Question to the Department for Transport:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what data they hold on the safety impact of the B+E car and trailer test; and what criteria they will use to review the impact on safety of the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2021 after three years.
There is not currently any statistical evidence to categorically say that competence and skills will worsen if drivers do not take a statutory test to tow a trailer. Road safety has significantly improved over recent decades for several reasons, and it is therefore difficult to identify how much the car trailer test (Category B+E) has made a difference since it was introduced in 1997 or that there is a causal link between road safety and the test. The number of trailer accidents is low, with the proportion of accidents of cars/vans towing a trailer compared to all car/van accidents, as roughly 0.45% in 2019.
Over recent decades, there has been a decline in the number of personal injury accidents for cars/vans towing trailers (with current 2019 accident figures of 474 being around a third of the total in 1997, 1442 accidents). This is likely due to several factors including vehicle safety improvements, road infrastructure improvements, other changes to licencing laws, as well as changes to the theory and practical test (for example the introduction of the hazard perception test). We also know that the number of personal injury accidents involving at least one car or van has also declined over this period (whereby total accidents have halved from 222,181 in 1997 down to 108,348 in 2019).
In respect of the demographics of the drivers towing trailers, our statistics show that individuals generally only start getting their car and trailer licence (Category B+E licences) from their late 30s and 40s onwards, indicating that people tend to start towing within the later age groups. Analysis of the proportion of licence holders relative to accidents involving a vehicle towing a trailer by age reveals injury accidents are higher within lower age groups relative to the number of licences, which mirrors the collision statistics for drivers more generally – although this excludes ages groups above 41 as anyone with a B licence pre-1997 would have acquired automatic right to the B+E licence.
We have committed in the regulations to a post-implementation review after three years and then after five years. We will keep monitoring and gathering data throughout this time to understand the impact on road safety and will take action if needed.