Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon

JTomlinsonJustin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, has been given a national road safety award by the charity Brake and Direct Line Group for his work campaigning to reform the way young people learn to drive to prevent devastating road crashes.

Justin launched his campaign in June 2013 after two horrendous crashes in May 2013 killed three teenagers in Swindon within the space of a week, bringing home the dangers faced by young and newly qualified drivers and their passengers. Young drivers are involved in one in four fatal and serious crashes, despite making up just one in eight driver licence holders [1].

Working to highlight the issue in Parliament, Justin introduced the Graduated Driving Licence Scheme Bill on 19 June 2013. The Bill proposed that for 12 months immediately after passing their tests, drivers would have licence restrictions to limit the risks they are exposed to. This would include a zero-tolerance drink drive limit and only being allowed to carry one passenger. These restrictions would be supported by graduated learning, with key skills signed off by an accredited instructor before being allowed to book a test.

'Graduated driver licensing' already exists in a number of countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is predicted that it would save 200 lives and prevent 14,000 injuries a year in the UK [2].

Justin consulted widely, with emergency services, the insurance industry, Driver Instructors Association, and with Brake. He also repeatedly met with transport ministers Stephen Hammond and Robert Goodwill, raised questions about young road deaths in Parliament, and wrote about the issue in local press and the Conservative Home blog.
Justin secured cross-party support for the Bill from a number of MPs, and it was due to have its second reading on 25 October. Unfortunately there was not enough time to debate the Bill, and a new date has not yet been announced.

Although Justin's Bill may not become law directly, it has put the issue at the top of the agenda ahead of the government's forthcoming green paper on young drivers, expected in the new year. Justin has been invited by road safety minister Robert Goodwill to submit his research and proposals for consideration alongside the green paper, and he will continue to press for graduated licensing.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: "Brake fully endorses Justin's campaign for graduated driver licensing, an approach we believe is critical to reducing the appalling numbers of young lives cut short and changed forever on our roads. As a charity that supports bereaved and injured road crash victims, all too often we see families torn apart by these devastating yet preventable deaths and serious injuries.

"Young drivers are more at risk because of a deadly combination of inexperience, overconfidence and peer pressure. Introducing them to the roads gradually, through a minimum learning period and restrictions for novice drivers, has been proven to drastically reduce these risks. We are delighted to recognise Justin's work on the issue and will continue to support his efforts until the law is changed."

Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon said: "With four young people a day either killed or seriously injured on our roads, it is vital we take steps to allow young drivers to gain essential driving experience under lower risk conditions. I will continue to press on this issue as not only will it improve safety, but it will also bring down sky-high insurance premiums for young drivers. I am very grateful for all Brake's support in promoting my Private Members Bill."

End notes:
[1] Reported Road Accidents Involving Young Drivers 2009 (Department for Transport, 2011)
[2] Restricting young drivers, The University of Cardiff, 2010


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