Your Child has their P Plates
Probationary drivers are involved in crashes where someone is killed or injured at three times the rate of more experienced drivers.Probationary licence restrictions are designed to reduce the risks new drivers face.
Most teenagers get their driver licence when they are 18 or 19 years old. Getting a driver licence usually requires a lot of involvement from parents in helping provide driving experience. Once your child has a probationary licence, there are still a number of things youcan continue to do to reduce your child’s crash risk.
What are the facts?
While you may have given your child a lot of driving experience as a learner, newly licensed young drivers are at far greater risk on the roads than any other age group, see graph below.
- As soon as newly licensed drivers switch from their L’s to their P’s they’re 30 times more likely to crash.*
- Road crashes are the single biggest unintentional killer of young people aged 18-25 years in Victoria.
- Young drivers are at greatest risk of dying or being seriously injured in the first six to twelve months of probationary driving.
- Young drivers tend to over-estimate their level of ability and are more optimistic than they should be about their chances of not being involved in a crash.
- Parents have also been found to over-estimate their child’s safety as a new driver.
*There are many reasons why crash risk is so much higher for P Platers than Learners. One important factor is the higher number of kilometres driven as a P Plater compared to the number of kilometres driven as a Learner. Other crash risk factors are discussed further in this fact sheet.
Why do young drivers crash?
Young drivers are at greater risk of crashing due to their:
- inability to deal with challenging driving situations and conditions due to their added complexity, such as late night driving and driving with multiple passengers
- immaturity - research shows that our brains don’t mature until around 26 years of age and that our ability to assess risk doesn’t start to become accurate until the brain is fully developed
- greater likelihood to take risks while driving, such as speeding and failure to wear seatbelts
- lifestyle factors that expose them to higher risk driving situations, such as working, studying and/or socialising for long periods or at unusual hours potentially exposing them to driving while tired and/or late at night.
- drink driving and drug driving
- driving while using a mobile phone.
What are the rules?
As part of their licence conditions, probationary drivers are required to adhere to a range of restrictions. These restrictions and the penalties for breaching these conditions are designed to reduce the risk of crashing among newly licensed drivers.
|Not driving with more than one peer aged passenger (aged 16-21 years)||P1 Drivers||The presence of peer aged passengers increases the risk of fatal crash involvement by four times compared to travelling alone.|
|Not using a mobile phone at all||All Learner and Probationary drivers||Mobile phone use, especially texting, increases crash risk by 4 times and young drivers report significant use while driving.|
|Must have good driving record to move from P1 to P2||Risk taking behaviour contributes to crash risk and young drivers have been found to engage in higher levels of risky driving behaviours than more experienced drivers.|
|Zero BAC||Whole P period||Alcohol is involved in 21 percent of driver deaths for 18-20 year olds. Young drivers have a 3-5 times increased fatality risk at all blood alcohol content (BAC) levels compared to fully licensed drivers.|
|Drive cars that are not high powered||Whole P period||Research indicates that young drivers who drive higher performance vehicles take more risks. A detailed list of cars can be found on the probationary vehicles database on the VicRoads website.|
|Display P plates at all times||Whole P period||Enables other road users to be aware that the driver is inexperienced, and to enable the enforcement of licence conditions.|
|A lower demerit point limit – no more than 5 demerit points within a 12 month period||Whole P period||Risk taking behaviour contributes to crash risk and young drivers have been found to engage in higher levels of risky driving behaviours than more experienced drivers. Low demerit points discourage P drivers from engaging in unsafe driving, such as speeding.|
Newly licensed drivers might have the necessary skills to drive a car, but they haven’t fully developed the ability to avoid risky driving behaviours or the ability to identify potential hazards and drive safely for the conditions. Simple decisions such as how fast to drive in certain conditions, to more complex decisions like how to deal with distracting passengers or how to identify a possible danger and manage the risk, develop over the P period. Making correct and safe judgements takes time, maturity and experience.
What can parents do?
Even though your child is over 18 years old, you’re still an important influence on them. Research shows that teenagers and young adults generally value and respond to their parents’ opinion, advice and support.
Some ways parents can reduce the risk of their child being involved in a crash are to:
- Be aware of the restrictions probationary drivers need to follow and encourage your new driver to comply with these.
- Have a discussion with your child about your expectations of them driving solo (e.g., that they won’t speed, carry multiple passengers, drive late at night etc.), especially if they are driving the family car or you have paid for or helped to pay for their car.
- Go one step further and negotiate some ground rules before they get their probationary licence. For instance, your new driver can drive the family car, but only if they turn their mobile phone off or on silent or use the VicRoads Road Mode phone app which silences your incoming calls and text messages while you are on the road.
- Continue to drive with your child in a supervisory role with multiple passengers so they can practise driving in this situation.
- Assist your child to develop some refusal strategies in case they ever feel pressured to offer more than one friend a ride. For example, they could refer to the peer passenger rules and the penalties, or avoid getting into the situation by not taking the car to parties or social gatherings.
- Restrict the amount of solo driving your child does at night. Night time driving is very risky for probationary drivers. Try to negotiate that they only drive at night with you accompanying them for the first six months.
And what if your child slips up
Parents can discuss the potential consequences of traffic fines and demerit points with their child to deter them from breaking road rules. While speeding fines and other infringements will be costly, illegal behaviour is also a red flag – it means your child is taking risks while driving and their life and that of others could be at risk if this behaviour continues.
If your young driver does commit an offence make sure they pay for the fine – not you! It is important your young driver experiences the consequences for their risky behaviour to deter them from engaging in it and other behaviours in the future.
Do not under any circumstances transfer your child’s demerit points onto your licence. Firstly, this is illegal and will require you to falsify a Statutory Declaration. As probationary drivers have a lower demerit point threshold than fully licensed drivers, just one or two infringements may mean they have their licence suspended. If this occurs it will be inconvenient for them and maybe for you, but it is important that they serve any suspension periods. In most cases receiving a penalty will mean they will be less likely to offend again in the future and will be safer as a result.
Being a good role model
Being a good role model is very important. What parents do shows their child how they want him or her to behave. How you drive will influence your child in the same way as what you eat or how much exercise you do. So, try to practise what you preach – obey the road laws and drive safely. Take responsibility if you have committed traffic offences in the past. Admit your own mistakes and talk to your young driver about the negative consequences and how you can avoid future offences.
“I realised before my son got his licence that he was a bit over-confident and I was worried about what he would be like as a P-plater. We had a discussion about some ground rules just before he got his licence. We agreed that if he got any fines he would pay for them and that I would reduce his access to the car. Given that I was paying for some of the car, he did not argue. We also looked up the costs of the fines and the consequences of getting five demerit points and he was shocked. I think it helped a bit.”