§ Mr. Colvin
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) whether any research has been done on the effectiveness of the R-plate scheme for newly qualified drivers in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement;
(2) if he will make a statement on the use of R-plates on motor vehicles in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Needham
[holding answer 16 July 1990]: To date no specific research has been carried out on the effectiveness of the R-plate scheme for newly qualified drivers in Northern Ireland. The R-plate scheme was introduced in Northern Ireland on 1 April 1968. This requires the newly qualified driver to display R (for restricted) plates on the front and rear of the vehicle for a period of 12 months after passing the driving test. R drivers may not exceed a speed of 45 mph. Speed limits for roads of 30 mph and 40 mph must, of course, be obeyed.
The 45 mph speed restriction allows the newly qualified driver to gain experience for one year at lower speeds and warns other drivers that the vehicle is likely to be driven by an inexperienced driver.
Royal Ulster Constabulary accident statistics show that lack of experience in the first five years of drivers and motor-cyclists is a major contributory factor in relation to responsibility for accidents. Drivers are only half as likely to be responsible for an injury accident in the first year—the R-plate year—after passing the driving test as in the second year.
Research is being commissioned to determine whether the R-plate scheme contributes to this effect.