New survey shows parents too eager to bail out on teen drivers


Results from a survey released today by the NZ Transport Agency show that many parents are happy to turn their teens loose on the road without enough supervised driving practice.

While international research recommends that teen drivers clock up at least 120 hours of supervised driving practice before going solo, the NZTA’s survey shows that just 12% of New Zealand parents know that their teens should have that much practice before applying for a restricted licence.

The survey also reveals that nearly one quarter (23%) of parents are happy for their teen to apply for a restricted licence with as little as 40 hours of supervised practice – just one third of the recommended minimum - putting their teen at serious risk of a crash.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) commissioned the survey as part of the Safe Teen Driver campaign ( to improve the poor road safety record of teenage drivers in New Zealand.

The survey of over 580 New Zealand parents of teens who are currently going through the Graduated Driver Licensing system shows that while parents are keen to help their teen pass their restricted test, few are keen on committing to the recommended amount of practice and supervision.

“Road crashes are the single biggest killer of 15-19 year old New Zealanders, and we need parents to stay involved when their teenagers are learning to drive to help prepare them for the responsibility of solo driving.

“120 hours is the recommended amount of time teenagers should spend in a car supervised to help gain experience and confidence, but our research shows this isn’t happening in some cases,” said NZTA Chief Executive, Geoff Dangerfield.

New Zealand has the highest road death rate in the OECD for 15-17 year olds, and the fourth highest road death rate for 18-20 year-olds.

As part of the Government’s Safer Journeys strategy, the NZTA is working on changes to toughen up the restricted licence on-road driving test in order to encourage 120 hours of supervised driving in the Learner licence stage, with the new tests likely to be implemented in February 2012.

The Safe Teen Driver campaign was launched in June to help raise awareness of the risks faced by teen drivers and to give parents some tools to help them take an active role in addressing the problem.

“The good news from our survey is that 89% of parents want to stay involved until their teenager passes their restricted test. But the same parents are happy for their teenager to apply for their restricted with only half the amount of recommended practice time, 40 – 60 hours.

Most parents want to do the right thing and keep their teenagers safe behind the wheel, but many don’t understand that a higher level of time spent with their teenager in the car is required.”

“In New Zealand too many of us assume that passing the restricted licence test means a teenager is ready to go it alone. Passing the test is only the beginning of the journey, and parents still have a crucial role to play in helping teens become safe drivers.  It might not feel like it at times, but parents still have a strong influence on their teenagers’ lives. Research on adolescent risk-taking highlights the important role that parents play in keeping teens safe.  Our aim is to provide the tools, support and guidance that helps parents to stay involved,” Mr Dangerfield says.

The survey also showed 58% of Kiwi parents only get in their teen’s car occasionally once they have their restricted licence, and 32% believe their teens drive ‘really well’.

Data shows that New Zealand’s teen drivers are most at risk of having a serious crash in the first six to 12 months of driving solo on a restricted licence.  They are more vulnerable on the road during this period than at any other time in their lives. Each year for the past five years there has been around 1300 crashes resulting in injury or death involving teen drivers on a restricted licence.

The NZTA campaign aims to support parents by providing practical advice and free tools via a dedicated new website - link) – aimed at helping parents to stay actively involved in teens’ driving during this critical time.

Additional findings from the survey:

  • 37% of parents consider safety features such as ABS and airbags to be the least important feature in a car they provide for their teenager to learn to drive in
  • The survey showed parents were more concerned with whether the car was manual versus automatic, or the engine size.
  • 30% of the parents surveyed were 15 years old and 16% were younger than 15 when they learnt to drive. 15% of those parents surveyed feel now that they were too young at that age to get behind the wheel.
  • The campaign acknowledges that relationships between parents and their teenagers can often be fraught. The NZTA has worked with leading teen psychologist Dr Ian Lambie to develop the tips and tools on the link) website which will help parents with the emotional side of teaching and interacting with their teens. 
  • The new website also complements the existing NZTA/ACC Practice programme for teens in the learner licence phase, which encourages learner drivers to accumulate 120 hours of supervised driving practise in a range of conditions.

The group of parents surveyed by BuzzChannel:

  • Live throughout the country (nationwide spread)
  • Majority of them have teens currently learning on their learner’s licence
  • Their teenagers who have learnt to, or are learning to drive, are aged 16 – 17 years of age
  • 55% of them are 40-50 years of age, 37% of them are 50-60 years of age and the remainder are 30-40 years old.