Young drivers move from having the lowest to the highest chance of being involved in a fatal crash when they gain their P1 Licence. In 2019, 18 to 25-year-olds accounted for 18% of Victorian drivers killed, even though this age group represents only about 10%of Victorian licence holders.
The reasons why young and novice drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash is complex. If you’re a young driver there are steps you can take to reduce your risks of being in a crash and by driving safely you will be rewarded for good driving with a free 3 year licence at the end of your Ps. Find out more about free licences VicRoads website.
If you’re a parent you can help prepare your child for solo driving. The best time to do this is while they are learning to drive. You can find more info and tips on the VicRoads website.
Once your child has their licence the learning doesn’t stop. You can still continue to provide guidance and supervision, particularly at night when the risk of crashes increase.
More information for young drivers and parents
What are the rules for P-Plater drivers?
There are a few rules that apply specifically to probationary drivers. The restrictions and associated penalties are designed to make it safer for newly licensed drivers.
Some key restrictions are:
- Having a zero Blood Alcohol Concentration(BAC)
- Not being able to use a mobile phone for any function, including hands free or bluetooth, or use a GPS, and,
- Not carrying more than one passenger aged between 16 and 22, unless they are your spouse, domestic partner or sibling.
Find out more about probationary licence restrictions on the VicRoads website
Did you know the most dangerous time to drive after you’ve received your licence is during the first 3-6 months? The risks are even higher if you’re driving at night. Young first year drivers are seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal or serious injury crash from 10pm to 6am than fully licensed drivers.
Some tips to be safer on the road:
- Even though you’ve got your P’s it doesn’t mean you have finished learning. Make the most of your parents and ask them to help you continue getting experience at night.
- If you’re planning on a night out and know you’re likely to drink, leave the car at home and choose public transport, taxi or rideshare.
- Get a lift with a more experienced driver, either fully licensed or someone that has had their licence for more than a year.
- Avoid driving while tired, with work, study, sport and a busy social life it’s easy to become fatigued. If you’re too tired to drive, leave the car and find another way home. It might be a bit inconvenient, however if it means you get home safe then it’s worth it.
- Only get in the car with your friends if you know they’re ok to drive. If you know someone has been drinking or has taken drugs encourage them not to drive.
Tips for parents
Getting their licence provides a young driver with a new sense of independence and it’s normal for a P Plater to think they don’t need any more help once they have their P’s.
You can still help them be safe on the roads by talking about the risks and working out ways to keep safe.
- Visibility is reduced at night and so is the time we have to recognise and respond to potential hazards.
- Most social functions happen at night, so there is a greater chance of fatigue. Driving tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
- Young drivers tend to do more recreational driving without a destination in mind. Most of this driving happens at night, and with other passengers, which also increases the chances of being distracted.
- It is important to remember that they are on the road with others who may have had a drink or are fatigued too.
How to help
- Where possible drive with your P Plater at night especially between 10pm and 6am during the first three to six months of their probationary period. Even though this may be challenging it will mean they’ll safer now and into the future.
- Encourage them to leave the car at home and catch public transport to social functions – it’s easier to make good decisions early rather than late at night when all they want to do is get home.
- If they do drive - it never hurts to give them another option in case they feel it’s unsafe to drive home. Let them know that the taxi of Mum and Dad is still available or make sure they have extra money for a cab or rideshare.
The faster you drive the higher the chances that you’ll be seriously injured if you crash. You don’t have to be speeding to die, if you crash at 70km/h it’s likely that your injuries will be fatal. Even just 30km/h is enough to kill a pedestrian.
As a young driver it’s important to pay attention to not only the posted speed limit but the recommended speed. When you are driving too fast you will have less time to notice and avoid hazards.
Many newer cars have features that allow you to set your maximum speed. The car will then sound a warning if you go over your set speed. This is a useful feature for ensuring that you’re keeping below the signed speed limit.
Often when you get your licence you’ve recently turned 18 - this also means that it’s now legal for you to drink alcohol.
Alcohol slows your reaction times and can affect your decision making ability, which increases your chances of making a mistake when driving. To reduce the risks you are required to have a 0.00 Blood Alcohol Concentration at all times when driving.
If you get caught drink driving you will lose your licence, need to complete a behaviour change program and after you get it back you’ll have to get an alcohol interlock fitted in your car. This will be expensive and embarrassing.
If you’re drinking, leave the car and organise a designated driver, arrange to have someone pick you up, or use public transport and rideshare options.
Driving with drugs in your system is illegal for all drivers. When you drive after taking drugs you’re putting yourself and others in danger.
Most drugs can take 24 to 48 hours to leave your body and will continue to affect you during this time. Mixing illicit or prescription drugs and alcohol will mean that the affects can take even longer to wear off. It’s also important to remember that fatigue, and the after-effects of drug use (i.e. ’coming down’), can affect your driving skills. Whether they’re uppers or downers, illicit drugs and driving do not mix.
If you get caught driving with drugs in your system you will have your licence suspended or cancelled. The minimum penalty is a loss of licence for 6 months, compulsory behaviour change program and a hefty fine.
Young drivers often have the oldest and least safe cars on the roads. Unless you can convince your parents to swap you their car you’re probably going to be working within a tight budget.
It is still possible to buy a safe car for under $5,000 and you can have a look at what’s available on the How Safe is Your Car website.
When you’re looking for a car you should be aiming for a 4 or 5 star safety rating. There’s a few features that are worth looking out for too these include Autonomous Emergency Braking, Electronic Stability Control and Curtain Airbags.
