extra care on the roads.”

He said he had been involved in a few minor accidents. His car was once hit from behind, and he was side-swept by another.

Training hazard perception skills should be a high priority as novice drivers' hazard perception skills are not as developed as those of experienced drivers, said Dr Lang.

“There is very robust evidence from studies in Australia and the UK to suggest that better hazard perception skills are significantly associated with lower collision rates,” she said.

Technology is another trap for younger drivers.

“Young people are usually more social media interactive and tend to behave illegally by using smartphones, sometimes even taking selfies while driving,” Mr Hodges said.

“This combined with an inevitably higher speeds raises what I call the ‘causal factors’ to an extreme high.”