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The Shocking Truth About Road Safety: How Young Lives Are at Risk

6 minute read

Motor vehicle accident

For many, learning to drive is a rite of passage. That moment you first receive your driver’s licence it unlocks an exciting new life of independence and maturity. But there’s a catch. 

In the blink of an eye, you go from a learner driver – statistically the safest on the road – to a member of the most at-risk group of all – new P-platers. Here we take you through what is a peer passenger, why young drivers are at risk, how to reduce this risk and what to do if you’re injured in a car accident as a young driver.

What is a peer passenger?

A peer passenger driver is one that is driving under a provisional license that limits the number and type of passengers (known as ‘peer passengers’) they are allowed to drive with. This is because peer passenger drivers are some of the most at-risk drivers in Australia. 

The risks for young drivers

Peer passengers, colloquially known as 'P-platers’, are the most at-risk group of young drivers on the road. Particularly P-platers with less than six months’ driving experience are the most likely cohort to experience a serious accident. In fact, they are 33 times more likely to be in a crash in the first 6 months of getting their provisional licence than other drivers.

Young drivers are over-represented in Australian road accidents 

In 2023, 243 young people aged between 17 and 25 were killed on Australian roads. Over half were young drivers. 

In Australia overall, 17-25 year old young drivers represent between 10% - 15% of licence holders but about 18% - 25% of road fatalities each year, for example:  

  • In New South Wales, young drivers make up about 14% of the driving population but represent nearly 25% of road fatalities. 

  • In Queensland, young drivers are about 14% of all licence holders, but are involved in around 25% of road deaths. 

  • In Victoria, young drivers are around 10% of licence holders but 18% of Victorian drivers killed on the road.

P-plate drivers have more vehicle crashes than any other road users.

Why are young drivers at risk?

There are a range of reasons as to what makes young drivers more at risk of getting into an accident in comparison to other drivers. Let’s take a look at the most common factors:  

  • Driving at high-risk times: Young drivers in the first year of driving, are seven times more likely to crash between 10pm and 6am (than fully licensed drivers). 

  • Peer passengers: Road-tripping with your mates may be fun but peer passengers can be seriously distracting and encourage risk-taking behaviour. 

  • Driving under the influence: No surprises here. The presence of drugs or alcohol in a young driver’s system is a serious risk factor and one that can easily be avoided. 

  • Technology: Texting, fiddling with GPS coordinates and even blasting music all pull a young driver’s eyes and attention away from the road. 

  • Rust buckets: Young adults are more likely to drive lower-quality cars. Although easier on the bank account, these cars often come with fewer or lower-quality safety features. 

  • Disobeying road rules: Young drivers are also more likely to take needless risks or forget the road rules they've just learned.

  • The age of the drivers: How old is a peer passenger driver? Generally, under the age of 25, and this youthfulness can play into the decision-making ability and experience that can lead to more dangerous road behaviour. 

Reducing the risk for young drivers and peer passengers

It goes without saying that peer passenger restrictions lessen a young driver’s risk. A fundamental way young drivers can stay safe on the roads is by avoiding the high-risk factors mentioned above. That's why governments across Australia place restrictions such as curfews, passenger limits and strict bans on electronic devices for P-platers. Below are the peer passenger restrictions by state: 

  • QLD – young drivers are not allowed to drive with more than one peer passenger under the age of 21, other than immediate family members between the hours of 11pm and 5am. 

  • NSW – on the red Ps restricted licence, if you are under the age of 25, you must not drive with more than one passenger under the age of 21 between 11pm and 5am. 

  • ACT – during the first year of your P1 licence, you may only drive with one passenger between the ages of 16 and 21 between the hours of 11pm and 5am, unless it is an immediate family member or required for work. 

  • VIC – on P1 plates (red P plates), you cannot carry more than one passenger aged between 16 and 22 unless they are your spouse, domestic partner, sibling or step-sibling. 

  • SA – if you are driving on a P1 licence and are under the age of 25 you may not have more 2 or more passengers between the ages of 16 and 20 in the car with you. There are exceptions for immediate family members and if you are driving for work purposes. 

  • TAS – P1 drivers under the age of 25 can only drive with one peer passenger aged between 16 and 21 at any time of the day.  

  • WA – P1 drivers under the age of 25 cannot drive with more than one peer passenger between the age of 16 and 22 except for immediate family members. You also cannot drive at all between midnight and 5am for the first six months of your provisional licence unless it’s for work or school.  

  • NT – in the Northern Territory there are no passenger capacity restrictions for learners or provisional drivers.

Other ways to reduce risks to young drivers 

Safe driving isn’t just a list of things to avoid. Novice drivers should work proactively to improve their skills, increase their comfort level in tricky situations and develop a healthy attitude towards risk.  

Driving schools, advocacy campaigns and governments now recognise that cultivating these skills is more important than simply attaining a limited number of hours and checking off manoeuvres in a driver’s exam. That’s why in most states defensive driving courses are on offer. 

Although hard work initially, these added safety precautions will pay off over the life-long road ahead.  

Shine Lawyers – Motor vehicle accident experts

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident whether as a driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, a cyclist or even a motorcyclist, you may be entitled to compensation to help you protect what matters. 

At Shine Lawyers, we're motor vehicle accident claim experts who can handle your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis* whether you’ve been in a car accident as a P-plater or on a full licence. 

Get in touch today for more information or to organise an obligation-free first consultation to discuss your rights

 *Conditions apply

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