A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) survey, published in the international journal Traffic Injury Prevention, found that nearly 80 per cent of inexperienced, new drivers aged 17 to 19 had primary access to a vehicle.
PhD researcher Bridie Scott-Parker, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), said research showed car ownership and high mileage led to increased rates of crashes, traffic offences and risky driving for newly independent drivers.
“We found 78.4 per cent of young drivers with less than six months of independent driving experience had their own car despite being our newest drivers on the road,” she said.
“The first six months is the most dangerous time for new drivers. We would prefer they get experience driving in shared vehicles with parents monitoring their driving as much as possible.”
Mrs Scott-Parker said while graduated driver licensing programs had reduced the number of young novice drivers involved in crashes, they continued to be overrepresented in crash statistics.
Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads figures from 2010 showed 6 per cent of drivers held a provisional licence in Queensland in 2008, but they represented 11.8 per cent of drivers fatally-injured in crashes.
“Unfortunately this problem is not unique to Queensland – young novice drivers around the world are at greatest risk when they first begin driving by themselves,” Mrs Scott-Parker said.
“The learner licensing phase could include an additional education component for both parents and young drivers, making them aware of the risks of having primary access to a vehicle when they are at highest risk of crashes.”
Mrs Scott-Parker’s survey about pre-licence and learner experiences involved more than 1030 Queenslanders, aged 17 to 19, who obtained a provisional licence between April 1 and June 30 last year.
A follow-up survey of 355 provisional drivers six months later examined the percentage of participants who owned a car, average weekly mileage, and self-reported risky driving behaviours including crash and offence involvement.
Other major findings included:
– Nearly 10 per cent of P-platers said they were involved in a crash within the first six months of independent driving;
– 18 per cent of young male P-platers, compared to 10 per cent of young women, said they had been detected for a driving offence.
Mrs Scott-Parker said young novice drivers with their own car reported driving an average of 175 km a week, nearly twice as much as drivers without their own car.
She said more driving was associated with more self-reported offences and more risky driving behaviour.
The age of vehicles young drivers owned was also a concern for QUT researchers.
Ms Scott-Parker said younger drivers tended to own cheaper, older cars that lacked the latest safety features that could help prevent crashes, such as electronic stability control, and protected the driver in the event of a crash, such as airbags.
“Parents generally own newer, safer cars, which is another reason why we would encourage parents to share access to family vehicles with newly independent drivers,” she said.
Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, QUT media officer, 3138 1150