Negligent driving is the cause of many accidents on NSW roads each year.
A driver speeding or becoming distracted, impatient, and careless through general recklessness, or due to being under the influence of drugs, alcohol or fatigue, can lead to an accident and a charge of negligent driving in NSW.
Anybody can be found guilty of negligent driving in NSW, but the spotlight is often on young drivers as the worst offenders.
Young people are only one section of the general population, but they would appear from media reports to be over-represented when it comes to drink driving, negligent driving and speeding offences.
Is the problem really as bad as it seems, and are young people in NSW the most negligent drivers?
So, what is negligent driving in NSW?
Section 117 of the Road Transport Act 2013 defines negligent driving.
The Act also states that a person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road furiously, recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public.
Negligent driving has a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years if someone is killed as a result, and imprisonment for 12 months if it occasions grievous bodily harm.
A negligent driving conviction can seriously impact a young person’s future, particularly if they need to drive to get to work or study.
Having a criminal conviction can affect their employment prospects and their ability to work in specific occupations.
Anyone who has been charged with negligent driving should seek the advice of an experienced traffic lawyer as soon as possible.
What are the statistics surrounding young people and negligent driving?
According to the NSW Centre for Road Safety’s annual statistical statement for 2012, those aged between 17 and 25 made up 18% of all car drivers and motorbike riders involved in fatal crashes. The figures also show this group accounted for just 14% of licence holders.
The report found young men were often speeding when involved in fatal accidents. According to the report, young men in this age group made up 27% of all speeding drivers involved in fatal accidents. This compared to young women in the same age range, who made up just 4%.
According to recent media reports, around 15 P-platers a day are also losing their licences due to on-the-spot fines from negligent driving behaviours such as burnouts, speeding and street racing. Although negligent driving affects drivers of all different ages and backgrounds, it seems that the consequences for younger drivers can be more extreme.
Why is negligent driving a problem for young people?
In spite of a number of media awareness campaigns and young driver programs aimed at reducing negligent driving behaviours, young people are still dying on our roads. The difference in driving behaviours between younger and more mature drivers is often believed to be due to experience and recklessness.
According to Dr Mark King from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, the reasons behind crashes vary between younger and older drivers. “In younger drivers, it tends to be from being irresponsible: drinking or driving too fast. On the other hand, older drivers tend to have just made a mistake in judgement,” he said in an article on Crikey.com.au. Dr King also said that young people tend to pose a greater risk not just to themselves, but also to other road users, while older drivers generally only put themselves at risk.
How can we reduce negligent driving in young people?
According to Professor Raphael Grzebieta from the Transport and Road Safety unit at University of NSW, the best way to encourage young people to change their behaviour and reduce their risk of an accident is through threats like the potential loss of demerit points and loss of life.
“Young people just don’t have a perception of risk, in terms of crashes, in terms of their driving skills, in perceiving hazards. You have to have that development of the driving skill, that process of learning to be a better driver.”
So while young people are not the only demographic being careless on the roads, they do appear to be at risk of negligent driving behaviours due to their age, lack of driving experience and limited perception of danger.