But with so much power comes considerable risk and many of us teenagers have overestimated our ability to drive safely.
So when you mix an overconfident driver with a restricted licence, which most teenagers view as a free ticket to carry passengers, needless to say the result is many, many unnecessary crashes.
Although it’s illegal to carry passengers on a restricted licence, it’s certainly one of the most broken laws in New Zealand. This is likely because the only way police can determine the difference between a restricted driver or full licensed driver is by physically looking at their licence. This means to be convicted with illegally carrying passengers you generally have to be pulled over by police for breaking another law.
This specific problem has been combatted across the ditch in Australia where restricted drivers have to use ‘P’ plates. These plates work the exact same as our ‘L’ plates which any learner driver must use. Heavy fines and punishment come with abusing the ‘P’ plate’s law in Australia and thus it generally encourages most people to not risk the consequences of carrying passengers. It is also illegal in Australia to have ‘P’ plates (and ‘L’ plates) on your car when you are a fully licenced driver, meaning that it makes the police’s job far easier in determining if someone is illegally carrying passengers.
And it’s clearly working. After doing some basic google searches and finding some official looking documents, I can safely say Australia is a safer country in terms of young drivers. According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, 55.9% of all road fatalities in New Zealand during 2016 have been drivers or passengers aged under 25. According to Australia’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, their number is only 23.1%. New Zealand has had over twice the amount of young road deaths than our friends across the ditch…
The people who willingly choose to carry passengers befuddle me. The risks of taking passengers far outweigh the benefits. All it takes is a flashy businessman in his beautiful new Mercedes to pull out unexpectedly and you’ve whacked him in the side. If a restricted driver has a crash with passengers in the car, it’s highly likely you won’t be covered by insurance. That car ride got expensive very, very quickly.
Many teenagers have also said peer pressure was the reason they took passengers. I say that is complete rubbish. If you’re in the driver’s seat, you don’t have to turn the key; it’s as simple as that. Also if you’re thinking of getting into a car with a restricted, you don’t have to put the seatbelt on. Simply hop out of the car and call your parents or a cab ETC – it’s really not that difficult.
Another way to deal with this situation is to simply harshen the penalties for anyone who chooses to break this law. If caught, I believe that you should be instantly put back to your learner’s licence – with the same 6 month period until you can reapply for the restricted. If you carry passengers on your second restricted license, then there should be bigger action like a driving suspension.
People should be thinking twice before they take a passenger on their restricted. Unfortunately I’m considered a misfit because I choose to abide by the law. That’s when you know something needs to be done.
Author: Steven Walton
Steven Walton is a 16 year old student currently attending St Andrews College in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was brought up with two older brothers and his big passions are sports (especially motorsport), people and writing. He runs his own motorsport blog, Green Flag F1 (www.greenflagf1.com) and is aspiring to be a journalist when he is older.