A DRIVING instructor in Gosport is the latest to join the nationwide campaign which aims to impose harsher penalties on road users who abuse learner drivers.
Simon Stevenson, of the Life Skills Driving School, has backed the government petition launched by learner driver insurers Marmalade, and which now has more than 9,400 signatures, calling for change to penalties issued on the road in circumstances where learners are intimidated or abused.
Marmalade’s research, which surveyed over 1,000 learner drivers and more than 400 driving instructors from across the UK, revealed that four in five learner drivers (81%) have experienced abuse and intimidation from other road users while driving.
More than half (59%) of driving instructors say it has increased since the start of the pandemic resulting in one in every eight learner drivers quitting driving completely, due to the abuse on UK roads.
And Simon said: “Without a doubt in my mind, the quality of driving has reduced in the past few years along with patience, courtesy, and just being a decent person while on the road.
“I don’t know if it’s just a psychological thing with poor full licence holders, but I assume when they see the red L-plates they subconsciously perceive that to mean ‘slow speed’, ‘rubbish driver’ or ‘I’m going to be stuck behind them gotta get past’.
‘We get overtaken on blind bends with twin solid white lines’
“On a daily basis, we’re beeped at for hesitation, not moving off from lights within two tenths of a second of the lights going to green, for not fitting in the tiniest of gaps when joining a roundabout. This is on top of hand gestures or verbal abuse as they come screaming past us whilst we’ve been doing 30mph in a 30mph zone. We get overtaken on blind bends with twin solid white lines. We get tailgated. The list goes on and it really takes its toll.”
The report found a whopping 99 percent of driving instructors UK-wide have witnessed abuse directed at their pupils, with 61 percent of respondents reporting the most incidents at roundabouts and 32 percent at traffic lights.
The intimidation is leading to an increase in errors on the road, with 72 percent of instructors saying learners are making more mistakes following abuse on the roads.
Simon, who has had first hand experience of the outcome of intimidating behaviour on the roads, added: “One of my pupils has quit driving completely following behaviour on the roads and there have been others that without a doubt have had their confidence impacted, especially to the extent that they feel they were the ones in the wrong, when quite the opposite was the case.
“I’ve now started to save a weekly portfolio of the worst cases from each week of video footage just to show how large the problem is. Something needs to be done to curb the issue and I believe intimidation towards a learner should carry a much heavier fine or points.”
‘We’re asking the government to do more to prevent on-road bullying’
Marmalade managing director Paul Baxter said: “This issue means a lot to us and is something we feel incredibly passionate about. It’s something that impacts the majority of our customer base which means we have a responsibility to help.
“That’s why we’re calling on the government to help – our research found that 54 percent of all respondents would support on-the-spot fines for abuse, with 50 percent suggesting anger management courses and 35 percent backing three penalty points.
“We’re asking the government to do more to prevent on-road bullying of learners by introducing measures to impose stronger sentences on drivers who drive carelessly or dangerously around learner drivers.
“Everyone who drives has been a learner before, so they should be able to empathise with the struggles of learner drivers and feel compelled to help by signing this petition.”
To find out more and to sign the petition to encourage changes in the highway code and penalties for abusive road users, visit: https://www.wearemarmalade.co.uk/driver-hub/news/dangerous-driving-around-learner-drivers
PICTURED: Gosport driving instructor Simon Stevenson, who has joined a national campaign aimed at giving novice motorists greater protection from abuse