Plan could cut number of motoring claims and reduce premiums for young drivers, say insurers

The number of motoring claims could drop as a result of tough new plans to reduce road fatalities by a third, insurers and motoring organisations say.

The Department for Transport last week announced ambitions to cut the road death toll over the next 10 years from an annual 3,000 to 2,000.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the Road Safety Minister, said it was “intolerable” that eight people died on Britain’s roads every day. “We want to make them the safest in the world.”

The plans, set out in a draft consultation, include:

• More 20mph areas. The speed limit on single-carriageway rural roads to go down to 50mph.

• Cars and other vehicles to have more safety mechanisms and more protection for side impacts.

• Tougher theory and practical driver tests. An optional “pass-plus” course for newly-qualified drivers.

The proposals could also lower insurance premiums for younger drivers, the age group most likely to be involved in motor accidents.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance, said the priority was to reduce accidents, but added: “If you can reduce claims it will be reflected in the cost of insurance.”

He said the ABI wanted the Government to impose a one-year mandatory learning stretch for would-be drivers.

An RAC Insurance spokesman said: “Any kind of speed reduction certainly will help cut accidents and cut deaths. From that point, it will have an impact on insurance claims.”

But not all groups agreed with the recommendations.

Brian Gregory, the founder of the Association of British Drivers, a road safety group, said speed reductions might increase the number of accidents as motorists would become fixated with not breaking 20mph rather than concentrating on the road.

“You will get a lot more accidents where the speed is lower as drivers will try desperately not to break the limit. It is a recipe for disaster.”

The consultation document, A Safer Way, also called for greater speed reductions at accident blackspots, hazardous roads and near city schools. It said more than £0.5bn could be saved in casualty costs over the next 10 years.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Road Safety Minister

“We’ve already made real improvements to the safety of our roads – there are now almost 17,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries in a year than there were in the mid-1990s. But it is intolerable that eight people are still dying on our roads each day.

We want to make Britain’s roads the safest in the world. That will mean improving vehicles and the road network, as well as helping drivers and other road users to be as safe as possible. The major changes to the driver training and testing process will create better-prepared drivers while our plans for the next 10 years aim to make the roads and vehicles they use safer and so prevent many of the terrible crashes which cut short lives and tear families apart.”

Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance

“We support the Government’s aim to make our roads safer. Every day too many lives are still cut short or ruined. Changes in driver training and testing will help, but must go further to reduce the high level of casualties involving young people. Nearly a third of all deaths of 15 to19-year-olds occur on the roads. A minimum one-year learning period for young drivers, and restrictions on the number of passengers carried by newly-qualified drivers, would reduce significantly this tragic waste of young life.”

David Frost, technical manager of motor and legal services, RSA

“RSA welcomes any proportionate measures directed at improving road safety through reductions in accident frequency and severity. Speed is often a contributory factor; additional government focus on the management of traffic speed on higher risk routes is a positive step.”