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Report: Young drivers engage in risky driving well into their 20’s

The “In The Driver’s Seat II: Beyond the Early Driving Years” is the second report from the collaborative partnership between the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.

1,000 adolescents participated in this report which looks at the driving behaviours of young people aged 23 to 24 years old.  The main dangerous driving behaviours committed by young people seems to be speeding, driving while fatigued, driving without a seatbelt, drink driving, driving while under the influence of an illegal substance and using a mobile phone.

The report showed that there is a connection between young people undertaking risky driving and other risk taking activities in life such as alcohol and substance abuse. Those who indulged in one risk taking activity were more likely to indulge in other risky activities while driving and during their everyday lives.

Rather than decrease with age and understanding, the occurrence of risk taking behaviour by some young people seemed to increase with confidence and experience. Risky driving appeared to be one element of a risk taking lifestyle for a number of young people.

The report addressed 6 main issues:
1. Young people’s driving behaviours
2. The consistency of driving behaviours from 19–20 to 23–24 years
3. Links between drink-driving, other risky driving, and substance use
4. The relationship between crashes, high-level speeding and fatigue
5. The influence of parents on young people’s car purchases, and
6. The links between young people’s personal characteristics and their driving  behaviours.

Driving behaviours of young people in their mid-20s
97% of young people obtain a driver’s licence by 23–24 years of age
60% had been involved in a crash
50% are caught speeding during their driving careers
40% had friends who engaged in drink-driving
20% had recently driven when near or over the legal alcohol limit
 7% had experienced a licence cancellation or suspension

The report found that risky driving was relatively common for adolescent drivers. For example, on one or more of their ten most recent driving trips, close to 50% had exceeded the speed limit, about 60%  had driven when very tired, 60% had used a mobile phone function (such as receiving or sending an SMS), and around 50% had talked on a mobile phone.

Gender differences
Young men tended to have their licence cancelled or suspended more often than young women. Young men also tended to engage more frequently in a range of unsafe driving practices (e.g., high-level speeding, driving when affected by alcohol). However, young women had more often driven when fatigued.

Residence locality
As a group, those from metropolitan areas (68%) had more often been involved in a crash, and had been involved in a higher number of crashes. Additionally, rates of hands-free mobile use when driving were higher among young people from metropolitan areas.

Changed driving behaviours from 19–20 to 23–24 years
There was a slight decrease in high-level speeding and driving without a seatbelt from 19–20 to 23–24 years however, rates of other types of risky driving tended to increase or remain stable. Driving when fatigued remained very prevalent, and driving when affected by alcohol increased substantially.

This suggests that risky driving is as serious an issue in the mid-20s as in the late teens and points to the importance of sustaining road safety efforts into the twenties.

High stability was found among those with low levels of risky driving, but less stability was found among those showing moderate and high levels of risky driving, the majority of whom were less problematic at 23–24 years.

Risky driving and substance use
Early adulthood can be a period of considerable risk taking: the prevalence of substance use reaches a life-time high (Spooner, Hall, & Lynskey, 2001), while other forms of risk-taking common at this age include antisocial behaviour, gambling and risky driving.

Young people who engaged in drink-driving were more likely to engage in other types of risky driving, such as speeding, and driving without a seatbelt, when fatigued, under the influence of an illegal drug or when using a mobile phone. Binge drinking, and marijuana, ecstasy and amphetamine use were all significantly higher among high- and moderate-level risky drivers.

Crash involvement, speeding, fatigue and other aspects of road safety
Similarities were found in the driver histories and behaviours of young people who had been involved in multiple crashes as drivers, had recently engaged in high-level speeding (more than 25 km/h over the limit), or had recently driven when very tired.

These findings suggest that problematic driving does not occur in isolation, and may reflect a risk-taking approach to driving among some young drivers.

Parents’ influence on young people’s car purchase
Parents can play an important role in the driving behaviour and attitudes of young people. One way in which this may occur is through the advice and support they provide when young people are purchasing a car. Parents were more likely to have had an influence on their children’s car purchase if they had a close relationship. Parents are not often considered in road safety efforts targeted at young drivers.

Personal characteristics
Individuals who drove in a law-abiding manner tended to show greater empathy, responsibility and perspective-taking than other drivers, as well as closer connections to parents and more tolerant attitudes.

These findings are a reminder that what an individual is like as a person impacts on his/her behaviour behind the wheel. They point to the value of helping young people gain an understanding of their personal style and how this might affect their approach to driving.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.

Source: In the Driver’s Seat II: Beyond the Early Driving Years
For copies, please contact the Australian Institute of Family Studies on (03) 9214 7888,  or visit www.aifs.gov.au

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