Publication Details

Knight, P. J., Iverson, D. & Harris, M. F. (2012). Early driving experience and influence on risk perception in young rural people. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 45, March, 775-781.


Young people, particularly males and those from a rural area, are over represented in road crashes; this occurs in vehicle dependent countries around the world, including Australia. The attitudes, experiences and behaviours of young drivers are some of the key factors which affect their potential to have an earlyon road driving experience that is crash free.

This paper considers the views of young people, some of whom were brought up on rural properties, and had significant, responsible roles in agricultural work, including task related driving from a very early age. This early responsibility and associated awareness of risk of injury in farm related tasks can affect risk perception and impact on later risk taking behaviours.

Ten focus groups were conducted with young people attending schools in four towns in rural New South Wales, Australia. These were recorded and analysed using qualitative methodology.

The results indicate that risk factors indriving, on and off road, are clearly identified and understood; the majority of young people in rural areas are not “high” risk takers or sensation seekers. They also indicate that, in rural NSW, early vehicle handling, before the age for obtaining a license for driving on roads, is customary practice within the community.

Attitudes towards speeding, however, reflect that it is tolerable behaviour, and almost inevitable, and often not considered to be risky. Drink driving is considered more risky, and less acceptable, at both the personal and community levels. Future intervention strategies to reduce crash rates in young rural drivers should aim to address the attitudes and actions associated with speeding on rural roads.



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