Re: road safety idea - carrot as well as stick.
I'm quite lucky that I was able to get insurance before they hiked up the prices for 18-year olds. That was six year ago and my policy is reasonable. I drive an 05 registration Ford Fiesta Zetec (1.4) and it costs about £700 a year. Not too bad considering that I had points on my licence. When the points were on my licence I was driving around in an old Ford Ka (1.3) and that wasn't any more expensive.
It's absolutely absurd what they charge now. I'm convinced most of the issues stem from the fact that those that can't afford insurance don't buy it (illegal) and then have an accident, which obviously has a knock-on effect on insurance claims. As a result, they spiral up as then even more people can't afford the premium and take the risk.
There needs to be some kind of regulation that would stop the spiralling claims. The free market and competition doesn't really work here because the underwriters are usually the same for a number of different companies and, as Bad Tempered Clavier said, insurance is mandatory so you're in a bind.
You can pull off some clever tweaks though within the law. Fully comprehensive is often cheaper than basic insurance (insurance companies assume that if you are only buying basic insurance, you are more likely to crash because of an underlying misconception about income and driving habits) and often adding a named driver with more experience can bring the total down too - even if you're the primary user.
It's not like buses and public transport are any cheaper in the UK either! Trains are extortionate unless you book months in advance and then you don't have the flexibility or luggage capacity of a car. Buses are inconvenient, especially if you live in a rural area and the company has stopped running them (another failed privatisation, thanks Margaret) and because there is so rarely competition even in larger towns, the bus companies get away with hiking the fares above inflation because there is no other option to the passengers.
As for Road Tax? I don't want anyone tracking my car (however benignly) and I don't think that it's necessarily fair that you are charged based on your emissions. Base it upon mileage. The only option there is to abolish road tax and put it up at the pump but of course that's another hot potato. The real gear-grinding comes from hybrids though that are not charged road tax, are actually more polluting in the short-term (ten years) because of the manufacturing processes involved (batteries are made of nasty stuff!) and if it's a 4x4 hybrid just as polluting in emissions terms as a regular car. What a joke.