The Ministry of Transport has released its latest report on the impact of high-risk drivers.

Definition of high-risk drivers

For the purposes of these reports high-risk drivers include:

  • unlicensed and disqualified drivers (including drivers who are forbidden to drive or who have an expired licence or the wrong licence class for the vehicle being driven)
  • drivers identified as evading enforcement or racing or showing off at the time of the crash
  • drivers with a blood alcohol level of at least fifty percent over the adult legal limit (i.e.120 mg/100 ml)
  • repeat alcohol offenders, specifically drivers in alcohol-related crashes who have at least one prior alcohol conviction in the previous 5 years
  • repeat speed offenders, specifically drivers in speed-related crashes who have at least two prior speeding offences in the previous 5 years, with at least one involving 35 or more demerit points (excludes all speed camera offences)

These categories of high-risk driver are based on those set out in Safer Journeys. However, the detailed criteria used here are based on the data sources which are readily available to the Ministry. The categories in this report also include evading enforcement as a high risk behaviour.

Speed camera offences do not attract demerit points so are not recorded on the driver licence register. For this reason, speed camera offences have not been included in the definition of repeat speed offenders.

Definition of at-fault

At-fault drivers are defined in the crash analysis system (CAS) as the driver deemed to have the primary responsibility for a crash. This is based on the crash movements and cause factors assigned in CAS. It is not based on legal liability or court conviction.

Fatal crashes for the five years 2006–2010

  • High-risk drivers make up 34% of all at-fault drivers in fatal crashes.
  • Most high-risk drivers are male (84%) and young, with 54% under 30 years old.
  • The majority of people killed in high-risk driver crashes are the high-risk drivers themselves (59% of deaths) or passengers with high-risk drivers (29%). On average, each year 15 other road users are killed by high-risk drivers. Five of those deaths are on urban roads.
  • About half (51%) the high-risk drivers are European and a further 41% are Māori. Under 25 year olds comprise 40% of Māori at-fault drivers compared to 28% for European drivers.
  • High-risk drivers make up 63% of at-fault drivers crashing at night (10pm–6am). For high-risk drivers 47% of their crashes happen at night, compared to only 14% for other at-fault drivers.
  • High-risk driver crashes peak markedly at the weekend, with 27% happening on Friday and Saturday nights alone.
  • For both high-risk and other at-fault drivers, the majority of their crashes happen on the open road (71% and 77% respectively). However, for high-risk drivers a larger proportion of their open road crashes are on locally-controlled roads. These will tend to be lower quality roads and roadsides, and may present more of an enforcement issue than State highways, which typically have higher traffic volumes.
  • There are regional variations, with high-risk driver crashes making up a larger proportion of fatal crashes in the North Island than in the South Island. This proportion is highest in Gisborne, followed by the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Northland. The largest overall numbers of high-risk driver crashes are in the more populated regions such as Auckland and Waikato.
  • Speed and alcohol are major contributors. Of the high-risk drivers, 61% have alcohol factors, 36% have licence factors and 19% have prior speed offences. However, there is some overlap between these risk categories.
  • Many of the young high-risk drivers (48% of 15 to 19 year olds) have licence-related factors such as being disqualified or unlicensed. Of the high-risk drivers in this age group 24% were racing or evading enforcement at the time of the crash.

Fatal and serious injury crashes for the five years 2006–2010

High-risk drivers make up 24% of all at-fault drivers in fatal and serious injury crashes combined. There are similar differences between high-risk and other at-fault drivers in the fatal and serious injury crashes combined, as noted above for fatal crashes. Generally injury crashes are more likely than fatal crashes to be urban and in the day time.

Young drivers

When other at-fault young drivers are added to high-risk drivers, together they comprise 50% of at-fault drivers in fatal crashes and 45% of at-fault drivers in fatal and serious injury crashes.

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