A safe car might mean you’re able to walk away from a crash and avoid serious injury.
Experience in all conditions
You may not have had a chance to drive in every weather condition while learning. At some point you will find yourself driving in fog, hail, storms or high winds (and sometimes everything at once!).
These conditions often mean that there is reduced visibility and slippery roads. It can make driving scary. If you’re caught in extreme weather it can sometimes be best to pull over to somewhere safe and wait it out.
If you can't pull over then reducing your speed and ensuring your headlights are on is the next best thing. When roads are wet it takes you longer to stop, so the slower you’re going, the better off you'll be if you need to brake.
Now you’ve got your licence you’re not restricted to where your parents want you to drive. This means that road trips and festivals are now on the agenda. You’ll also find yourself driving on unfamiliar roads, maybe you’ll be on narrow and winding country roads or doing more highway driving.
As you’re not allowed to use your phone while driving you’ll also have to plan your route in advance. This will help you become familiar with where you’re going, and work out where to take breaks along the way.
Long drives can be draining and if you’ve had a late night you might find that you’re feeling tired. It’s important to break up long drives and stop every two hours, or swap with another driver. Avoid driving at times when you would usually be sleeping. If you’ve got a drive that’s more than a few hours long, then it’s worth thinking about doing the drive over a couple of days.
If you’re tired, then pull over and take a powernap. It will mean you’ll take a little longer to get where you’re going, but it’s better than never arriving at all.
Driving a car takes concentration and if you’re paying attention to your phone then you’re not looking at the road.
Just a couple of seconds is all it takes for a crash to happen. In fact, at 50km per hour, even a 2 second glance at your phone means you’ll travel up to 28 metres blind
As a P Plate driver you’re not allowed to use your phone for anything when you’re driving. So it’s best to put it on silent, turn it off or put it on Do Not Disturb While Driving. If you find you’re still tempted then put your phone somewhere out of reach so you can’t get to it.
The fine for using your mobile phone is $496 and it comes with 4 demerit points, just one more and you’ll lose your licence. So it’ll cost you a lot when you get caught.
Tips for parents
Learning to a drive a car is a continuous journey. While a newly licensed driver will have the necessary skills to drive a car they will be driving on their own for the first time and without someone to guide them in their decision making.
Simple decisions such as what speed to drive in certain conditions, to more complex decisions like dealing with distracting passengers develop over their four years as a probationary driver. Making correct and safe judgments takes time, maturity and experience.
Know the risks
No one wants to think about being in a crash, however young drivers tend to over-estimate their level of ability and are less likely to believe they might be in a crash. The highest risk zone for a P Plater is during the first 6-12 months that they have their licence.
There are many reasons why P Platers are more likely to crash then Learners. One reason is that as a P Plater they are driving more kilometres than when they were a Learner and they are doing this driving unsupervised.
What can you do?
Even though your child is over 18 years old, you’re still an important influence on them.
Some ways parents can reduce the risk of their child being involved in a crash are to:
- Be aware of the restrictions probationary drivers need to follow and encourage your new driver to comply with these.
- Help your child to choose and purchase a safe car. P Plate drivers often have older vehicles that aren’t fitted with important safety features. A safer car can stop a crash from happening or reduce injury in the case of a crash. Find safe cars on the How Safe is Your Car website.
- Negotiate some ground rules before they get their probationary licence. For instance, your new driver can drive the family car, but only if they turn their mobile phone off or use their phone’s Do Not Disturb function.
- Discuss your expectations, such as not speeding, driving with multiple passengers or driving late at night, especially if they are driving the family car or you have paid for or helped to pay for their car.
- Continue to be available to provide supervision, particularly for night time driving and driving with multiple passengers.
- Help your child develop some strategies in case they ever feel pressured by friends to do the wrong thing. The fines and penalties are a good motivator for doing the right thing. If a P1 probationary driver is caught with more than one peer passenger they will receive 3 demerit points and a $496 fine.
We all make mistakes
No matter what your age is, we all make mistakes. It’s important to discuss the risks when driving, and if your child is receiving traffic fines or demerit points it can be a red flag. Illegal behaviour while driving puts their life and others at risk.
Fines and infringements are costly and work to deter people from breaking the rules. If your young driver does commit an offence make sure they pay for the fine – not you. It is important your young driver experiences the consequences for their risky behaviour to deter them from engaging in it and other behaviours in the future.
Probationary drivers also only have 5 demerit points per year, this means even offences they might consider minor will get them close to losing their licence. If a P1 driver uses their mobile phone will driving they will receive a $496 fine and 4 demerit points.
If they lose their licence it might be inconvenient for them and maybe for you, but serving out the suspension will mean they feel the consequences of their actions. In most cases receiving a penalty will mean they will be less likely to offend again in the future and will be safer as a result.
Are defensive driving courses a good idea?
We often get questions about the benefits of extra driver training and defensive driving courses. When we look into crashes, we find that fatigue, drink and drug driving and speed are the leading contributing factors. Providing too much emphasis on advanced car control driving skills does not create better safety outcomes for drivers. Drivers can be more likely to take risks due to the perception among these people that they are more skilled. Developing basic car control skills can be achieved in real traffic environments under the supervision of an experienced driver or instructor while on a Learner’s licence.
Be a good role model
Being a good role model is very important. What parents do shows their child how they want him or her to behave. How you drive will influence your child in the same way as what you eat or how much exercise you do. So, try to practice what you preach – obey the road laws and drive safely. Take responsibility if you have committed traffic offences in the past. Admit your own mistakes and talk to your young driver about the negative consequences and how you can avoid future offences.