Something must be done about youth driving.
The statistics are oft-quoted but they bear repeating because
they lie at the heart of the Government's move, among other
things, to raise the driving age to 16.
Take comparison with Australia: New Zealand drivers in the
15-19 age group suffer an average of 21 deaths a year for
every 100,000 of population, compared with Australia's rate
Further, young drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 in this
country comprise 16% of all licensed drivers but in 2008 they
were involved in around 37% of all fatal crashes and 38% of
all serious injury crashes.
According to Ministry of Transport statistics this led to 122
deaths and 800 serious injuries at a social cost of $1.1
Road crashes in fact are the highest single killer of 15- to
24-year-olds and the leading cause of their permanent injury.
Broadening out the international comparisons, 15- to
17-year-olds in New Zealand have the highest road death rate
in the OECD and 18- to 20-year-olds the fourth highest.
Such a woeful performance is exacerbated by the knowledge
that for every young at-fault driver killed, 1.3 other road
users also die as a result.
To put it bluntly, our young are killing themselves on our
roads at a rate that exceeds any other developed nation, and
they are killing other people as well.
Accordingly, the announcement by Transport Minister Stephen
Joyce of a package of measures last week to begin to address
the problem has been broadly welcomed across the political
The Labour Party has said it will vote for the reforms and it
is now simply a matter of Parliamentary process, including
legislation, before changes come into effect.
Foremost among this first step in implementing the Safer
Journeys: New Zealand's Road Safety Strategy 2010-2020, is
the raising, as stated, of the driving age from 15 to 16.
But this is only one of a package of moves.
Others include making the restricted licence test more
difficult to encourage 120 hours of supervised driving for
learners; and improving road safety education for young
Resistance to the Government's plans comes largely from the
rural sector where young drivers typically start earlier than
their urban cousins - in the farm paddock or gravel back road
- and by the age of 15, it is argued, are more mature,
independent and geographically distant from schools or sports
clubs or the homes of friends.
Raising the age to 16, says Federated Farmers, will unfairly
It does, however, support more driver training.