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Is 120 hours of supervised driving instruction too much of a good thing?

24/05/2023 by Mark Schneider in Safety

I’m getting on a bit and turned 17 many, many years ago, but I well remember how easy it was for kids like me who’d grown up in the country, and lived on a farm, to get their drivers’ licence.

The usual process was that on the day you turned 17 you headed to the police station, sat the written part of the test, then nervously got behind the wheel with a Constable watching over you in the passenger seat.

Then you drove round the block once or twice, stopped at a stop sign, pulled over and parked, and found a hill so you could demonstrate your prowess with a hill-start.

“You’ve been driving for years, haven’t you?” the Constable would jokingly say, before telling you you’d passed your test.

Having passed the test, we stuck some P plates on the front and back of the car and drove off without a care in the world. King, or Queen, of the road.

Well those days are gone. Getting your drivers’ licence today is a serious commitment with learner drivers needing to log many hours of supervised driving before they can do it on their own.

It’s undoubtedly a move for the better for road safety, but a recent article in The Conversation has questioned whether the 120 hours of supervised driving, which is the rule in NSW and Victoria, is all a bit too much.

Researchers Nathan Kettlewell and Professor Peter Siminski analysed the data on crash records and licences to look at the impact of increasing the previous requirement of 50 hours to 120 hours.

They found that the introduction of the 50-hour supervised driving requirement reduced the incidence of crashes in new drivers by 21% in the first year for new drivers, but increasing it to 120 hours made no discernible difference to the probability of crashing.

Kettlewell and Siminski point out that the 120 hours requirement (one of the longest in the world) comes at some social cost:

“For example, by placing barriers to obtaining a licence, such policies can limit young people’s access to work and education, and entrench disadvantage, particularly for those from single parent and low-income families, or those who have moved out of home and lack access to a licensed driver.”

They say that the research behind the increase from 50 to 120 hours was questionable at best, and that it’s time for a rethink.

“Where possible, policy changes should be informed by high-quality empirical evidence, and subjected to rigorous evaluation after they are implemented. For almost 25 years, teenagers in New South Wales have been logging their driving hours, but with little evidence on the benefits, until now.”

Given the evidence of their research, it’s a conclusion that’s hard to argue with.

Written by
Mark Schneider

Mark is a successful copywriter with over 20 years of professional writing experience.

We welcome him as a guest blogger to Fleettorque.

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