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15 May 2024 | Comment | Article by Siobhan Thomas

Graduated driving licence laws in the UK | A crucial step towards safer roads?

Siobhan Thomas, Partner in our Serious Injury team and based in Southampton, delves into what graduated driving licence laws could entail and how they could reduce road traffic collisions and make our roads safer.

Proposed graduated driving licence laws in the UK

Learning to drive is a significant milestone in a young person’s life, offering newfound freedom and independence. However, with this freedom comes responsibility.

In response to the ongoing concerns surrounding road safety, particularly among young and inexperienced drivers, the UK government has for some time been considering the implementation of graduated driving licence laws. These proposed laws aim to address the increased number of road traffic collisions involving young drivers, by introducing a phased approach to obtaining a full driving licence.

Labour MP Kim Leadbeater has introduced a new law into Parliament – the ‘Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (New Drivers) Bill’. The proposal would make new drivers pass through several stages before being allowed to drive more freely.

This could include initially driving with a more experienced adult, restricting the hours when they can drive unsupervised and capping the number of passengers they are allowed to carry.

The statistics

According to the Government website Reported road casualties in Great Britain: younger driver factsheet, 2022

  • Overall, in 2022, around a fifth of all killed or seriously injured casualties from collisions involving cars were in collisions which involved a young car driver.
  • Young male car drivers aged 17 to 24 are four times as likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with all car drivers aged 25 or over.

Various motoring organisations, such as the RAC, are among those backing the proposed new law. They have made comparisons with New Zealand, where a similar scheme has been introduced and there has been a 23% reduction in car collision injuries for 15–19 year olds, and a 12% reduction for 20–24 year olds.

What is a graduated driving licence (GDL)?

A graduated driving licence is a system that gradually introduces new drivers to the road, allowing them to gain experience and skills in a controlled manner. The proposed laws in England and Wales follow a similar framework to existing schemes in other countries, such as New Zealand, parts of Australia and Canada.

Key components of graduated driving licence laws

Under the proposed legislation, newly-qualified drivers would face certain restrictions for the first six months after passing a driving test, including a zero-alcohol limit.

The proposed stages are as follows:

  1. Learner stage: before obtaining a full driving licence, individuals must first pass a theory test followed by a practical driving test. During this stage, they are required to display ‘L’ plates on their vehicles and are subject to certain restrictions, such as not driving on motorways and always being accompanied by a fully licensed driver.
  2. Probationary period: once a new driver passes their practical driving test, they enter a probationary period. This period will be marked by specific restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of collisions on the road. These restrictions may include limits on the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, a zero-alcohol limit, and a requirement to display ‘P’ plates.
  3. Penalties for violations: breaking the rules of the graduated driving licence system could result in penalties, including fines, penalty points on the driver’s license and in severe cases, license revocation.
  4. Further training: some graduated licence schemes also encourage or mandate further training, such as additional driving courses or advanced driving tests, to enhance the skills of new drivers.

Why are graduated driving licence laws important?

  • Reducing the number of road traffic collisions: young and inexperienced drivers are statistically more likely to be involved in a road crash. Graduated driving licence laws help mitigate this risk by gradually introducing new drivers to the road, allowing them to gain experience in a safer environment.
  • Encouraging responsible driving: by imposing restrictions and penalties, graduated licence laws encourage young drivers to adopt safe and responsible driving behaviours from the outset of their driving careers.
  • Protecting vulnerable road users: limiting the number of passengers and imposing zero alcohol limits on new drivers helps protect not only the drivers themselves, but also other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Improving road safety culture: graduated driving licence laws contribute to fostering a culture of road safety, emphasising the importance of cautious and considerate driving among all road users.


Graduated driving licence laws have proven effective in many countries around the world by reducing road traffic collision rates among young drivers. However, they are not without challenges and criticisms. Some argue that the restrictions could be too stringent or may discourage young people from obtaining a driving licence altogether. Additionally, enforcement of these laws is likely to be challenging.

Nevertheless, it has been statistically proven that graduated driving licence laws play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of young drivers and other road users. By gradually introducing new drivers to the road and imposing restrictions and penalties for violations, these laws would undeniably help reduce collision rates and encourage responsible driving behaviour from the outset.

Ms Leadbeater’s bill is expected to get its second reading in the House of Commons on 17 May 2024.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this article, please contact our Serious Injury team today.

Author bio

Siobhan Thomas


Siobhan Thomas represents individuals who have suffered a serious injury through no fault of their own. Many of her clients have experienced traumatic events and life changing injuries, that have seriously affected not only their health and wellbeing, but that of their loved ones too.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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