Editorial: Teens must learn respect for driving licence laws

By Scott Inglis

Why is it so hard for the teens of today to obey a simple traffic law?

Police this week revealed they are issuing about two infringement notices an hour to drivers breaking their learner and restricted licence conditions.

In the past week, traffic police issued 81 infringement notices for licence breaches out of a total 750 notices, about 10 per cent of all notices issued.

This number is consistent each week and the most common breach is for carrying passengers, and teenagers on their restricted licences being ticketed when being a sober driver for friends.

A University of Otago study found eight out of 10 teens admitted carrying passengers when they were not supposed to.

A driver on a restricted licence is not allowed to carry passengers without a fully licensed driver present and they are not allowed to drive between 10pm and 5am.

The conditions of these provisional licences are clear and this is not a case of accidentally going over the speed limit. It is a premeditated flouting of the law.

If these teens can't follow this simple rule, what other laws are they disregarding?

These startling figures also make me wonder how many inexperienced drivers are offending, because it is safe to assume most teens breaking this law are avoiding detection.

Even more concerning is the behaviour of adults. Some parents are "aiding and abetting" their errant restricted teens, which not only sets a bad example but potentially puts their child at risk.

Why would they do this?

We all know the adverts on television with the bearded father trying to teach his teen son how to drive and then ejecting himself out of the car like a warplane pilot after the boy gets his restricted licence.

The message is clear - parents need to stay involved in their restricted teens' driving to help keep them safe.

It is also worth remembering drivers who breach their licence conditions risk having no insurance should they crash. More than 350 of these types of claims were made to AA Insurance in the year to June.

Tauranga Boys' College has a policy for students wanting to bring their cars to school and anyone caught breaking the law has their privileges revoked temporarily. Repeat offenders may be referred to police.

But this is another example of adults not being strict enough. Any teen caught breaching their licence conditions going to or leaving school should be referred to police.

Where this issue gets tricky is when a restricted driver acts as a sober driver, because it poses more of a moral dilemma.

Police and road safety authorities have for years been hammering home the anti-drink driving message through enforcement and the media, and any driver who acts as a sober lifesaver is to be commended for trying to get their friends home safely.

It is the right thing to do and potentially saves lives. But is it still right if they are breaking the law?

Four teenagers the Bay of Plenty Times spoke to this week said they thought it was acceptable for sober restricted drivers to drive friends from a party.

Police acknowledge this aspect is difficult but still maintain the consequences if they crash far outweigh the good these drivers are doing.

Police should use some discretion in these cases and drivers should be given a warning if caught once.

But repeatedly driving drunk friends around is not a case of coming to the rescue and doing the right thing - it is bad planning and disrespecting the law.

Police should continue to take a hard line. Parents and schools should follow suit.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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