Risky driving among Australian teens

Content type
Commissioned report

December 2019


Suzanne Vassallo

Commissioning Body

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children


In 2016, when aged 16–17, LSAC study teenagers were asked about their experiences of risky driving. At this age, many would be expected to be learning to drive, or just starting to drive independently. Using their responses, this report provides a snapshot of adolescents’ risky driving behaviours, with comparisons made between learner, provisional and unlicensed drivers. Four main types of risky driving are examined: (1) speeding; (2) driving when fatigued; (3) driving when affected by alcohol or illegal drugs; and (4) driving without a seatbelt/helmet. Characteristics associated with the engagement in risky driving behaviours are also examined, as are experiences of being a passenger of a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Key messages

  • Close to 80% of P-platers and 55% of learner drivers aged 16–17 had engaged in some form of risky driving on at least one of their 10 most recent trips.

  • More than one in 10 teens without a licence or learner’s permit had taken risks while driving a car or riding a motorbike.

  • Speeding by up to 10 km/h over the limit and driving while tired were the two most common forms of risky driving.

  • One in five teens who failed to wear a seatbelt when driving (or a helmet if riding a motorcycle) did so every trip.

  • Learner drivers, P-platers and unlicensed drivers did not differ in their rates of seatbelt/ helmet use.

  • Almost 4% of teens had driven while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the past year.

  • About one in 10 teens had been the passenger of a driver who was under the influence in the past year.

  • Teenagers who drank alcohol or used marijuana were more likely to engage in all types of risky driving.