The introduction of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) would save lives in the UK, according to a consultation response by Public Health Wales.
Other changes to prioritise walking and cycling, such as increasing crossing times and replacing “paint only” cycle lanes with separate lanes should also be considered, Public Health Wales said in response to a Welsh Government consultation on its new road safety strategy.
In its response to Welsh Government’s 12-week consultation Road Safety in Wales - A New Road Safety Strategy, Public Health Wales called for a road safety strategy that focuses on public health, addresses inequalities in the harms that result from the road traffic environment, and prioritises walking, cycling and public transport.
A GDL system is designed to help new drivers of motor vehicles gain experience and skills gradually over time in low-risk environments. A wide range of measures could be considered within a GDL, but options may include a period when newly qualified drivers under the age of 25 are not permitted to give lifts to other young people and are not permitted to drive late at night. Public Health Wales’ position statement for a GDL also recommends a night time driving restriction and a drink drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood.
Public Health Wales also recommended pedestrian crossing wait times should be cut while time allowed to cross should be extended. Other specific policy proposals included ensuring that cycling infrastructure should be clearly separated from other motor vehicles and that “paint only” is not acceptable. Public Health Wales also outlined its belief that a social marketing campaign should be undertaken to improve understanding of who pays for the roads (everyone through taxation, not just drivers) and who has priority in the road space (the most vulnerable road users, not drivers).
Dr Sarah Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health at Public Health Wales, said:
“Historically, our road network has been built with the prioritisation of private motor vehicle users in mind, but it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not an approach that is fit for the future. A modal shift is required to encourage more people to use transport options such as walking, cycling, or public transport, as an alternative to the car. Only then can Wales hope to develop a road system that supports decarbonisation efforts that will reduce air pollution and address the climate emergency, as well as inequalities in access.
“A road safety strategy is a public health strategy, and all elements of the new strategy should be explicitly considered in terms of how they may be expected to protect, improve or harm health. To this end, Public Health Wales recommends public health specialists are involved in the development of the road safety strategy from the outset.”