Mike Stevens | Sep 2, 2009

YOUNG DRIVERS ARE TWICE as likely to have an accident in their first few months of holding a provisional ('P-plater') licence than after a year of driving experience, a University of Adelaide study has found.

Learner drivers in South Australia currently must log 50 hours of supervised driving experience (soon to be increased to 75 hours). By comparison, Victorian and NSW learners must log 120 hours.

According to the university's Centre for Automotive Safety Research spokesman Craig Kloeden, the results show that whether it is 50, 75 or 120 hours, learner drivers are still not gaining enough experience.

"The study indicates that it is many hundreds of hours before young drivers become competent in a vehicle," Mr Kloeden said.

"Given that young drivers are 15 times more likely to have an accident once they move from their learners to a provisional licence there is a strong case for extending the length of the learner phase even more."

The study surveyed 50,000 young drivers aged 16-19 over a five year period, and found that two types of crashes were commonplace in the first 12 months of gaining a provisional licence: veering off the road and colliding with fixed objects, and failing to correctly negotiate a right-hand turn across traffic.

"By the end of their first year of a provisional licence, these types of accidents were far less common," Mr Kloeden said.

"It demonstrates that time spent behind the wheel is a very important determinant of crash risk."

Mr Kloeden said that having young drivers log more supervised hours than currently required would encourage safer driving behaviour in the long term, leading to a decreased risk of accidents early on in their unsupervised driving experience.

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