Deaths of drivers aged 17 to 25 have increased for the first time in three years, as the latest studies show not everyone is getting the road safety message.
New data from both the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) suggests young people continue to engage in risky behaviours such as riding in a car with a drunk driver, speeding, driving while tired, or not wearing a seat belt.
In particular, P-platers and teenagers in regional areas were highlighted as groups with a higher prevalence of risk-taking behaviours.
The surveys come as the latest road toll data shows deaths of road users aged 17 to 25 has increased for the first time in three years – after falling between 2016 and 2018 – according to figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.
In research published on January 20, 2020, RACQ found 44 per cent of Year 11 and 12 high school students in regional Queensland admitted to being a passenger with a driver they believed was drunk, compared with 36 per cent of metropolitan students surveyed.
While both figures are alarming, the RACQ highlighted the higher rates of teens putting themselves at risk in regional areas, with spokesperson Lauren Ritchie citing the lack of other transport options in rural areas as a possible cause.
“We know public transport, taxis and rideshare services aren’t as common in the country as they are in the city, but getting into a car with a drunk driver should never be considered your only option to get home," Ritchie said.
The RACQ survey comes after AIFS data released in December 2019 found "around 1 in 10 teens had been the passenger of a driver who was under the influence of either alcohol or drugs".
In surveying 3000 adolescents aged 16–17 years as part of a national study, the AIFS also found that 8 in every 10 P-platers – and more than half of learner drivers – had engaged in some form of risky driving during their 10 most recent driving trips.
One in two P-platers and one in four learner drivers reported having driven when very tired on a recent trip, and of the 6 to 8 per cent of teenagers who admitted to not wearing a seat belt, one in five of them revealed they did so every trip.
While risky driving behaviour was more prevalent amongst P-Platers (who don't require supervision like learner drivers do), the research found that, alarmingly, one in six learner drivers had risked their lives and licenses by exceeding the speed limit by between 10 and 25 km/h on a recent trip.
Given dangerous driving is clearly still an issue among the nation's young people, parents of teenage drivers are urged to speak to their children about safe driving practices sooner rather than later.
"The first years of people’s driving careers are a crucial period — a time when driving habits and attitudes are being formed, and when young drivers may be more receptive to change," AIFS researchers Suzanne Vassallo and Anne Hollonds wrote of their findings.
According to RACQ spokesperson Lauren Ritchie, a 'no questions asked' policy was best when attempting to discourage teens from getting into a car with someone under the influence.
"Offering to pick up your children is one option parents should consider. We know any parent would rather take a phone call in the middle of the night than receive a knock on the door from emergency services," Ritchie said.
“Talk to your children about trusting their gut when it’s telling them something’s wrong. It’s so important they say or do something to remove themselves from a dangerous situation because it’s simply not worth dying to avoid embarrassment.”
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