I've just returned from a Driver Awareness course. Hampshire police offered it to me as an alternative to 3 points and a £60 fine (despite the course costing £85). In true Grombler fashion I have to report it was plainly my wife's fault I got caught. We'd had a small row whilst I was driving with her in the passenger seat. I might have told her to 'shut up' or something like that. After the speed camera had gone off she piped up "I thought you'd seen it. I did". "Well why didn't you bloody well warn me?"... "You told me to shut up".... Wife 2, Grombler -£85.
Unbelievably for the first time in 40 years of driving I am the proud possessor of a totally clean license (although it's only 'technically' clean. The SP-whatevers go onto a follow-on sheet of the green paper license - just they're now all older than 5 years, so no longer count). So I know how easy it is to be sweating on 9 points where another 3 would mean exchanging the car for a bicycle - and a mortgage for my next insurance policy. So there I was along with about 20 other criminals who had been caught by cameras dotted around the county. Actually, to my surprise and relief, the course turned out to be quite interesting. It made me think a bit more carefully about speeding in future. Perhaps it ought to be mandatory for all youngsters when they pass their test....
...Which brings me to the point of this post. Out of all the embarrassed souls on the course, there was only one person under twenty. So much for boy-racers. Virtually everyone was Grombler age. The stats they presented about accidents also suggested that whilst there is certainly a higher risk that the 'recently-passed' youngsters are likely to bend their little run-arounds, the worst accidents, and therefore the costliest, were committed by lazy over-confident but experienced drivers, who should have known better and probably just fell asleep at the wheel.
So why does insurance for youngsters cost so much? Annual rates for 17 / 18 year olds is now over £3,000 pa - for the cheapest car! One woman on the course said she was paying a staggering £5,000 for her 18 year old daughter to drive a £500 car! I think she should shop around a bit more... or move her caravan off the central reservation of the M25 or wherever she must have said she was living... but surely kids shouldn't cost that much more to insure.
But even if they do, there's a social and economic argument for substantially reducing their premiums: Mobility. If kids can't get 'on yer bike' as Norman Tebbit famously advised job-seekers in the Thatcher era, and they can't move out of their parent's homes because they can't afford their own places, how will they ever find work if they don't have the option of driving to it? We're gambling that the parents of out-of-work kids live close enough to where their kids can find work, or at least close enough to local bus routes that don't require multiple changes to connect home with work. The chances these days of that being the case are slimmer than ever.
One of the key reasons America's economy soared in the 20th century was thanks to cheap mobility of both goods AND labour (or labor if you will). If we continue to allow insurance companies to prevent our kids from getting to where work is, they will simply carry on rotting in front of their parent's TVs and PCs.
So let's be creative about how we charge for insurance of young out-of-work drivers. If we can provide them with sensible costs to help get them to work, and combine it with life-saving training, probably using the latest in-car (or in-phone?) technology like tell-tale black boxes, not only will this save lives (including the people they might hit) but it might just help them climb out of poverty and rebuild our economy.... and the tax they will be paying can be used to repay the original insurance subsidy they received.
Think of it like the current university loan scheme - except instead of your degree helping you to get a job, it's 'yer bike'.