16 November 2022

Would upping the driving age reduce road fatalities?

| Zoya Patel
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2020-10-02 P Platers double demerits-1 Photo: Michelle Kroll.

P-platers are three times more likely than fully licenced drivers to be in a car accident resulting in injury. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

There is nothing more tragic than a young life lost too soon – and it’s even worse when it’s the result of a car accident that could have been avoided. It’s a senseless death, and it’s hard to imagine how the parents and family of young people lost on the roads due to reckless driving reconcile their grief and loss.

Last month, a 16-year-old driver pled guilty to causing the deaths of two teenage girls after a crash on the Monaro Highway on 9 October. He was driving as an unsupervised learner driver. While in this case the driver should not have legally been behind the wheel, some statistics show that P-platers are three times more likely than fully licenced drivers to be in a car accident resulting in injury.

READ ALSO Teen pleads guilty over Monaro Highway crash that killed two girls

So for some, a logical step to limit more road deaths and accidents would be to raise the age for young people to acquire their learner permits and P-plates. But would it really make a difference to make young drivers wait longer to get behind the wheel? Or would it create unintended consequences in the community?

For many of us, getting our licence was a very important step in our growth and independence as we came of age. I grew up in Queanbeyan in the late 90s and early 2000s, and public transport between Queanbeyan and Canberra was expensive and inconvenient, especially on a weekend. To get a job and contribute financially, I scoured for local opportunities I could walk to.

As soon as I hit the age requirement, I sat the test to get my learner’s permit and committed myself to learn to drive. Once I had a licence, I could drive to and from school, saving my busy parents the important time they needed to work on their business. I could do chores, pick up groceries, take myself to work. I shared a car with my siblings, so it wasn’t fully fledged freedom, but it made an astronomical difference in my life.

READ ALSO Swearing off road rage would make things more pleasant

For many young people, driving is a key factor in their ability to gain employment, access services and connect with their communities. It’s even more crucial in a place like Canberra, which has less than ideal public transport options, especially if you live in the outer suburbs.

Importantly, if you look at the statistics more closely, while a P-plater might be three times more likely to get into an accident than a fully licenced driver, most road accidents are still caused by drivers between the ages of 25 and 60. And let’s not forget, not all P-platers are young people – people get their licence at any age.

It’s easy to equate youth with recklessness and assume that age is the defining factor behind road fatalities involving young people. But the reality is, there is usually much more at play than simply the age of the people involved. Ultimately, suppose we want to address road deaths in the ACT. In that case, we need to look at better road safety education, more effective enforcement and deterrence measures, and assessing the safety of our major roads.

But let’s not argue about cutting our young people off from a key part of their growth and access to independence.

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HiddenDragon7:48 pm 17 Nov 22

There’s no compelling reason to believe that the current crop of teenagers are any more prone to stupid and irresponsible behaviour than earlier cohorts, but they’re probably more susceptible to guilt trips – so bombarding them with messaging which explains that hooning around (or even just exceeding the speed limit) will contribute to catastrophic climate change and loss of habitat for cute furry animals might have some positive impact.

More training? Maybe, but then
again, I’m in my sixties and I had only driven on the road 3 times before getting my Ps and I didn’t have to display my P plates for 3 years then either. In the absence of lengthy training, I’ve never even had a parking ticket.

Delaying licenses? Maybe, but that’s unfair on apprentices, shift-workers and those with part-time jobs? Licensing at an older age doesn’t address that issue of training, if that is seen as the issue.

I think there is certainly an issue with peer pressure; multiple young passengers. The driver needing to show off etc. “********” mentality.

There is also an issue of speed. Drivers are taught to drive to the speed limit and not that the speed limit is the maximum legal limit, in good weather! Then there is still the “dickhead” who thinks speed limits don’t apply to them!

And yes, there is the distractions etc.

The author states that younger drivers are 3 times more likely to be involved in an accident but most deaths occur between ages 25-60. I’m not sure what the point is? Most of the drivers are in the 25-60 bracket.

Ultimately, more training and delaying the age of licencing aren’t really that useful. Our kids have never been better trained than what they are now. The issue comes down to two things; “dickhead” drivers and speed. I don’t have an answer for the first, but as for the second, maybe we just need to reduce our speed limits and accept thet
public safety is more important that how quickly we get to our destination.

The answer is quite simple, one motorcyclists & road authorities recognised decades ago, proper training. You have to do a two day training course before you can get your Learner’s Permit to ride a motorcycle, then another one day course before you get your Provisional License. This has resulted in a significant drop in motorcycle related deaths, and would/should have the same affect for car drivers.

Age isn’t the issue. The issue is that we treat driving as a right, not a privilege, and that we don’t treat motor vehicles as the weapons they are. We have been so seduced by the notion that our cars are safe that we do not understand the responsibility they come with. We do not accept that everyone of us can kill someone else every time we start the car.

Entitlement, lack of care, and impatience are what’s killing people on the roads. Not age.

Does the government want to ban cars for most people to travel to and from work? yes.
Will upping the age make a difference to people whom break the law and don’t follow the rules? No.

Reason: People will feel the law is unjust and work around that, regardless of the age. Increasing the age just increases the number of people that feel need to break the law.

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