Probationary Drivers are at high risk due to their lack of experience in handling a wide variety of traffic, road and weather conditions. In addition, the shift from being a Learner with the supervising driver providing another pair of hazard detecting eyes, to going solo, represents a significant risk increase.
The requirement for Learners to complete a minimum of 120 hours pre-licence practice is very helpful but unfortunately many Learners and their supervisors fail to seek opportunities to experience all conditions. Often the 120 hours is made up of suburban driving at relatively low speeds and on familiar roads. Once licensed the P Plate driver is permitted to travel at speeds up to 110 kmh. Even at speeds of 80 to 90 kmh on narrow country roads including unsealed roads, the risks are extreme especially if the P Plater has not practised in these situations.
Perhaps the biggest factor relating to driver experience is that drivers who have driven longer build up a library of possible hazardous situations in their mind, sometimes from past crashes and near misses. They therefore recognise situations more quickly and change their driving accordingly. There is usually a big difference in how experienced drivers identify risks and hazards compared to P Plate drivers.
It follows that the sorts of crashes P Plate drivers have in their first months of going solo usually relate to visual and spatial perception errors. Turning in front of an oncoming vehicle causing a collision is a common crash for inexperienced drivers. Their judgement of closing speeds and distance is often poor. Similarly P Plate drivers have a high rate of colliding with the rear of the vehicle in front because they do not understand the distance required to stop a vehicle or driver reaction time. Distractions such as passengers further complicates these problems.
Remember, one of the most likely causes of P Plate driver crashes is the belief that just because they hold a licence they are "qualified".
The good news is that many P Plate drivers get through their probationary period without incident. And girls have better driver safety records than young males.
So to address the problem of inexperienced P Plate drivers, a Defensive Driving Program will introduce them to the key crash free driving strategies that they may not have covered when they were preparing for their licence test.