Many motorists ‘driving illegally’
More than half of all new drivers banned in the first two years of passing their test don’t bother retaking it. The law says after a ban you must re-sit a test before driving again, but many people don’t realise.
Road safety groups reckon many young people are getting behind the wheel illegally.
They’re asking courts not to send driving licenses back to banned drivers before they’ve passed a re-test.
Ollie from Essex was aged 17 and had only been driving a few weeks when he got pulled over.
“I got caught speeding,” he says, “doing a hundred miles an hour, so it was an instant ban.”
He’s one of thousands of young drivers who get disqualified every month for picking up six points or more in their first two years after passing their test.
“After the month ban, through the post came my driving license so I thought, ‘Well, that’s my license to drive back’, so I carried on driving.”
He’d been told he’d have to take a re-test, but because his license was returned after a month he began driving again.
‘More likely risk’
The DVLA has told Newsbeat 17,814 people have been banned from driving since October 2008 but, like Ollie, almost half – 8,196 people – haven’t retaken their test.
The Young Drivers Act, which came into force in 1998, was supposed to deter dangerous driving, but road safety campaigners say this shows it’s not working.
“It’s naive to think that all these drivers just disappear and jump on the bus, they don’t, many of them are still driving,” says Edmund King from the AA.
“I think this is a major problem, but perhaps it’s a problem that the authorities aren’t really aware about.”
“When I was 9 years old I was run over by an illegal driver,” says 25-year-old Leigh-Ann Johns from Redcar.
She had to have both her legs amputated after an uninsured, unlicensed driver mounted the kerb and hit her.
“I just don’t see the harm in putting back in for your test,” she said.
Back in April the government announced changes to the driving test and introduced the pre-driver qualification.
From October 2010 learners will have to choose their own route to a certain place during their test to prove they can drive independently.
There will also be a 3-month course rolled out across schools and colleges which will count towards learners’ theory tests.
Message not clear?
But these figures show thousands of new drivers are still getting disqualified and then breaking the law by not bothering to retake their test.
“We clearly need to make sure that we look at this problem,” says Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, “look at these numbers and come up with solutions to solve this problem and we’re very happy to do it.”
The AA reckons one reason that the situation is happening is because the message that you need to retake your test if you’re banned in the first two years of driving isn’t getting through.
They also think people having their license returned by the courts before they’ve taken another test needs to be looked into.
The Department of Transport says there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to be driving without a valid license.
They say anyone who does so is knowingly breaking the law and faces tough penalties.