A woman whose son was killed by a driver with a restricted license says adults need to take the law more seriously to save young people from themselves.
Melissa* lost her son two decades ago.
A very experienced driver, he was going to visit his fiancée for dinner and was only a few meters away from turning into her house.
“This young man came down a gravel road at incredible speed. And then he boneed him and killed him,” she said.
“The driver was young and inexperienced and having a passenger just made it worse. Either they’re not concentrating or they’re playing gallery,” she said.
A Department of Transport study questions whether a stricter licensing system would better protect young drivers.
At the same time, the number of driver’s license offenses recorded by the police has dropped.
The number of offenses committed by teenagers on their learning or restricted licenses has more than halved since 2018, from 50,000 to 22,000.
RNZ is asking police to clarify how many offenders are turned away and violation notices quashed.
Melissa was a high school teacher until recently, and aware that children were crammed into cars every day outside the school gates with older students driving without a license.
“It’s so much easier to bring your friends with you. So it’s never done with intention, with evil. But we are the adults, we are the ones who know what can happen, we are the ones who should do uphold the law and save from themselves,” she said.
Overseas data shows that a young driver having other people in the car increases the risk of a crash by 100-400%.
Department for Transport research shows that drivers who have been caught breaking the conditions of their license are much more likely – up to eight times – to have an accident.
They are four times more likely to have an accident resulting in death or serious injury.
17- and 18-year-olds with restricted licenses are two to three times more likely to break down than 16-27-year-olds with full licenses.
More than a quarter of young drivers violate the conditions of their licence, usually carrying passengers when they shouldn’t or driving after 10 p.m.
The ministry’s study concludes: “This raises questions as to whether changes to the … graduated licensing system could better protect young drivers with restricted licenses from the risk of crashes.”
He says the change could mean staying longer on a learning license or making it more difficult to progress to a restricted license.
The Driving Change Network is a non-profit group of more than 200 stakeholders who support driver education, training and licensing.
National coordinator Wendy Robertson said the process of getting a full license was not easy for some people.
“Some people in our community simply can’t afford professional driving lessons, or they don’t have a fully licensed adult to help them develop the skills they need. to be safe drivers.”
She said driver education should start early.
“It should start at the high school level, so young people get a good education in road service, before they end up in a situation where they get tickets or have been in an accident.”
Department of Transport research indicates that restrictions on night driving and passenger carrying at the restricted license stage are generally effective in reducing accidents.
RNZ has contacted the police about the drop in the number of restricted license breaches.
*Name changed to protect privacy