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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 59

Ms HOARE (4:15 PM) —I congratulate my friend and colleague the member for McPherson on raising this very important issue in this place. I know that she has a strong commitment to driver education as part of the VET in Schools program and, as we have heard, has been instrumental in pursuing practical measures in schools in her electorate. I am aware of the proposal for a national driver trainer initiative—the White-Griffin driver training program—which was presented to the member for McPherson. She pursued that to be trialled in four schools in her electorate. I understand that students in year 11 have just completed the first 12 months of the two-year certificate course.

The main difference between this program and the recently announced New South Wales and the Victorian program is that the New South Wales and the Victorian program focuses on training after a young person has obtained a drivers licence, whereas this proposal recommends comprehensive competency based driving training before a young person obtains a learners permit. There are arguments for and against both of these proposals, some of which we have heard here today. But, with my limited knowledge of these arguments, and as a mother of a young adult who has just obtained her licence, my personal preference would be that my daughter had had the opportunity to receive competency based training before Reg and I actually took her out on the road. However, this training would have to be prior to young people turning 16 because it is very difficult to deter or delay them from being able to drive once they reach that legal age.

The New South Wales RTA indicates that, although young people are more mobile these days than at any other time in the past, there have been huge improvements in road safety over the past 25 years. The annual number of road deaths in New South Wales has fallen from a high of 1,384 in 1978 to 510 in 2004. The two major contributing factors to that decline were the compulsory wearing of seatbelts and the introduction of random breath testing. However, young people are greatly overrepresented in road crash statistics, even though there have been many initiatives introduced for young drivers such as zero alcohol tolerance and longer periods for learning and for holding provisional licences. More recent initiatives in New South Wales include banning P-plate drivers from driving high-performance cars. But this is obviously not sufficient and is only really tinkering at the edges, particularly when all new cars go fast. After having a discussion with Reg about whether Naomi would be able to drive our car, we checked with the RTA and it said that, under current laws, she was allowed to drive our XR6.

The statistics alone accentuate the importance and urgency of the issues raised in this motion. Of the 1,598 road deaths in Australia last year, 430 were young people aged between 17 and 25. Of these, 215 were drivers, 125 were passengers, 32 were pedestrians, 54 were riding motorcycles and three were riding bicycles. Drivers between the ages of 17 and 25 are three times more likely than drivers over age 25 to be involved in a serious or fatal accident. These are not just statistics or predictions. These are young members of our community dying on our roads. They are our sons and daughters, our grandsons and grand-daughters, our nieces and nephews. They are our friends, our friends’ children and our children’s friends.

The member for McPherson spoke of the number of young people from schools in her electorate dying in car accidents. We all know or know of a young person who has had their life tragically taken as a result of a car accident. I also had a very good friend whose son, a learner driver, was driving when an accident—the fault of another driver—took the lives of this young mother, her 16-year-old son, her seven-year-old daughter and her three-year-old son. All but two members of one family had their lives taken by the use of motor vehicles.

Also, as I have mentioned, our daughter Naomi has just received her P-plates, and she and many of her school friends are now driving independently. They drive to school, parties and concerts and to outside school activities such as sport and music. They are a sensible group, but car accidents are not limited to the irresponsible. Car accidents occur because of some stupidity and a lot of inexperience. Just recently, Naomi came home one evening shaken because she had skidded in the wet on a local roundabout which is renowned for being slippery from the number of trucks that use it. Her driving experience had not included this situation, and she was completely unaware of how to react. The rest of us, with more experience, might have reacted as second nature, without pausing to think or without panicking.

My son will start driving next year. None of us want our children to be one of those statistics and all of us dread it. We have a responsibility to ensure that parents can feel as though they, their children, their family, their community and the government have done everything they possibly can to avoid that knock on the door that we should never have to face.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! The time allotted for private members’ business has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.