Debate opens on ‘dangerous’ teens and licences


RESEARCH is needed about whether young drivers at risk of dangerous behaviour should be denied a driver’s licence, according to Deputy Police Commissioner Ken Lay.
Speaking after the smash on Sunday that killed five teenagers, Mr Lay said studies had found that young people who suffered from limited attention spans, poor school behaviour, hyperactivity and a propensity to commit criminal offences were more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads.
“We need to better work with the health professionals, academics, educationalists and the like to actually get to these people before they get behind the wheel of a car,” he said.
Mr Lay was asked whether he was suggesting that some young people could be denied licences simply on the basis of their personality traits, or whether he meant that they should be targeted only after they had committed a driving offence. He replied: “That’s the piece of work that needs to be done. I don’t know what the answer is there.”
Traffic safety expert Tom Triggs said tests that “predict” risk-taking behaviour in young people were blunt instruments that focused on qualities such as general aggressiveness and failure to participate in social situations.
With 50,000 new people gaining licences in Victoria every year, they would catch too many people, including people who would not offend, according to Professor Triggs, of Monash University’s Accident Research Centre.
He said it was necessary to detect young offenders early, perhaps through their demerit points, and then focus on them with vigorous programs that “would be challenging to design and very expensive”— which, he suggested, was “why jurisdictions have been slow to embrace them”.
Mr Lay said alcohol had been involved in the accident in which five young men died at Mill Park in the early hours of Sunday. A witness had come forward who had seen the driver drinking beforehand.
Police were frustrated that, despite widespread publicity over the horror smash, more young drivers were caught speeding overnight.
A car travelling at 165 km/h in a 70 km/h zone in South Morang was driven by a friend of one of those who had died in the Mill Park accident, he said.
“On top of this we had another vehicle intercepted doing 90 km/h in a 60 zone; another 160 in a 60 zone; and a pursuit in Ballarat, all within 24 hours of one of the worst crashes the state has seen for nearly three years.”
An uncle of one of the young men who died on Sunday yesterday suggested that hoons’ cars should be destroyed.
“The way I see it, you get caught, crush the cars,” Santo Sutera, uncle to Anthony Ianetta told 3AW. “They loved their cars the same way my sister loved her son. So by taking the cars away from them, they’ll know how it feels.”
Mr Lay said he understood that view but only 1 per cent of hoons whose cars were impounded for two days after a first offence later re-offended. And courts already had the power to remove a car permanently on the third offence, he said.
He said he was reluctant to endorse other possibilities such as a night curfew for young drivers because it was unfair to punish the majority of young drivers who behaved well.