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Knee Jerk Reaction Not The Solution

2 August 2005

Knee Jerk Reaction Not The Solution

Increasing the minimum driving age would disadvantage thousands of responsible teenagers for no benefit, said Charlie Pedersen, President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

"While many New Zealanders' thoughts are with the families of the Hastings youths killed on Friday, raising the minimum driving age will not solve the problem of road deaths," said Mr Pedersen.

Federated Farmers strongly opposes the notion that the minimum driving age should rise to 16 or 17. Many rural people rely on the ability of their 15 and 16 year olds to drive themselves and their siblings home from school and extra curricular events, as there is no public transport in the country.

"The issue of an appropriate driving age was thoroughly and calmly evaluated by government in 1998. The evidence was clear - that age alone is not the key factor in road accidents involving young drivers."

International research concluded that age and experience were important and that drivers, regardless of age, were a greater risk during their first few years driving, said Mr Pedersen.

"As a result, New Zealand sensibly put in place a graduated driver licensing system with restrictions on newly licensed drivers.

"Fifteen year olds cannot gain an unrestricted right to drive. The absolute minimum age this can occur is 16½ years, if they have passed an approved driving course. Otherwise the absolute minimum at which a young person can drive without restrictions is 17 years," said Mr Pedersen.

"For the first six months of obtaining a license a young driver must be accompanied by a fully licensed adult driver, and for at least the next year their friends cannot ride with them. And they cannot drive at night, unless accompanied by a fully licensed adult driver.

"There is strong evidence that young people are more likely to be safe drivers if they learn to drive while under the care of their parents, and gain a degree of competency before they have access to alcohol.

"Squeezing the time young people learn to drive closer to the minimum drinking age and away from close parental supervision may in fact increase the number of young people killed and injured on our roads.

"Rural people hope that government ministers heed the advice of Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton. In 1998 he opposed a rise in driving age to 16 from 15, branding the previous government's proposal as 'intellectually fraudulent'. He was right," Mr Pedersen said.


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