In the driver's seat II

In the driver's seat II

Beyond the early driving years

Suzanne Vassallo, Diana Smart, Samantha Cockfield, Thanuja Gunatillake, Anne Harris and Warren Harrison

Research Report No. 17 — April 2010
In the driver's seat II: Beyond the early driving years

In the Driver's Seat II: Beyond the Early Driving Years is the second report from the collaborative partnership between the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. It further explores the driving experiences and practices of young Victorian drivers, drawing upon data collected as part of a unique Australian study - the Australian Temperament Project (ATP). The ATP is a longitudinal community study that has followed the development and wellbeing of a large group of Victorian children over the first 24 years of life. Starting in 1983, fourteen waves of information have been collected from parents, teachers and young people via mail surveys. Information on young people's driving histories and practices has been collected at 19-20 and 23-24 years of age. The first report, In the Driver's Seat: Understanding Young Adults' Driving Behaviour (Smart & Vassallo, 2005), focused on young people's experiences while learning to drive and their driving practices during their first years of licensure, as well as identifying child and adolescent antecedents of differing problematic driving behaviours, reported at age 19-20. This second report focuses on young people's driving behaviours at 23-24 years, as reported by 1,000 study members, with six main issues addressed:

  • young people's driving behaviours, with comparisons of males and females, and of young people in differing occupations, with differing levels of educational attainment and from urban or rural areas;
  • the consistency of driving behaviours from 19-20 to 23-24 years;
  • links between drink-driving and other types of risky driving, and between risky driving and substance use;
  • overlaps between crash involvement, high-level speeding and fatigued driving;
  • the influence of parents on young people's car purchases; and
  • links between young people's personal characteristics and their driving behaviours.

The Australian Temperament Project is a longitudinal study which has followed the development of a cohort of Victorian children from infancy to young adulthood, with the aim of tracing pathways to psychosocial adjustment and maladjustment across the lifespan (Prior, Sanson, Smart, & Oberklaid, 2000). The initial sample comprised 2,443, 4-8 month old infants and their parents, who were representative of the Victorian population when recruited in 1983. Fourteen waves of data have been collected thus far, using mail surveys, with the young people aged 23-24 years at the last collection in 2006. Parents, teachers and the young people themselves have responded to the study at various stages of the young people's development.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Suzanne Vassallo is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and is the Project Manager of the Australian Temperament Project. She has worked at the Institute since 2001, working predominantly on the Australian Temperament Project and research related to adolescent and youth development, family relationships, and parenting. Prior to working at the Institute, Ms Vassallo was employed as a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at Deakin University. She has a Masters degree in clinical psychology.

Diana Smart joined the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2000 as the Project Manager for the Australian Temperament Project. She is currently a General Manager (Research) at the Institute, with responsibility for the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and the Australian Temperament Project. Ms Smart is a member of the Australian Psychological Society and a registered psychologist with the Psychologists Registration Board of Victoria. Her research interests include child and youth adjustment, developmental transitions and pathways, and the fostering of social competence and social responsibility.

Samantha Cockfield is the Manager, Road Safety, at the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), one of the key road safety organisations in Victoria. Key functions of the Road Safety division include the conduct of marketing and public education campaigns addressing high-risk behaviours such as speeding and drink-driving, support for police enforcement activities, and research and development projects to lay the foundation for future safety initiatives. Ms Cockfield has a Bachelor of Economics degree from Monash University and a Master of Business Administration degree.

Thanuja Gunatillake is the Senior Transport Policy Analyst with the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. She is responsible for research and policy development on issues that relate to road safety and mobility. Ms Gunatillake has a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Hons) from Monash University, majoring in transport. Prior to joining the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, she worked in road safety and transport research at ARRB Transport Research.

Anne Harris is the Chief Behavioural Scientist with the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. She is responsible for developing road user policy, programs and research projects and has worked in the road safety field since 1995. Ms Harris has a Bachelor of Behavioural Science, with Honours in psychology, from La Trobe University and a Master of Business Administration degree.

Warren Harrison is a psychologist and consultant in private practice with 20 years experience in road safety research. He is a member of the Australian Psychological Society, an Associate Fellow of the Australasian College of Road Safety, a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, and a member of the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety. His research interests include novice drivers, the use of enforcement to modify driver behaviour, and the application of cognitive psychology to road safety. Mr Harrison has Masters degrees in educational psychology and in criminology and forensic psychology.


The roles of Travis Quick in the development of measures and Rhys Price-Robertson in the preparation of the report are gratefully acknowledged, as is the valuable contribution of the other principal investigators on the study - Professors Ann Sanson, John Toumbourou, Margot Prior and Frank Oberklaid. We would also like to sincerely thank the young people and their parents who have participated in the study. Without their loyalty and support, this research would not have been possible.

Publication details

Research Report
No. 17
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, April 2010.
105 pp.
ISSN: 
1477-1477
ISBN: 
978-1-921414-24-4
Suggested citation:

Vassallo, S., Smart, D., Cockfield, S., Gunatillake, T., Harris, A., & Harrison, W. (2010). In the driver's seat II: Beyond the early driving years (Research Report No. 17). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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