Young drivers: repeat offenders are the most dangerous

Last October, measures to reduce the number of accidents involving injuries on the roads of Québec went into effect. Repeat offenders and young drivers in particular were targeted by the amendments to the Highway Safety Code. According to Urs Maag, of the Transportation Research Centre at Université de Montréal, the new clauses are justified by an analysis of data from Québec's government-run car insurance company, the SAAQ, which he has been conducting for several years at the Transportation Safety Laboratory. “We have known for a long time that new drivers are involved in more accidents involving bodily injury than the general population,” he explains. But one of our studies showed that, within this subgroup, drivers whose licences have been suspended for three months or more are involved in twice as many accidents of this kind as other drivers.”

Mr. Maag reached these conclusions after a study of the files of 3550 men and 1295 women aged 16 to 25 years over a three-year period. The professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics also analyzed their results on driving tests and noted that you can foresee which driver will be “at risk” from that point on. “New drivers who need more than one try to pass the three parts of the theoretical exam are at greater risk of being in an accident than those that pass on the first try,” he explains. According to SAAQ data, about 4500 drivers have their licences suspended for 3, 6 or 12 months per year. The over-representation of drivers aged 16 to 24 years in highway accidents is a recognized social phenomenon around the world, and Québec is no exception. Thus, even though young Québec drivers account for only 11% of the holders of driver's licenses and their annual average mileage is lower than the other groups of drivers, they represent 23% of drivers involved in accidents with bodily injury.

Mr. Maag is not opposed to tightening up the regulations; in fact, he wants them made stricter. “Not so long ago, a person whose licence was suspended could take his car from the Courthouse parking lot and drive it home. This is no longer the case, as the vehicle is now seized at once.” Currently, Mr. Maag is working on other projects in collaboration with Dr Claire Laberge-Nadeau, who is Director of the Transportation Safety Laboratory. Georges Dionne, a professor at HEC Montréal, and professionals Denise Desjardins and Stéphane Messier also participated in the research on new drivers.

Researcher: Urs Maag
Telephone: (514) 343-6240
Funding: Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec, Ministry of Transportation (Québec), Fonds de l’aide aux Researchers


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