Common risk factors for young drivers in NZ

drivers in NZ

Driving is a potentially dangerous activity, and young drivers in New Zealand are no exception. New research from the Ministry of Transport has found young drivers are more likely to be involved in a number of fatal crashes than older drivers. The study identified a number of common risk factors for young drivers that can be addressed through policy changes, police enforcement, driver education initiatives and targeted driver behaviour change campaigns.

Check out the 7 most common risk factors for young drivers in NZ and what you can do to help prevent them.

Distractions while driving

One of the biggest mistakes young drivers make is multi-tasking behind the wheel. Concentrating on secondary tasks such as food, phone calls or changing the radio station can lead to distraction from the road and lead to accidents. In fact, driving distractions have been discovered to be top on the list of risk factors for young drivers in New Zealand.

A research conducted in 2014 revealed that teenage drivers get distracted more often than older drivers; engage in risky behaviours when driving (texting, talking, reaching for objects); have higher rates of speeding and crashing, and are involved in more collisions overall. It is therefore important that young drivers avoid every form of distraction whenever they are behind the wheels of a vehicle.


New research of young drivers between 17 and 24 living in New Zealand demonstrates young drivers’ inexperience is a risk factor.

These days, 18, 19 and 20-year olds are getting behind the wheel without much experience. They have too little driving experience at normal speeds, let alone when driving in high-risk situations like late night, or with their peers.

Fuelled by inexperience and an inherent lack of good judgement, bad driving habits like speeding, tailgating, not using turn signals and not paying attention to traffic lights cost too many young people their lives or livelihood.

Over speeding

Shocking new research from NZ has shown that 80% of young drivers involved in a serious crash were speeding at the time.

Over-speeding is a risk factor for young drivers in New Zealand. In fact, according to Professor Steve Spalding of the University of Otago, “Young drivers are more likely to take risks such as driving over speed limit than other age groups,”. Fortunately, this can be corrected with proper awareness and training.

Also, learning to drive is one of the most important steps in a young person’s life, so it’s essential they are given all the tools they need to succeed. This includes driving within their capabilities – and not exceeding them while speeding. Also, according to experts at AMI Insurance, having the proper insurance is part of the responsibility of young drivers, both to themselves as well as other road users.

 Driving under the influence

Speeding, alcohol and drugs are among some of the most common risk factors associated with young driver fatalities. Drivers under the influence of alcohol are 12 times more likely to crash than drivers with a zero-alcohol level. Teens and young adults are more likely to drink and drive than older people. And they are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than older drivers.

If you are aged 17–25, the safest option is to not drink any alcohol if you need to drive. The safest choice for young people is no alcohol at all if they are driving, or setting out to drive.

Night driving

Young drivers in New Zealand are more likely to be involved in a car crash at night than young drivers who drive during the day, according to research. The researchers used data from 2002-2009 and found that 16 to 19-year-old drivers were almost 50 percent more likely to crash at night than compared to drivers aged 20–29 years. In fact, it has been found that 20% of fatal crashes involving young drivers happen between 11 pm and 6 am.

At dawn or dusk, the glare of the sun and poor visibility may make driving on NZ roads more challenging for young drivers. Stay alert while driving at night by knowing your route and avoiding distractions such as phones or loud music.

Bad weather

In an independent study by Swinburne University, 11 per cent of young drivers said they had crashed their car due to bad weather. The study revealed a mixed picture of the impact of bad weather on young people’s driving performance. Those surveyed were asked to acknowledge risky behaviours and risk factors that affected their driving behaviour. It was found that in wet weather:

  •         26 percent drove more slowly
  •         19 per cent drove more cautiously
  •         18 per cent took fewer risks
  •         10 percent drove faster

In the unfortunate case of an accident, young drivers often don’t have the experience to handle bad weather. That’s why it’s extra important to take care on the road in unpleasant conditions: from black ice and windchill to fog and extreme heat. Learn about local weather patterns and be prepared for dangerous road conditions when travelling – especially if you’re heading to unfamiliar places.

Poor instructions

Poor instructions from their driving instructors is one of the top 3 risk factors for young drivers in New Zealand, according to research commissioned by the Road Safety Council.

Teenage drivers have a high incidence of traffic accidents. All roads users, including parents and allied professionals, bear responsibility for educating young drivers. It is important that family members know how to teach safe driving habits and skills. Parents should have the attitude that they are teaching their child to drive, not just providing driving lessons for them. For more information go to

Final thoughts

Driving can be dangerous for young drivers. The cost of driving accidents can be high if you are at fault, so it is important that you follow all road rules and take extra care when learning how to drive. Safe driving goes beyond just knowing how to drive safely. It’s also about understanding and managing the risks that may influence your driving behaviour and the behaviour of other road users.


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