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Young drivers' voices 'ignored' in P-plate de -

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Young drivers' voices 'ignored' in P-plate debate

Reporter: Steve Cannane

ALI MOORE: The horrific death toll of young drivers continues to hit the headlines, after another
black holiday period on the nation's roads. Last week, the New South Wales Government followed the
lead of Queensland and Western Australia, promising tough new restrictions for P platers. These
include bans on all mobile phone use for first year drivers, zero tolerance on speeding offences
and night time passenger limits. The crackdown came after intense pressure from lobby groups and
the families of young road fatalities. But many P platers feel their voices have been lost in the
debate. Are new laws punishing young drivers at the expense of their freedom? Steve Cannane
reports.

STEVE CANNANE: Getting your drivers licence is a liberating experience for teenagers. It gives you
freedom, it gives you independence.

JAMES PHELPS, YOUNG DRIVER: It meant a lot to me when I first got my Ps. It just opened up a lot
more freedom for me. It just changed everything.

STEVE CANNANE: James Phelps is an apprentice electrician. He relies on his car and his provisional
licence to get to work and to go out at night.

ADVERTISEMENT: If you stop a P plater from speeding, there's a good chance you'll stop a P plater
from dying.

STEVE CANNANE: Last year in New South Wales, 94 people died in accidents involving P-platers, up 30
per cent from 2005. In 2007, three state governments, including New South Wales, are planning to
bring in tough restrictions on the amount of passengers P platers can carry at night. But some
provisional drivers argue this will lead to other forms of risk taking.

JAMES PHELPS: I know that they said that they're going to try to stop P platers dying on the roads,
but with bringing in the restrictions it'll stop us being able to use the designated driver
program. I do a lot of designated driving because it is a cheaper night out, which is always a bit
of a bonus, but I tend to always have just as much fun going out.

STEVE CANNANE: Tonight, James Phelps and his mates are heading out. He's one of two designated
drivers taking responsibility for driving their friends to and from the pub. But in the future,
trips like this won't be so easy, leaving this group of friends with few options for going out.
They live on the central coast of New South Wales. Like most of regional Australia, there's hardly
any public transport here late at night. Bob Graham is the mayor of Wyong.

BOB GRAHAM, WYONG MAYOR: What you've got to remember, we've got nearly 300,000 people living here
on the central coast. That's more than the population of the Northern Territory and we are stuck
between Newcastle and Sydney, both of which have got State Government public transport, and
Wollongong have got State Government public transport, and here we are with a population of 300,000
people without that facility.

STEVE CANNANE: There is one late night bus service on the central coast - the Night Owl. It's
funded by the State Government and two local councils. Local police support the service. It helps
gets young people home safely from the pubs and clubs.

BUS TRAVELLER: I think it's important because where we are, anyway, there's a limited amount of
cars. It's hard to get places.

BUS TRAVELLER: It's very important. It stops the risk of people having crashes and drink driving,
and it's cheap.

BUS DRIVER: I think it's good and as a parent, it keeps them off the road, which is - a lot of
things going on these days with P platers, and so on.

STEVE CANNANE: You might think the New South Wales Government would want to expand night bus
services to keep young drivers off the roads on Friday and Saturday nights, but the Night Owl bus
service is due to wind up in April, when the State Government funding dries up. Casey Lovelock was
a youth representative on the New South Wales Government's Young Drivers' Advisory Panel. She was
strongly opposed to the passenger restrictions and wants late night bus systems expanded.

CASEY LOVELOCK, NEW SOUTH WALES YOUTH ADVISORY COUNCIL: They do have what's called the Night Owl
bus, which takes people from the location of where they were going out and drops them at another
location. It gets them closer to home, but whether it gets them close to home in general - I know
that, myself, I still have to walk an hour or so before you're even getting close to home.

STEVE CANNANE: The issue of young women walking home at night is not Casey Lovelock's only concern
about the passenger restrictions.

CASEY LOVELOCK: I was actually having a chat with some young guys today and the comments I got just
in the space of 10 minutes was, "Well, I just won't put my P plates on". They're going to have more
people dying in accidents, anyway, because there'll be more reason to put them in the boots and in
laying down in the back of a ute when you need to get somewhere.

STEVE CANNANE: P plater Lauren Evans lives an hour out of Newcastle. She understands more than most
the dangers of driving on your Ps.

LAUREN EVANS, YOUNG DRIVER: Personally I've been involved with three accidents, all within a few
kilometres of each other, but I have a lot of friends and people who I know it goes into the dozens
of people I know who have all had serious accidents on this one small stretch of road. I fractured
my pelvis in the accident and have a lot of trouble with back pain and neck pain.

STEVE CANNANE: Of the 94 fatalities involving P platers on New South Wales roads last year, 63 per
cent occurred outside the big cities. While Lauren Evans supports the P plate passenger
restrictions, she says more investment in country roads is critical to reducing P plater accidents.

LAUREN EVANS: There needs to be a lot of money invested into every area, into the conditions of the
roads. They've been ignored for too long.

PAUL GIBSON, LABOR MP: I've been driving on country roads all my life. I can assure you that
country roads today are a lot better than what they were 15, 20, 30 years ago.

STEVE CANNANE: Labor MP Paul Gibson is the chair of the New South Wales Government's Staysafe
Committee.

PAUL GIBSON: We can spend millions on roads. We can change the laws as much as you want them
changed but at the end of the day, responsibility of the driver must come into effect as well.

STEVE CANNANE: Will your Government be looking at bringing in more late night public transport?

PAUL GIBSON: Late night public transport - an increase in that is definitely something we will be
looking at and I think we have to do that in order to make sure that this scheme is successful.

STEVE CANNANE: So while politicians around the country argue about driver restrictions, the
question P platers are asking themselves is, do they live with a little less freedom or a little
more danger?

JAMES PHELPS: If I was left stranded and wasn't able to drive because I'd been drinking and
couldn't get into a car with somebody else, it could potentially leave me in a very dangerous
position.

CASEY LOVELOCK: I'm hoping by taking away the freedom of being able to drive and get around in a
vehicle for young people, that they are going to replace it with something else, like transport
more reliable and safe public transport.

ALI MOORE: Steve Cannane from JTV reporting there.

(c) 2007 ABC