A first time P-plater is 33 times more likely to have a car accident than a learner driver, but the risk of them crashing halves six months after they get their licence. UNSW Science’s School of Aviation is attempting to work out what can improve young drivers’ behaviour in their first six months of driving and needs volunteers who have just got their P-plates to take part.

“Understanding the challenges and risks young novice drivers face during the first few months of driving is important in reducing these risks,” Dr Brett Molesworth from UNSW Science’s School of Aviation says. The Associate Professor is an expert in Human Factors and Aviation Safety, has an applied background in the area of road safety and a PhD in Psychology.

He says drivers under the age of 25 are overrepresented in motor vehicle accidents: they make up just 15 per cent of the driving population, yet 21 per cent of drivers in NSW involved in a motor vehicle crash are under 25. This statistic is reflected in other states throughout Australia.

Dr Molesworth says knowledge about driver behaviour is captured post-crash, or through self-reporting measures. “While these methods can provide insight into driver behaviour, they often fail to capture all the factors that affect young drivers,” he says.

“So we know very little about the challenges young drivers face, what factors put them at risk when driving, and how they respond to these challenges.”

Dr Molesworth is leading a research project in conjunction with Monash University Accident Research Centre and the Road Safety Commission of WA, which he hopes will help researchers identify the challenges faced by young drivers in the early stages of being licenced.

As part of the study, the cars of young drivers in their first four months of driving after obtaining their P1 licence will be fitted with a GPS, radar and cameras, which will record visuals both inside and outside the vehicle. The knowledge gained from the study will be used to improve road safety, ultimately reducing the number of road crashes and fatalities.

The project is being jointly funded by an ARC Discovery Project grant and the Road Safety Commission of WA.

Young novice drivers between the ages of 17 to 20 who would like to enrol in the study should contact Those eligible to participate must have access to their own vehicle, live in Sydney, not be an identical twin nor have a medical condition that might affect driving. They must also be available to commence within three weeks of obtaining their P1 Licence. Participants will be reimbursed with a $250 Coles/Myer voucher.


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