| 20.05,09. 07:52 AM |
Young drivers spin out on steep learning curve
May 20, 2009
ALMOST 14 per cent of learner drivers are falsifying their logbooks and thousands are delaying their driving test, overwhelmed by the 120 hours of practice needed to earn a P-plate licence.
Parents have been warned that by approving false logbooks they face heavy penalties and risk the safety of their children.
Research by the NRMA reveals 40 per cent of young drivers have either lied about their hours behind the wheel, are thinking about lying, or know someone who has, since licensing requirements changed from 50 to 120 practice hours in 2007.
The number of people sitting the test fell by 10,000 last year, Roads and Traffic Authority figures show. And the number of people passing has fallen to a five-year low.
With about 240,000 learners on the road in NSW at any time, there are potentially more than 33,000 young people lying about their practice hours. But the RTA said only 84 people were penalised last year for falsifying logbook entries. They were banned from taking the test for six weeks and forced to make up the omitted hours.
The Australian Driver Training Association is calling for a change that would make an hour of professional instruction count as three hours in the logbook. The concept, in place in Queensland, would have a cap of 10 one-hour lessons.
"We want to see a reward for parents who can use the professional driving instructor, particularly early in the process," said the president, Jeff McDougall, "so that once [the school] gets the driver up to a reasonable level of competence, they can feel more confident about taking them out for the necessary practice."
He supports the new test but said the 120-hour logbook was putting off students. "Many young people decide they're just not going to do [the test], either because it's too expensive or too much trouble," he said.
"A lot of parents are throwing their hands in the air and saying, 'how the hell am I going to [teach] 120 hours of driving?' "
Mr McDougall said the number of students sitting a test with a driving school had dropped by about one third.
In the 18 months before the changes, 67 P-plate drivers were killed, the RTA said. Preliminary data since the new regime show this has fallen to 46.
The Assistant Commissioner for Traffic Services, John Hartley, said passenger limits and curfews, licensing requirements and stricter P-plate tests had contributed to "a significant reduction of deaths [in] young people on our roads".
He said if young people were delaying their tests, roads would be safer anyway. "Preferably [young people will] go for their licence when they are older, more experienced, more mature."