Important changes are being proposed for L & P drivers

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Do you know someone who was killed or seriously injured in a car crash? It might have been a friend, a family member or someone from your school or local sporting club… unfortunately, this happens all too often.

Over the last decade almost 4000 young people aged between 16 and 24 have been killed or seriously injured on South Australia’s roads.

Research shows that crashes are most likely to occur during the first 6 to 12 months of holding a provisional licence when the driver is least experienced and driving unsupervised (see Figure 1). Inexperience is the most significant factor contributing to young driver crashes and in that first year of driving unsupervised the risk of crashing is up to three times higher than that of an experienced driver.

Our community has a responsibility to provide greater protection for young drivers while they are at their most vulnerable stage of driving. Measures to limit exposure to high-risk situations during the first year of unsupervised driving have the potential to significantly reduce road trauma for younger drivers.

Based on novice driver initiatives interstate and overseas, a Discussion Paper outlining possible initiatives to improve the safety of young drivers has been released for public comment. These initiatives reflect world best practice, are evidence-based and many already exist in other Australian states and territories.

Some initiatives may impact on the independence of young drivers, their families and friends, particularly in rural communities and disadvantaged groups. However, young drivers in rural South Australia are 2 1/2 times more likely to die or be injured in a crash than their peers in metropolitan Adelaide.

There is also a belief in the community that road fatalities and serious injuries are largely the result of risk taking or extreme behaviour. In fact, over half of all fatal crashes, and 90% of injury crashes are the result of mistakes or common lapses in judgement. It is for this reason that the initiatives proposed would apply to all novice drivers and are not just reserved for ‘problem drivers’.

These initiatives are not about making life tougher for young drivers. They are about protecting them. Adopting them is likely to result in fewer deaths and injuries among young drivers, their passengers and other road users in South Australia. In some cases, exemptions are proposed (e.g. for employment purposes) to ease the burden on young drivers. Also the restrictions do not apply if a Qualified Supervising Driver (QSD) is present.

The State Government is seeking views on these initiatives from young drivers, parents/caregivers, road safety stakeholders, organisations concerned with youth as well as the broader community.

* QSD – Qualified Supervising Driver – A driver who has held a full driver’s licence for at least 2 years continuously without disqualification.

gls statistics

INITIATIVE 1 -A passenger restriction for all P1 drivers allowing no more than one passenger under 21 for the duration of P1. Exemptions would apply for immediate family members or for employment or if a QSD is present.
  • Young drivers are four to five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash when they have two or more peer passengers in the car.
  • 28% of drivers aged 16 to 19 years involved in a fatal crash from 2008 to 2010 were driving with two or more passengers, compared to 13% of drivers aged 25 years and over.
  • Introducing this initiative in South Australia would have the potential to save 12 to 17 fatal and serious injuries each year.
INITIATIVE 2 – A restriction on driving between midnight and 5am for all P1 drivers for the duration of P1. Exemptions would apply for work-related driving or if a QSD is present.
  • All drivers have an increased risk of crashing when driving late at night but the risk is greater for inexperienced drivers. Young drivers are up to seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash when driving late at night.
  • Of 16 to 19 year old drivers involved in a fatal crash from 2008 to 2010, 35% crashed at night between 10pm and 5am, compared to 16% of drivers aged 25 years and over.
  • Introducing this initiative in South Australia would have the potential to save 8 to 12 fatal and serious injuries each year.
INITIATIVE 3 – Raising the minimum age for a provisional licence from 17 to 18 years, meaning drivers cannot drive solo until they are at least 18 years of age.
  • The first year on a provisional licence is the riskiest time in the life of a driver. Delaying the provisional licensing age can substantially reduce this risk because learner drivers are likely to gain many more supervised driving hours during this time than the current 75 hours requirement.
  • Obtaining extensive amounts of supervised driving experience brings young driver crash reductions of up to 40% once a provisional licence is obtained.
  • As crashes involving young drivers aged 16-17 years would largely be eliminated, introducing this initiative in South Australia would bring the greatest crash reductions of all the initiatives – an estimated saving of 60 to 70 fatal and serious injury crashes each year.
INITIATIVE 4 – Extend the total minimum provisional licence period from 2 to 3 years.
  • Extending the provisional licence period would extend the conditions of a zero blood alcohol limit, speed, mobile phone and high powered car restrictions and a lower demerit point allowance that help keep young drivers out of high risk situations.
  • This is likely to result in greater young driver competence and fewer crashes and would bring South Australia in line with NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT. Victoria has a minimum provisional licence period of four years.
INITIATIVE 5 – Remove regression to a previous licence stage.
  • Removing this requirement will simplify the licensing process, reduce confusion amongst novice drivers and their parents, have a positive financial impact on disqualified novice drivers and bring South Australia in line with most other Australian states and territories.
  • While extra time driving under protective conditions brings overall safety benefits to novice drivers particularly in the learner stage and will be retained, there is no evidence to suggest that the re-testing requirements applied to disqualified novice drivers leads to safer novice drivers.