Horsham teens have hopes high for lower driving age

DRIVER'S SEAT: Sixteen-year-old Kaitlyn Gebert, of Lower Norton, believes Victoria's legal driving age should be lowered to 17. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

DRIVER'S SEAT: Sixteen-year-old Kaitlyn Gebert, of Lower Norton, believes Victoria's legal driving age should be lowered to 17. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

LOCAL teenagers have backed calls for Victoria’s legal driving age to be dropped to 17 years in a move they say would give them greater independence.

The parliament’s law reform, road and community safety committee will examine lowering the P-plate age to bring Victoria into line with other states.

The potential change has been welcomed by teenagers, particularly in regional areas, who often rely on their parents to ferry them to school, work or sporting commitments.

Lower Norton’s Kaitlyn Gebert, who turns 17 later this year, juggles school with part-time work and competitive sport.

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She said there was no reason why Victoria’s legal driving age should be any different to those applying in other states.

“I reckon it would be great so I’m not having to rely on mum and dad driving into town for my work and sport,” she said.

“They usually have to pick me up late at night and it would so much easier if I was able to drive myself.”

Kaitlyn Gebert on lowering the driving age

Horsham teenager Storm Brockenbrow, who goes to St Brigid’s College, is still six months away from getting her L-plates.

However, with a part-time job at McDonald’s demanding last finishes, she can already see the benefits of having increased independence.

Western Victoria MP James Purcell, of the Vote 1 Local Jobs party, is leading the campaign, arguing that experience, not age, was the key to safe driving.

“Everywhere else in Australia the driving age is 17, sometimes even less in the territories, and we believe the youth in Victoria are as responsible as they are in the rest of Australia,” he said.

However, Minister for Roads and Roads Safety Luke Donnellan said a VicRoads report has warned an estimated 13 more people would die on the state’s roads each year, if the driving age is lowered.

"Research tells us that lowering the minimum probationary driving age to 17 would increase road trauma in Victoria by 13 deaths, 200 serious injuries and 750 minor injuries every year," he said. "While giving young Victorians greater independence would create some benefits, this shouldn't be at the expense of their health and wellbeing."

In Victoria, 49 people aged between 17 to 25 years died on the roads in 2014, compared to 67 in NSW, 46 in Queensland, 41 in Western Australia, 18 in South Australia, six in the Northern Territory and three each in Tasmania and the ACT.

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