The government’s petition committee discussed a potential system change to car insurance

More restrictions on young drivers have been suggested to the government in a parliamentary debate.

On Monday, MPs debated a potential change in the way car insurance is calculated, after a petition calling for the change received over 56,000 signatures.

The petition wanted car insurance to apply to the vehicle, rather than the individual. This is a similar system to that adopted in countries such as Portugal and USA.

MP for Clwyd South, Susan Elan Jones presented the debate to the committee.

Elan Jones gave the example of three friends going on a night out in the same car. Two of the friends are drinking, including the car owner. If the car owner is the only one insured, then that driver would not be able to drive home, but if the car itself is insured, then the sober friend would be able to drive home legally.

Proposal shut down

Problems with the proposal were brought up by other members in the debate:

MP for Kilmarnock, Alan Brown said: “When we talk about the scenario in the petition of the three friends, the sober driver might not have experience of the car and if their friends are intoxicated, they might not be able to give appropriate instructions.

“So I don’t see this as a solution, I see more risk in this scenario than benefits.”

Matt Rodda, MP for Reading East outlined the negative effect the change would have on safer drivers:

“Insurers will still set premiums to match claims payment to income. Those who make the fewest claims will pay more insurance, while people who have the most claims and deserve higher premiums, will end up paying less than they should.”

The government’s initial response to the petition said it had “no plans to change the motor insurance system,” and that was reiterated by the minister.

He said a change in the system “could potentially raise premiums for most drivers” and be “costly for both insurers and consumers.”

Young drivers

While the motion was universally shut down by the committee, the issue of premiums and young drivers was discussed at length.

Jenny Chapman, MP for Darlington once again brought up the idea of a graduated drivers license, something she presented to the Prime Minister on 7 February after a small child in her constituency was killed by a learner driver.

She proposed a license with more restriction than previously mentioned.

She said: “After taking the test, at novice driver stage, a young person can drive unsupervised, but with restrictions.”

The restrictions she proposed for young (aged 17-24), inexperienced drivers were:

  • No passengers under 25.

  • Time restrictions- no young, inexperienced driver can drive between 11 pm and 6 am, unless driving to work or place of education.

  • A zero alcohol limit, as alcohol is an especially significant risk factor.

  • Restrictions on the size of the vehicle’s engine,

  • An additional driving test after a period of time to make sure the driver has reached the standard expected

She then suggested that “more than 400 deaths could be prevented each year if a graduated license is introduced.”

To this, the minister said the government “do not see this as being the solution right now, but it has not ruled out some form of graduate driving license.”

The 5-year-old Green Paper promise

Rodda looked at young drivers from a road safety perspective and reminded the minister of a promise the government made back in 2013.

He said: “I along with others have felt there needs to be a green paper issued by the government about young drivers.

“In March 2013, the government said it would issue a green paper overhauling safety for young drivers. It is now 2018 and no paper has been issued, despite road safety campaigners and the insurance industry. I ask the transport minister if he is thinking of doing this, and if not, why not?

“A green paper could explore many ways road safety can be improved for young drivers and pedestrians.”

Rodda also called for the reintroduction of road safety targets, an initiative originally brought in by the Labour government and abolished under the coalition government.

The minister was unable to comment on the promises or work done by the coalition government but did end the debate by saying the government “is working hard on reforms such as whiplash and the work done with young drivers to lessen the impact of high premiums, and to lower the premiums themselves.”

He said: “We have to find a way to spread the cost in a way that doesn’t undermine the necessity to drive safely because that would be a disaster.”