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Young drivers on NSW roads the most at risk, and the most dangerous


Under 25s are most likely to drink drive, drive tired, speed, own ageing vehicles and be seriously injured or have fatal crashes.

Transport for NSW has produced a report examining young driver accident trends. The findings show that motorists under the age of 25 are more likely to drink alcohol and drive, drive while fatigued, ignore speed restrictions and own ageing vehicles with poor crash safety performance.

The combination of these factors means our youngest drivers face a high risk of serious injury or even the loss of life in accidents.

Under 25s are a high fatality crash risk

Car drivers aged under 25 are the most likely age group to have a fatal car accident. The report looks at driver statistics between 2014-2016 and found 43 drivers between the ages of 20 and 24 died in crashes. There were 33 fatalities for drivers aged under 20.

Elderly drivers over 80 appear to have had lower fatal crash involvement. But when looking at crash involvement data per 10,000 licences, you can see the 25 and under bracket and 80 upwards age brackets rank the highest.

When compared with a previous report from 2008-2010, there was a 25% drop in fatalities and 23% lower overall deadly crash involvement for under 25s.

What types of accidents are they involved in?

One-quarter of young driver crashes which resulted in fatalities in metro areas happened when the vehicle collided with a pedestrian. Young drivers also had a large number of dangerous crashes when losing control when making turns or veering off course on a straight piece of road. This underlines the importance of never using a mobile phone while at the wheel and avoiding using the radio or heater controls, which can cause a driver to drift out of their lane.

Rear-end accidents caused the most serious injuries. Turning across a lane of traffic to a road opposite was also the cause of a lot of critical accidents.

On country roads, many young drivers had head-on fatal crashes. Again, travelling off course in corners and veering off paths on straight roads were the most common causes of fatalities and serious injuries.

Comparing male and female drivers

Statistically, young male drivers are more likely to have a fatal or serious crash than females of the same age. From 2014-2016, 15% of fatalities involved males under 25. Females accounted for just 5%.

In life-threatening injury-causing accidents, young males represent 13% of incidents and females a slightly more significant percentage of 8%.

Young drivers are more likely to drink drive

39 young drivers were involved in high-blood alcohol fatal accidents during 2014-2016. The number of over-the-limit motorists dropped 41% from 2010, but under 25s were still the worst group for drink driving.

Of the 39 alcohol-induced fatality causing accidents, only five drivers were female.

Out of the serious accidents resulting in grave injuries, 312 involved drivers under 25 with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit. Male drivers represented 84% while only 16% were female.

Young drivers speed and drive while tired

Police and hospital records blamed speed in 955 serious injury accidents for new drivers. Male drivers were the worst offenders with 70% of the speed-induced crashes. Women were less likely to travel over the limit, with speed a factor in only 30% of accidents.

Perhaps showing a lack of experience, more young drivers than any other age group were involved in fatal crashes as a result of tiredness and fatigue. 36 people under the age of 25 had a fatality involving crash due to fatigue. Only three were female. 390 fatigue accidents among under 25s resulted in serious injuries.

Older cars are less safe

Echoing the sentiments of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), by examining the age of vehicles involved in accidents the report determined that older cars are more dangerous.

Cars older than 15 years are the most dangerous, killing 45% of the 17-20-year-old age bracket in accidents. 41% of older vehicle occupants were seriously injured.

Newer cars protected occupants better in accidents, with fewer deaths and severe injuries and more occupants receiving only minor or moderate, non-life threatening injuries.

The importance of purchasing a safe car

Examining the report findings reveals some key takeaway points.

In addition to adjusting their driving style and behaviour, young drivers would do well to purchase the safest possible car they can afford. Under 25s own the highest percentage of ageing vehicles, 15 years or older. Often these cars are a hand-me-down or purchased because they are cheap.

Manufacturers are continually researching and improving car safety. By purchasing a newer vehicle, you get a car with improved crash performance and additional safety features. Even a four-year-old car is favourable to one that is ten years of age or older.

Check the safety rating of a used car

Research by the NRMA has shown that colour, price and model type all take preference over safety ratings.

Remember to take into account the safety of a vehicle when making your purchase. Use the ANCAP website or the Used Car Safety Rating program to find out how well your car performed in crash testing. These websites also give information about the safety features of a specific model.

Pay attention to the test date. Crash testing has changed over the years, becoming more stringent as cars improved. A five-star rated car tested in 2010 isn’t subjected to the same levels of evaluation as a 2018 model and will not perform as well.

How can I afford a safe car?

You might think, “This is all well and good, but how can I afford a safe car?”. Remember, you cannot put a price on safety.

If you can't buy a car outright, there is a wide range of used car loans for younger drivers, that make purchasing a safer or newer model more affordable. You don’t need to resort to high-cost finance; our car loan page helps young drivers compare affordable first-car loans. We also have a student car loan guide for those in education.

As we’ve seen, under 25s are more risky to insure. Use this under 25 car insurance finder to get a money-saving deal tailored for younger drivers.

You can read the full Transport for NSW report here.

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