March 26, 2015 | Eastern Driving School

Lowering the driving age ?


A recent article in The Age newspaper by transport reporter, Adam Carey, explored the issue of lowering the driving age
in Victoria to boost job prospects.
Victoria has long been the only state or territory in Australia with a legal driving age of 18 but, if thousands of people have
their way, the state will join the rest of the country and allow 17-year-olds to drive unaccompanied.
High school student Khalid Issa launched a petition on Tuesday, calling on Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan and
VicRoads to “allow Victorians to obtain their P-plates at 17 years old”. By Friday morning it had attracted more than
18,000 signatures.
Two months shy of his 17th birthday, Khalid is a young man in a hurry. A year 11 student living in Werribee, he would
rather be learning a trade, perhaps as a carpenter, than in school. But the few prospective employers he has approached
have all told him he would need a driver’s licence to be considered, he said.
“I’m definitely not alone in this,” Khalid said. “I have so many friends that just want to start a career a little bit early but
they’re kind of put on hold just because Victoria is the only state that has this rule. In any other state, Khalid could get his
probationary licence at age 17. In the Northern Territory, where the age is even younger at 16 and six months, he would
already be driving.
Khalid said Victorian law was holding him back from getting a job, at a time when the government was looking to generate
more jobs. Victoria has differed from the rest of Australia on the issue for more than 40 years, a stance that, according to
VicRoads, has saved hundreds of lives.
A government discussion paper released in 2005 calculated that if the driving age was lowered to 17, the road toll would
rise by 20 in the first year, with 250 more people seriously injured, and by 13 extra deaths each year thereafter, with 200
more serious injuries.
More recent state-by-state road toll data also indicates that
Victoria has a superior record to other states regarding road
deaths among young adults.
RACV opposes any change to the status quo. “There is too much
risk that it would increase road trauma,” said Melinda Spiteri,
Manager Road User Behaviour. “You’ve got younger, perhaps
more immature people getting their licence. And purely in
numbers, you’re increasing how many people are on the road.”
Transport Accident Commission chief executive Janet Dore said
that anything that encourages earlier driver licensing also
increases crash risk. “When Canada reduced the minimum driver
licensing age to 16 from 18, crash involvement among new drivers
increased by 12 per cent and fatalities increased by 24 per cent,”
Ms Dore said.
VicRoads’ James Holgate said: “Lowering the minimum licensing
age in Victoria would be a step backwards.”