P-Plate Curfew


Sunday 11 July 2004

MORE than 100 young lives could have been saved in the past three years by a midnight-to-dawn curfew on young drivers, a study has shown.

Researchers in Sydney say the death toll for drivers aged 17 to 20 could be cut by one-third if the Government adopted restrictions on probationary drivers already in force in Canada, New Zealand and some parts of the United States.

Road safety experts, the NRMA and relatives of young road victims last week called on the NSW Government to impose a night-time curfew here, along with restrictions on the number of passengers a P-plate driver can carry.

Their calls follow a series of horrific late-night car crashes in NSW that have claimed the lives of young drivers and their passengers.

Yet despite mounting evidence that a curfew would save lives, the Carr Government is refusing to consider such a measure, saying the social cost for young people would be too high.

The RTA said the idea had already been thoroughly investigated, but it would re-examine the concept. An RTA spokesman said there was concern over the impact of such a scheme on people working and studying.

Of 107 fatal crashes involving drivers aged 17 to 20 last year, 35 occurred between midnight and 6am.

In 2002, 28 young deaths occurred in crashes between those hours, with 41 deaths in 2001, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Nigel Bramley, whose son Jamie, 19, died last August in an early morning crash at Bayview, in Sydney's north, said he backed new restrictions for P-plate drivers.

Jessica Tanner, 18, died after she allegedly fell asleep at the wheel very early one morning in January.

"A lot of fatalities happen at night with young people, and a curfew would stop them hooning around," her mother, Debbie Tanner, said.

"I want as many safety precautions as possible you can't put a price on life. We need to do something, because there are too many kids out there dying."

Figures show young drivers are three times more likely than others to die in crashes, with the rate peaking at night. But Roads Minister Carl Scully said there were no immediate plans to introduce curfews.

Opposition Leader John Brogden will not support a curfew, but wants instead to limit the number of passengers P-platers can carry. "You'd have to have so many exemptions in place for work that it would be impractical," he said of a curfew.

Curfews overseas run from 9pm or midnight until 5am or 6am, with exemptions for work or special needs.

Road safety groups accused the Government of trading votes for young people's lives.

"Governments will talk about this, but they want to keep it quiet because it is seen as too difficult when it comes to votes," trauma expert Professor Mark Stevenson said.

Professor Stevenson, of Sydney University's George Institute for International Health, wants to cut passenger numbers for P-plate drivers.

The NRMA started lobbying the Government a year ago for curfews.

"It is frustrating because, like the RTA, we have to review the road toll and we see what's happening with the statistics and we talk to those directly affected by fatalities," NRMA safety specialist Anne Morphett said.

But the head of Staysafe, NSW's road safety committee, said curfews were draconian and unworkable.

"A lot of P-platers are family people. Are you going to tell them they can't drive at night, that the shift workers can't drive to work?" Blacktown MP Paul Gibson said.

Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby called on the Government to "stop procrastinating and do something about the deaths of young drivers".