|Sunday Telegraph - Sunday 24 September, 2006
We can't believe the stupidity of some P-platers
By Sharri Markson & Ben Johnson
MORE than half the P-plate drivers killed in NSW road accidents this year were speeding at more than 100km/h at the time.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) data shows 14 of the 26 P-plate drivers killed died in accidents that involved speeds above the legal limit for provisional drivers.
Highway patrol officers on the front line have confirmed that P-platers rank among the worst offenders when it comes to breaking road rules.
"I think there's a lot of overconfidence out there,'' Senior Constable Glen Duncan said as he monitored traffic at The Rocks on Friday night.
"If you're going for the biggest speeds registered, P-platers are involved. I often ask people how fast they were going, and they have no idea - and they were doing 110 in an 80 zone.
"The part that gets me about P-platers is that they're just oblivious to the road rules - and they're the ones who have had the most recent education.''
Only one 17- to 20-year-old was killed while driving at less than 60km/h this year.
The high death toll has led to calls for tougher P-plate laws including driver education in schools and compulsory professional driving instruction.
Opposition roads spokesman Andrew Stoner said a graphic advertising campaign would be effective in reducing fatal crashes involving P-platers.
"We've got to target driver psychology among young men,'' Mr Stoner said.
"We should have graphic advertising campaigns showing actual images of road fatalities.
"It would be shocking to watch, and we would only screen it after 8.30pm.''
Mr Stoner said it was important to change young drivers' attitudes and target testosterone-fuelled, risk-taking behaviour.
"We have been long advocating compulsory driver education in high schools,'' he said.
"There would be participation by someone who has been involved in accidents and feature the consequences of bad driver behaviour.''
Last week The Sunday Telegraph revealed that the State Government's laws to save young drivers had failed, with twice as many P-plate drivers killed this year compared with the corresponding period last year.
Since the new laws - including banning P-platers from driving high-powered cars - were introduced in July last year, there has been a 37 per cent increase in the number of 17- to 20-year-old drivers killed on NSW roads.
Other states, notably Victoria, have had significant reductions in P-plater deaths after introducing tougher laws.
In Victoria, where the minimum age for P-plate licence holders is 18, seven drivers aged 17 to 20 were killed in the first seven months of this year.
This is almost four times fewer young deaths than during the same period in NSW.
Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby said that following the success in lowering the death toll in Victoria, teenagers should not be able to get their provisional licence until they turn 18.
"You can't drink until you're 18, you can't vote until you're 18 and you can't go to war before you're 18, but you can be in charge of a lethal weapon as a child,'' Mr Scruby said.
He said that after 11pm, P-platers should not be allowed to carry more than one passenger in the car.
"It gets away from the animal-pack mentality, and you're less likely to wipe out five kids at the same time.
"We should have professional driving instructors, and a requirement to fulfil a certain amount of hours with a licensed driving instructor.''
The ATSB data also shows that 85 per cent of the P-plater drivers killed this year were male.
Young drivers hold 15 per cent of licences but are involved in 36 per cent of road fatalities.
In NSW, 51 people aged between 17 and 20 have been killed during the first eight months of this year.
In the corresponding period last year, 34 P-platers were killed.