Should UK motorists have to take driving licence refresher courses?

Matt Prior opinion
Matt Prior opinion

Mandatory driving refreshers could cure lane hogging

On the whole, I don’t like telling people what to do. Where governments have a clear choice about whether to interfere in people’s lives or not, I usually think they shouldn’t.

Overreach is tiresome and we will probably get along just fine without it, so unless it’s really obvious that something needs intervention, governments should just facilitate what we reasonably want to do and otherwise leave us alone. I suppose I don’t trust ‘them’ not to mess things up.

I’ve always felt this way about driving. Yes, perhaps it’s daft that you can pass a driving test at 17 and barely think about your licence again until your grandchildren notice that you keep nerfing the garage door and in the meantime you can pick a car off the shelf that weighs 2.2 tonnes and goes from 0-60mph in 2.0sec without any additional training.


But despite that, the UK still has the fifth-safest roads in the world, narrowly behind Japan and only marginally bettered by Norway, Sweden and Iceland, so we must be doing all right. Leave it alone.

Then I took three long and utterly miserable drives last week. It was half-term, which never helps standards, but still, on a Friday evening and over a weekend, I’ve never been so annoyed by the amount of dismal lane choices, poor speed choices, hopeless signalling and clear distraction.

After that, I was driven around by, well, let’s call him a family friend to keep him anonymous. He drives a lot, but it has been decades since his last instruction. At six roundabouts, he didn’t manage to once signal correctly, and he often drove at the same speed whether on an A-road or in town – too slow on one, too fast in the other.

And the more I pay attention to it, the worse I think our driving standards are getting.

Bad driving, particularly when it comes to choosing lanes on motorways, is an epidemic. We’re a nation of ditherers and dimwits who think that so long as we don’t get nabbed by speed cameras, we must be doing things right. We’re not.

In a car, negotiating lines of cars steadfastly refusing to leave the middle lane and signalling appallingly at roundabouts is irritating. If you’re trying to drive a lorry among these people, it must be infuriating to the point of self-combustion.

And so, with a heavy heart, I think life would be improved by… ugh… intervention. A scheme. A policy. Interference. I’m not suggesting that we should all have to take another full driving test, but I do think some kind of mandatory update or refresher training to remind drivers of their responsibilities would be helpful.

Unhelpfully, I don’t know what it would look like, how frequently it would have to be taken or what would happen if you were to get it wrong. But if every few years you had to pay attention, do a little homework and then demonstrate you understood road rules, I genuinely think it would be useful.

It could be done online at home or, for those who can’t, in a library. A gentle reminder.

It’s not like this sort of thing is unusual; every so often, my employer reminds me about everything from media law to how to sit in a chair properly. And training works; those who take speed awareness courses are less likely to speed again and have a significantly reduced chance of being in a collision than those who take penalty points after being caught speeding.

I hate the idea that those of us who know what we’re doing are judged by the lowest common denominator, and I’m still not sure I believe in this idea myself.

Which is probably handy, because given that your council and mine can’t fix our roads, I don’t suppose they have time to worry about how we drive on them.