Parents who drive while disqualified or without a licence are passing on the illegal habits to their children, a study has found.
Young Driver Research, a pilot study in Mangere, also found car dealers and churches were contributing to the high number of "breach" drivers by turning a blind eye.
The habits of unlicensed teenagers and their parents were examined and found to be widespread and intergenerational.
Researchers interviewed 12 young drivers and eight parents who regularly drove unlicensed or in breach of their learner or restricted licences, plus four community leaders.
"The extent of how embedded unlicensed driving and 'breach' driving is as a social norm in this community is also evident by not only the attitudes and behaviours of young drivers and their families, but also of the wider community - from car dealers who sell cars to anyone, to employers or church/social organisations that turn a blind eye to how employees or members are driving," the report said.
It found parents and caregivers had a "powerful effect in reinforcing the social acceptability of unlicensed and 'breach' driving".
"They are the gatekeepers to the family car(s) and hence have the greatest say over how, when and where it gets used by the young drivers in their family," the report said.
The study found younger unlicensed drivers often got behind the wheel to help their families.
"Much of the 'breach' driving that these young passive drivers are doing is to fulfill a family need, and there are strong feelings of solidarity and protectiveness with regard to local families in 'survival mode'.
"Being able to offer lifts to others is seen as a valued currency in gaining respect and kudos among peers. Once a young person becomes 'the driver' in a group, they can start to lose control of how they manage their driving as the group rather than the individual starts to set the boundaries of how and when driving is done."
The research also found risks were considered too minimal to be a deterrent or "disincentive". The illegal practice driving was not considered "morally" wrong and usually justified by familial obligations and circumstances.
The report, by Synergia, was commissioned for ACC and Auckland Transport and is part of a wider campaign on the overall High Risk Young Driver project.
Thirty-six per cent of fatal crashes involve unlicensed or disqualified drivers, Ministry of Transport figures between 2006-2010 show.
Licence just a dream
Mum of seven Mei Paul, 44, used to drive unlicensed until she was caught by police two years ago picking up her son from kindergarten.
Paul was fined $400 for driving while disqualified. She told the Herald on Sunday that she has never owned a driver's licence as she couldn't afford it after paying for groceries and school uniforms.
"I still needed to get the kids to school and to doctors and I still had to do life things."
A learner's licence costs $96.10 to sit, restricted $137 and a full licence $111.70.
Paul said it was her dream to own a licence. For now, she has to schedule her day around bus times and try to not get caught out by the weather.
"I've got to prepare the day before for bus times for the next day. And weather, oh my gosh, I didn't have my umbrella when it rained the other day so I had to walk home in the rain. I wasn't liking that at all."
Paul is unemployed but helps at the Mangere East Community Centre.
Her husband works at a tyre shop and is the only licensed driver in the family.