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Passengers increase the risk for young drivers

Young drivers could be more at risk of a fatal crash when they are carrying passengers, according to a recent study. Young drivers hold 16 per cent of the licences in Australia, and also represent the age group with the highest crash rate, according to the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA).

In New South Wales, young drivers are subject to a number of licence conditions for their own safety, as well as that of other road users. These special conditions include speed, the type of vehicle and mobile phone use as well as passenger number restrictions.

However, despite the different regulations in place, the NRMA reports that compared to drivers 21 and over, those aged between 17 and 20 were three times more likely to have a serious crash. In addition, young male drivers feature more prominently in road crash statistics than their female counterparts.

Passenger restrictions to protect young drivers

"Younger drivers face many challenges when learning the complex task of driving a vehicle," says Transport for NSW. "With their inexperience, they also face a higher risk of danger."

In NSW, drivers on their P1 licence under the age of 25 are forbidden from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 21 during the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m..

There are a few select exemptions in place, the granting of which is subject to exceptional circumstances, such as those relating to employment, according Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).

"Young drivers have less developed cognitive, psychomotor and perceptual skills associated with driving than more experienced drivers," says the NRMA.

The NRMA also lists risk taking, driving in dangerous conditions, speeding, stress and fatigue as influencers of poor driving behaviour.

"Crashes often occur as a result of only a moment's inattention," Commander Chief Superintendent John Hartley told Geared.

Risk of serious crashes increased with passenger presence

A study recently published in the Adolescent Journal of Health analysed the relationship between young drivers driving with passengers and crash risk. Researchers looked at 15 cases of recorded crashes with drivers under the ages of 25, comprising both fatal and non-fatal instances.

"Studies on fatal crashes showed increased risk, compared with solo driving, for young drivers with at least one passenger, and two or more passengers versus solo driving," said the report.

In addition, the study also found that there was an increased risk for both fatal and nonfatal crashes with male passengers, especially with drivers at the younger end of the scale.

"Findings of this review, based on correlational studies, support licensing policies that limit the presence and number of young passengers for young drivers."

These findings are supported by the NRMA's own statement, which identifies young drivers being more at risk of a crash when carrying passengers, particularly friends, in their car. It is also a sentiment echoed by the RMS:

"Young drivers have a greater risk of crashing when they have friends in the car," says the RMS' Geared. "The stats also tell us that there's more chance of causing a fatal crash when you have two or more friends in the car, especially male passengers."

The RMS goes on to add that this risk is reduced if the passenger is an adult or a child, even when compared to driving solo.

Young drivers are covered by the green slip of the vehicle they are driving, provided the vehicle registration is up to date. Young drivers may not be included in the comprehensive insurance of the vehicle they are driving. If they are covered, a higher age based excess may apply. You need to check the comprehensive insurance terms and restrictions that may apply to younger drivers.