I’M NOT SURE how I feel about the bloke who used to be the motoring correspondent for GQ – and someone who posted a semi-respectable time as a Top Gear star in a reasonably priced car – being given the keys to an entire country.
Boris Johnson is the new Prime Minister. And I suggest he starts – well, starts once he’s got the small matter of working out whether we’ll be leaving the EU sorted – by sorting out this nonsense about young drivers heading out at night, once and for all.
You might have noticed a slew of headlines in the national newspapers the other day suggesting that, as part of plans to bring in a new graduated driving licence, that newer drivers could face a ban from getting behind the wheel once it goes dark. But once I’d pored through the details of the Department for Transport’s new Road Safety Statement (I know, I should get out more) I couldn’t actually find any details of this rather draconian-sounding plan.
What I did discover were findings from a study suggesting that there was insufficient evidence that 20mph speed limits in urban areas – that’s you, highways people at Sefton Council and Lancashire County Council – had led to a significant change in collisions and casualties. It also noted that the number of annual road fatalities on British roads had barely changed since 2010, despite the volume of traffic increasing by eight per cent.
But what did pique my interest was the Government’s target to increase the number of drivers who’d ventured out after sunset before taking their test from 82.5 per cent to more than 90 per cent; it’s got similar plans for would-be-motorists practising their ability to drive independently, and those getting experience of tricky country roads, which have the highest accident rates.
Let’s go hell for leather, Boris. I reckon the chap who did doughnuts – of the tyre-shredding, not confectionary-based, variety – in a Ginetta in the interests of plugging Brexit will agree emphatically with the idea of up ‘n’ coming motorists being given lessons in what it’s like to rescue an ageing Proton from catastrophic understeer on a greasy country road. Youngsters should be taught just how irritating it is to have an Audi Q3 four inches off their rear bumper on a busy motorway, and how to respond safely; it might stop them becoming the culprit themselves a few years later.
In fact, I’d go even further than that. I’d take them to a private test track and let them feel an ABS system strut its stuff in an emergency stop, before taking them to the pitside café, treating them to four gin and tonics and letting them see for themselves exactly how being hammered knackers your reaction times.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax is all the proof you need that banning stuff doesn’t work – and I reckon taking the same approach with driving and enjoying cars will have exactly the same result. But treating new drivers like adults and showing them how cars react in different situations, might actually encourage them to enjoy them properly…and safely.
Over to you, Boris.