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New tools to help parents battle the biggest killer of NZ
teens

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The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is launching a bold new campaign to improve the poor road safety record of teenage drivers in New Zealand.

“Road crashes are the single biggest killer of 15-19 year old New Zealanders, and our teen crash rates are among the worst in the developed world – that’s a situation no-one should accept,” said Michael Cummins, the NZTA’s National Manager of Road User Behaviour.  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.

Mr Cummins said the NZTA was committed to reducing the needless waste of young lives on New Zealand roads, with a new campaign launching today to raise awareness of the risks faced by teen drivers and to help parents to take an active role in addressing the problem.

The campaign will support parents by providing practical advice and free tools via a dedicated new website - www.safeteendriver.co.nz(external link) - aimed at helping parents to stay actively involved in teens’ driving during this critical time.  The website will be promoted to parents of teens on a restricted licence with online, print, radio, TV and cinema advertisements. The ads are a funny take on how teaching a teen to drive can be difficult and challenging but with a clear safety message - don’t bail out now just because they no longer need a supervisor.

“In New Zealand too many of us assume that passing the restricted driving 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. The research on adolescent risk-taking highlights the important role that parents play in keeping teens safe.  Our aim is to provide support and guidance to parents to help them stay involved.

“Teaching teens to drive doesn’t just involve practical skills. They also need to understand the mental skills and maturity required to be a safe driver. Things such as assessing yourself, reading the road environment, resisting peer pressure, managing distractions and planning ahead are all vital skills for safe driving.”

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.

Mr Cummins said while the NZTA encourages young drivers to undertake formal driver education, in many New Zealand families parents are the primary educators of teen drivers.  

“All parents want to keep their kids safe, but they need support to teach their teens the right skills at the right time to stay safe on the road. That’s why the NZTA has created the ‘safeteendriver’ website. We want parents and caregivers to stay involved with teens as they work their way through the Graduated Driver Licensing System.”

The campaign also 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 www.safeteendriver.co.nz(external 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.

Overseas research suggests that crash rates among young drivers who complete 120 hours of driving practice in a range of conditions and situations are 40% lower than for young drivers who complete only 50 hours of supervised practice.

Mr Cummins said the NZTA was also working to introduce a tougher restricted licence practical driving test from February 2012, in order to further reinforce the need for 120 hours of practice.

In addition to a new restricted licence test, other pending changes to improve the safety of young drivers, as outlined in the government’s Safer Journeys road safety strategy, include raising the driving age to 16 and a zero alcohol limit for the under 20s.

For more information:

Andy Knackstedt
Media Manager
New Zealand Transport Agency
T. 04 894 6285
M. 021 276 3222
E. andrew.knackstedt@nzta.govt.nz

Editors’ notes:
New Zealand’s young drivers have one of the highest crash rates in the OECD and a summary of the statistics shows that:

  • Male drivers aged 15-19 are 12 times more likely to crash than male drivers in the lowest risk age group of 55-59 year old drivers. 
  • Female drivers aged 15-19 are safer than males of the same age but are still more than five times more likely to crash than female drivers aged 55-59.
  • Drivers on a Restricted licence are more than four times more likely to have a crash than Learner drivers
  • The period of greatest risk for young drivers is during the first 6-12 months of driving solo
  • When a young driver has two or more passengers in the car with them, they’re ten times more likely to have a crash than if they were driving alone.
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