P-plate restriction mooted

P-PLATERS could be restricted to carrying one passenger as part of a possible Road Safety Advisory Council strategy.

New council chairman Jim Cox, who was handed the top road safety job in November, said vulnerable road users in the 18 to 25 age group were in a high road risk category and should become the primary focus of road safety.

He said various attempts had been made to lessen the risks associated with novice drivers, such as the one passenger rule, and he hoped to speak with Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne about his own ideas on vulnerable road users.

States such as Queensland, South Australia and Victoria have already implemented tough P-plater restrictions for first-year drivers.

These have included the one passenger rule with varying conditions, such as banning passengers aged between 16 and 22, a ban on driving between midnight and 5am, a ban on high- powered vehicles and a ban on mobile phone loudspeakers and wireless devices.

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that novice drivers were prone to distractions such as adjusting the radio, talking to passengers, eating and mobile phones, and were more likely to crash from distractions when compared with experienced drivers.

Crash statistics show that novice drivers are six times more likely to die or be seriously injured, and 17 to 24-year-olds represent 27 per cent of serious crashes.

Mr Cox said driver inattention across all age groups was a major concern.

"Road safety tends to go through troughs, and the last year hasn't been a particularly good trough," Mr Cox said.

"It is probably time to rethink things. People forget, they become complacent ... you just have to keep hammering the message home."

Mr Cox said the issue of lowering rural road speed limits would remain in the spotlight, but he would never support a mandatory approach.

He said rural road speed reduction may fall to councils in the future.

"If a council wants speed reduction on roads that they are responsible for, then I'm guessing maybe the minister of the day would put that request to DIER."

Mr Cox said he supported Mr O'Byrne's suggestion for cyclist awareness campaigns, the abolition of end speed limit signs, and speed restrictions on gravel roads.

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