Survey finds support for restrictions on P-plate drivers

Canberra Sunday Times

Sunday 18 July 2004
By Ben Doherty

Proposals to restrict the number of passengers P-plate drivers can carry, as well as imposing curfews on new licence-holders, has met with support in a NSW and ACT survey.

Commissioned by the Pedestrian Council of Australia, the AMR-interactive survey found 54 per cent of 400 respondents agreed with passenger restrictions for provisional licence-holders (41 per cent disagreed, 5 per cent undecided) while 53 per cent agreed P-Plate drivers should be restricted from driving at night (42 per cent disagreed, 5 per cent undecided).

Under the council's proposal, provisional licence-holders could not have other teenagers as passengers unless accompanied by a fully licensed driver over 20.

And P-platers could not drive between 10pm and 5am although exemptions could be granted for employment or study reasons.

Similar restrictions are currently in place in New Zealand and in 37 states of the United States.

Chairman of the council Harold Scruby called on the ACT Government to review P-plate legislation and consider raising the licensing age to 18. "It is utterly absurd that we allow children to drive, unsupervised, with a car-load of teenage passengers ...

"If a 17-year-old driver is responsible for a fatal or serious crash ... he or she is tried as a child in a juvenile court with his/her name suppressed. Children are not permitted to drink and nor should they be permitted to drive." A spokesman for urban services minister Bill Wood said yesterday that the ACT Government was not currently considering any of the council's proposals.

"The Government would obviously consider any proposal which would make the roads safer, but it has not seen any evidence that these measures would do this, and we are not progressing any of them."

Mr Scruby said the ACT Government should follow the lead of Victoria, where P-plates were restricted to 18-year-olds, and open licences to 21.

Victoria has also introduced modified passenger restrictions where P-platers whose licence is cancelled or suspended within the first 12 months are restricted to carrying only one passenger upon regaining his or her licence.

Research had shown passenger and night-driving restrictions reduce the incidence of serious accidents among P-plate drivers.

A study by the Injury Prevention Unit at the University of Otago in New Zealand has shown a significant decrease in the number and severity of accidents since the implementation of the restrictions. Sydney University's George Institute for International Health said overseas studies showed up to a 29 per cent reduction in crashes with night-driving bans.