New drivers flout licence rules

By Kiri Gillespie, Lydia Andersonnews -
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Papamoa teenager Casey Harwood says there are plenty of other restricted drivers in the Western Bay who flout the rules, but she is not one of them.Photo/John Borren
Papamoa teenager Casey Harwood says there are plenty of other restricted drivers in the Western Bay who flout the rules, but she is not one of them.Photo/John Borren

More than one in 10 drivers ticketed by police in the Western Bay of Plenty are learner and restricted drivers breaching their licence conditions, and findings suggest they do so with their parents' permission.

A New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) survey of 574 parents found nearly 50 per cent said their teen had driven unsupervised with friends in the car, while 17 per cent allowed it to happen at least once.

Just over a third of parents surveyed said their teen had driven after 10pm without a supervisor while on their restricted licence, with 16 per cent allowing it to happen at least once.

Sergeant Mike Owen said on average, drivers breaching their graduated licensing conditions represented about 11 per cent of all tickets handed out in the Western Bay.

Mr Owen said this time of year was also when police experienced the most number of breaches. "School's out, exams are over and the young people want to go do things.

They want to go do them together with their friends."

Mr Owen said some drivers did not learn the lesson the first time around, and often ended up "throwing their licences away" by being caught at least three times.

"Yeah it does happen a lot. A lot of people who lose their licence through demerit points have lost it previously," he said.

Graduated drivers breaching their conditions were often caught through checkpoints or through family members and/or friends reporting them to police, Mr Owen said.

Papamoa teenager Casey Harwood said it could be frustrating as a restricted driver going to places with her fellow restricted licensed friends, because they all had to travel convoy - they can't car pool.

However, the 17-year-old said the system was fair.

"Sometimes it's a bit harder because I have to leave at 9.30pm from where I am and generally things don't finish until around 10 to 10.30pm.

"But I always get home before 10pm because my mum would be worried if I didn't," she said.

Miss Harwood said she knew people with graduated licences and it was usually drivers who had been on their restricted licence for a long time who tended to flout the rules "because they feel more confident when they are on the road".

"A lot of parents of some of my friends would be okay with that but the majority probably wouldn't be okay with letting that happen," she said.

Tauranga driving instructor Kevin Brooks said learner licence breaches were more common and often observed learner drivers travelling unsupervised to their restricted tests.

"Even if the tester sees them, he can't do anything about it - he has to take them for their tests.

"At the other end of the test you see that [the student has] failed and they rip down their L plates and wheelie off out of the place," he said.

Automobile Association driving training manager Karen Dickson said the findings were a shame "because the rules are put there to protect us all".

NZTA road safety director Ernst Zollner said measures introduced in recent years had helped to cut the number of fatal and serious injury crashes involving teenage drivers from 475 in 2008 to 257 last year.

New Zealand's graduated licensing system requires learner drivers to be supervised at all times when driving, while drivers on a restricted licence cannot carry passengers or drive between 10pm and 5am without the supervision of a fully licensed driver.

"These conditions are not random - they are based on a wealth of research and analysis, and they specifically address the driving behaviours which most put young people at risk of crashing," Mr Zollner said.

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